Friday, September 29, 2017

Joseph Durant on Ivy Street in San Francisco around 1982





Joseph Durant in my apartment on Ivy Street in San Francisco around 1980. We met at Cafe Flore on Market Street a couple years earlier and became good friends. He began the Aids Quilt with Cleve Jones. The following fragments about Joseph are from an interview with Cleve Jones by PBS show "Frontline":

""I was with my friend Joseph Durant, and I remember saying: "I wish I had a bulldozer, and I'd knock these buildings down. Maybe if this was a meadow with 1,000 corpses rotting in the sun people would see, and they would understand, and if they were human, they would be compelled to respond." …
So the night of the candlelight march, Joseph and I had stacks of cardboard, lightweight cardboard placards and sacks full of magic markers. We asked everybody to write down the name of one person they knew who had been killed by AIDS. People were ashamed to do it. They would put initials or just the first name, and then finally one guy took two pieces of paper, taped them together, and in big block letters wrote, "Thomas J. Farnsworth Jr., my brother -- he's dead."

Then I hadn't seen Joseph in a while, the fellow who was with me when we were putting up posters for the candlelight march. I hadn't seen him in a few months, and I saw him on the street, and he was skinny, and his skin was gray, and his eyes were yellow. I asked him, "Are you OK?," and he said: "I don't want to talk about it, but it's time for you to get off your butt and start that quilt. It's a good idea." He was still working part time in I think a theater supply company, and he stole a couple of bolts of fabric, and I went down in the basement and found a box of spray paint left over from Ronald Reagan's last visit to San Francisco, and we went in the backyard, and we made the first quilt panels. I made mine for Marvin Feldman, and Joseph made his for a man named Edward Mock.

That's how it started. It grew slowly, because it was very difficult for people to visualize it, even though I had this picture in my head that was as clear as a photograph and drove me quite crazy for a long time, because I could just see it so clearly, but I couldn't communicate it verbally to people.

Dianne Feinstein, who is now a U.S. senator, was mayor of San Francisco at the time. At that point Joseph and I made I think 40 panels for friends of ours, and a couple of other people had contributed some, and we were permitted to hang those from the mayor's balcony at San Francisco City Hall during the Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade. I believe there were about a million people that day who saw it, and then they had the visual understanding of how this could work.""

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