Arts & Culture » The Green Room

Let it bleed



It's the old cry of the artist struggling to make a connection with his public: "What do I have to do, bleed for you people?"

Well, yeah. Sometimes.

Take a close look at the figural images in artist Keith Theriot's Bloodwork exhibit when they go on display May 10 at the Statscript pharmacy in Orlando's ViMi district. Those nifty off-red tones you'll see aren't the product of some new, state-of-the-art line of watercolors. They're Theriot's own blood, drawn straight from his veins and immortalized on paper for the world's inspection.

A 41-year-old, Louisiana-born painter, Theriot has turned to his circulatory system for inspiration since a 1995 accident inspired an artistic epiphany.

"It was very simple," he says. "I punctured my finger. And whenever you puncture your finger, you're holding it and looking at it and `thinking` you need to put a Band-aid on it.

"I pushed to get more blood out, as anybody would, and it spilled. And there was paper down there."

Voilà! Instant motif. But Theriot's passion for plasma is more than a morbid hobby. It is a direct result of his 1994 diagnosis with AIDS.

"You're killing me," he remembers thinking of his blood as it leaked onto the paper that fateful day. "But you're also keeping me alive."

Theriot knows that his unconventional approach opens the door to fear and misunderstanding. His first show of blood samples, "Bio Hazardous Art," was held at a gay and lesbian community center in New Orleans, where he lived during the 1990s. The show attracted some of his "very educated" friends, many of whom did not realize what they were looking at. When the light bulbs went off above their heads, they instinctively stood back from the paintings, as if to protect themselves.

Theriot finds such reactions "amazing." As he points out, he waits 24 hours -- the time period in which HIV dies outside the body -- before applying blood to paper. He works alone, diluting the liquid with water to make it easier to work with. The finished paintings are covered with matte and glass. There's absolutely no danger to the viewer.

It's an important point to stress, lest needless controversy attach itself to Theriot's already eyebrow-raising endeavor -- or overshadow his more mundane accomplishments. Not wedded to the blood medium by any means, he showed a collection of conventionally produced, expressionistic figurative paintings last November at Statscript (a venue chosen because it is where he picks up his HIV medication). A similar exhibit of paintings and drawings, "Titans," will hang concurrently at the pharmacy with "Bloodwork." A portion of the proceeds from both shows will benefit CENTAUR, where Theriot works as a health educator. Buyers shouldn't fret that any "Bloodwork" pieces they may purchase are doomed to biodegrade. Theriot sprays his painting with an acrylic medium as a fixative, so the images won't simply dust off.

"No one has told me that they've disappeared yet," he chuckles.

If you're thinking that such planned-obsolescence jokes are in poor taste, it's only because you haven't yet heard the real punch line. In between blood-art shows, Theriot's health took a marked upswing, largely due to his participation in extensive clinical trials. Given a virtual death sentence half a decade ago, he now expects to lead a full and normal life. So the focus of his work has changed: "Bio Hazardous Art" was a series of self-portraits that reflected a dying man's wish to leave a personal legacy, but "Bloodwork"'s more spiritual, even playful, images celebrate the ephemeral, precious life force coursing through all our capillaries.

"We are all the same thing," Theriot says. "`We` have to come to terms with the fact that human life is not permanent." Sounds like an apt axiom for the whole bloody business.

Foster's children

Though its title hints at yet another Catholic-church exposé, "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" is actually a quirky, partially animated coming-of-age drama that is one of the first features announced for this year's Florida Film Festival, June 7 through 16 at Enzian Theater. The film, which was produced by co-star Jodie Foster, will appear in the festival's "Spotlight Films" category along with "Cherish," a comedy-drama that stars Robin Tunney as an accused murderer obsessed with '80s radio hits. The 10-day festival will close with the showing of a remastered, 45th-anniversary print of "The Sweet Smell of Success," the 1957 classic about a power-drunk newspaper columnist (Burt Lancaster) and a sleazy press agent (Tony Curtis). Rely on this power-drunk columnist for further film-festival sleaze as it inches through the pipeline, and mark your calendar for the festival's traditional preview soiree, May 29 at Slingapour's.

Do no Haim

In what can only be considered counterprogramming to the film festival, The Back Booth will present a June 14 concert by none other than Corey Feldman, the star of "The Goonies" and "The Lost Boys," who is apparently now fronting a band of some sort. Two of Feldman's CDs, "Truth Movement" and "Love Left," are available for purchase at his official website, That reminds me: I need to buy coasters.

Look who's got the inches

By my count, at least four local troupes have competed for the distinction of being the first to mount a production of the Off-Broadway rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." At last a winner has reached the gate. Kenny Howard's Fall River Productions will bring the show to Orlando audiences this July at The Parliament House. Music will be provided by glam-alternative outfit Zoa, and the cast will include Becky Fisher and Sam Singhaus, who has been seen in spot-on Hedwig drag at various low-cultural events around town. Singhaus, though, won't play the title role in this staging; that job goes to the visiting David Lee, who trod the boards at the defunct Big Bang before moving to New York City.

Last drops

Congratulations to Amy Steinberg, who won both the April 17 Dead Poets Slam at the Barnes & Noble store on East Colonial Drive and the April 13 Jack Kerouac Slam Phest at Dubsdread Country Club ... The next "Shameless Magazine" party, May 23 at Knock Knock, will have a circus-derived theme, saluting famous clowns from Bozo to John Wayne Gacey. Corey Feldman, call your agent.

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