For those of you who have been to Howl! Happening, An Arturo Vega Project, you may have noticed a special work of art in an unlikely place: the bathroom. Here is the story behind And I Will Always Love You (In Reach). We are thrilled to be sharing the story behind the work with you, and honored to have this piece permanently in the gallery. In the artist’s own words, here is Larry Krone’s statement on how And I Will Always Love You (In Reach) came to be.
I made And I Will Always Love You (In Reach) in 2011 for the exhibit “MIXED MESSAGES’: ‘A(I)DS, Art + Words’, which was curated by John Chaich for the La MaMa Galleria (now home of The Howl! Happening) in conjunction with Visual AIDS. The exhibit was about art that addressed HIV and AIDS through use of text. I was a little worried about presenting this piece in the show, because I had originally conceived it in a completely different context. In fact, I made the first version of it almost ten years before I came out to myself or anyone. At the time, I felt little personal connection to HIV/AIDS or the fight against it.
By the time Mixed Messages happened, I had been out for more than a decade and was seven years into a relationship with my now-husband Jim. Still, up to that point, I had not brought my queer identity into my work in a direct way. I trusted John that there was new meaning to be found in my piece, so we included it in the exhibition. When people asked, I had a hard time putting words to why it belonged in the show, and it wasn’t until reading Holland Cotter’s review in The New York Times that I understood my connection to the dialogue. He wrote: “The phrase is from a torchy song associated with Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and untold numbers of drag performers. As in much of his art Mr. Krone makes the piece both a tender joke and more than that: an expression of manufactured pop emotion taken seriously. Three decades on in the age of AIDS it’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.” I suddenly felt included and that my work could be something more than just art. The experience touched me deeply. It changed me and shifted my outlook on art making.
When the exhibition came down, there was talk of whether or not to paint over the piece. I was afraid that if we left it up, it would be taken for granted as decoration and lose its context. Also, it had not been meant to be a permanent installation in the first place: like all bathroom graffiti, it was supposed to eventually be painted over. But the gallery director wanted to keep it, so ultimately we agreed to leave it there with a wall label identifying it as an artwork in the context of HIV/AIDS and John’s smartly curated show.
More than five years have passed since then. Somehow, I had never made it back to the gallery to check in on the installation until very recently. I had heard that it was still there, but I did not imagine that I would find it in its current state—barely changed, painted around, and protected with a sign that says: “DO NOT TAG THE ART. WHETER BY MISTAKE OR ON PURPOSE the ART on this wall was left here from VISUAL AIDS, La Mama’s final show at this space. We didn’t paint over it because we couldn’t. It honors anyone and everyone we’ve lost. Please take care of it. It may be the most important piece we ever show. Thank you.”
The day that I saw it, I took pictures of sections of the installation, and posted this one on Instagram with the caption:
Loved seeing my installation intact in @howlhappening’s bathroom 5+ years after I made it for John Chaich’s 2011 show “Mixed Messages” there in cooperation with @visual_aids when it was the @lamamaetc gallery. I can’t believe that they’ve continued to paint around it and protect it from tagging with signs saying how precious and important it is. I’m much more accustomed to my work being treated with less respect. It’s kind of my signature, but I could get used to this treatment, instead! Thank you, Howl! Happening!
Larry Krone can be reached through his website: http://www.larrykrone.com.