The Power of Art and the Postcard By RD Riccoboni®
During the AIDS crisis of the early 1990's I found myself poured into my painting and the art and myself evolved in many marvelous ways. I found I could use my art as a tool to fundraise for community causes. I started small and eventually things got bigger along the way. I made post cards with my paintings on them and sent them out, gave the away and distributed as many as I could afford to do. One thing I have learned is people are watching. If you chose and wish to, many doors will open for you and others through art. At one of my shows, at a gay rodeo, unknown to me a gentleman who worked as a volunteer in the ticket booth at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he asked me for one of my postcards, I gave him a dozen. Two months later three board members of the museum were in my living room selecting paintings and would soon be represented by the world class museum.
I sent out more postcards to the local press telling them of what was going on at my studio. A director of a major local hospital somehow got one called me to see if I could help his patients with art. Me, I thought? Well Why not. Off I went to Los Angeles County, University of Southern California Medical Center to see what I could do, with this art thing. He shared with me what was going on and how AIDS patients were being completely abandoned, by friends and family out of fear. Some of them were talented artists. Could I help them with an art show of mine and maybe inspire some of the patients and staff to create and put on a show, to get people in the community to come visit? He shared many insights with me and wondered if art could break down the doors of opposition and fear. Sure it could I thought. That's what art does! We started planning. We started inviting persons, everyone we could think of. No one would RSVP. It was frustrating but on we went!
Who would I invite? As many people as I could and then some. I was so enthusiastic about what was going with our show I wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton who was our first lady at the time and proponent of health care. I told her what we were doing, the staff, artists, patients at the hospital and how we were trying to get help, dispel myths, for our friends where dying. No one would even come to visit them! We thought art would be the tool to break the barrier down. We were putting on an art show at the hospital for the patients, by the patients and staff and whoever else was supportive, no matter. Forward we went, not looking back and we were getting lots of heat for it mostly from religious groups in the city, nobody wanted a thing to do with what we were trying to do. If there was anybody who could help it was her. I did not expect any answer back, but I got my message out. Out went my postcard with a little note to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What ensued in the following weeks was nothing short of a miracle. Mrs. Clinton did indeed receive my card and note and while she was not able to come the Clinton’s who love art, sent the Surgeon General, Dr. Elders, and the National AIDS Czar, Dr. Gebbie to the art show and my art as well as a few of the other artists in the group, well our art went to the White House, used to show the world how art can be used to dispel stigma and bring us together.
The hospital and artists got recognized for their work, people came to see the art, and the patients started being treated as human beings from the community. And
more art exhibits came to be. It’s hard to believe that was not that long ago and how far we’ve come. I am so grateful to Mrs. Clinton. You can see those Letters from the White House displayed today in my gallery, in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. My postcard art mission kept traveling and during this time one made it to England to the desk of an art historian Aubrey Walter.
The British art historian stumbled upon my work via one of my art postcards and contacted me to see if I had more. What ensued was a breakthrough not only for
myself as an artist but for many other gay and lesbian artists who had been unrecognized and excluded from art exhibitions back then. It was a fun and challenging time that eventually lead to a national book signing tour.
Here is what Aubrey Walter wrote about my paintings. “California artist R. D. Riccoboni has captured the hearts and minds of the U.S. West coast gay world by portraying that community in its fight-back against prejudice and despair. His work represents some of the most positive and overtly life affirmative art to have
emerged in the past few years executed with the most brilliant use of color. Above all the art of R.D. Riccoboni symbolizes the vibrant spirit of our gay Rainbow Nation.”
The power of the postcard and a little grass roots action can get things done. I still use them today and the postcard in some ones hand with a bit of art on it is as powerful as ever. The cover of the Book Rainbow Nation
with cowboys dancing at the gay rodeo in San Diego.
To your creative success!
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