John McWilliams' and Susan Laugen's "This Could Be You" is a wall piece in several parts: in the middle, a rendering of a body on a stretcher, flanked by two large panels of writing, around which are a number of smaller colored pictures. The writing tells the story of a man with AIDS who sinks close to despair until he finds an inner strength, begins to help others, and learns something about the meaning of life.
Corny? Perhaps. Good art? Well, like most of the works in "Living With HIV" at the BAUhouse, this one isn't likely to win any prizes for originality in terms of form, style or content.
But what, after all, is the purpose of art? Is it not, at bottom, to touch the human spirit? Is it not, at its most basic, a means of communication, an affirmation that the individual is not alone, that fear is normal, that hope is possible and that the impulse toward the good resides in all of us?
That's what these works, even if at times they're awkward or trite, are all about. And they are needed. As the curators' statement accompanying the show points out, more than a million people in the U.S. have HIV, the number grows and grows, and for every person with HIV how many more are affected? Family, friends, colleagues. Probably most of us have been touched in some way, great or small, by AIDS, and probably sooner or later all of us will be.
The voices in Gordon Fluke's "Echoes: Voices of People Living With AIDS" are moving even though they reach no lyrical heights or philosophical depths. It took a lot of courage for A. Scott Harmon, in "Remission," to reveal in that in 1983 he abandoned a friend who was dying of AIDS. And if John McWilliams can find meaning by helping others maybe that's where the rest of us might look, too.
So no, the works in "Living With HIV" will not put Leonardo or Shakespeare in the shade. But they get through.
"Living With HIV" runs through Dec. 21 at the BAUhouse, 1713 N. Charles St. Call 659-5520.