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This project was successfully funded on May 24, 2014

Rattlesnake in a Moving Car: Life with HIV

by Rob Anderson


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I am seeking funding for Rattlesnake in a Moving Car: Life with HIV, an art installation created to inspire people that there is life after HIV. I am an artist who became the focus of the medical community and the media in the 1990’s as a longtime HIV survivor. I wanted to find others who like me, were not only living, but also thriving. I am using my skills in drawing, sculpture and audio to present 20 longtime HIV survivors, each with his/her unique story to tell. Today, with HIV numbers once again increasing, my project has even greater relevance, especially to young people born after AIDS first devastated the gay community in the 1980’s. When completed, the installation will travel to cities and show others that HIV+ does not mean AIDS.

The project is a large-scale installation with charcoal portraits of 20 longtime HIV-positive men and women, including myself. A 21st portrait exists as an empty frame through which visitors can see themselves and others to evoke the potential of anyone becoming HIV+. Rattlesnake in a Moving Car: Life with HIV began as a personal quest to understand why I survived with HIV — now for 34 years — and find a way to give hope to others. It evolved to include 19 other individuals who were documented as HIV-positive very early on. The title originated from one of the project participants who described living with HIV as driving with a rattlesnake in the car. He said his daily challenge is keeping the snake calm and contained in the passenger seat where it won’t cause harm. This theme is retained in the sculpture that frames each portrait. 

I recorded the oral histories of 20 men and women as I drew their portraits in charcoal. The installation includes a sound system that plays excerpts from those recordings throughout the space. As the viewer experiences the installation, lighting synced to the audio shines brighter on each portrait, as that person speaks to the viewer about his/her life with HIV. A sculptural framework of metal surrounds the portraits and is inscribed with the participants’ words, linking them together. While the rattlesnake pattern is repeated on each metal segment, the different metals distinguish the unique paths each HIV survivor has taken within that common journey. 

I am asking for $4,800 from Hatchfund donors to complete one more segment of Rattlesnake in a Moving Car: Life with HIV. The segments include the portraits, the metal sculpture, the audio editing, the walls of the installation and the lighting. Ten portrait segments of 21 total have been completed. Funds raised beyond my request of $4,800 will be used for completing additional segments.

Thank you very much to Hatchfund and all donors for your support of this project. Your generosity and enthusiasm will help Rattlesnake in a Moving Car: Life with HIV bring hope and encouragement to a greater audience.


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