The Great Book of David: Two Weddings and a Funeral

Bound (What If All My Friends Were Dying? What If All My Friends Were Dead?), Video Installation Series by Harris David Harris showing On The Ground Floor during our summer exhibition Roots.

Bound (What If All My Friends Were Dying? What If All My Friends Were Dead?), Video Installation Series by Harris David Harris showing On The Ground Floor during our summer exhibition Roots.

In 1975, my gay uncle David married a woman. David was born out of the closet. So how he made it down the matrimonial aisle to wed a lass remains a complete mystery. It was not one of those deals sealed with a lesbian comrade to put a public face on a private life. It was a huge, festive ceremony in a church. All of his buddies celebrated with him, tying their polyester shirts into "sissy knots," baring their midriffs, and bumping and grinding on the reception hall’s dance floor until the bride’s brother had had enough, ending the evening by throwing blows at their rainbow tribe of a bridal party. This marriage lasted two whole weeks - and that, my friends, was a miracle!

This was not Uncle Dave’s first attempt at marriage. Two years earlier, he found the perfect gown at Goodwill. Laboring over a hand-me-down sewing machine, he formed two bridesmaids’ dresses out of navy, velour fabric and ivory lace. The local YWCA rented a room for the occasion. His twin sisters joined him at the altar. Six other siblings declined the invitation. And Jimmy, the groom, chickened out, never making an appearance to exclaim, “I Do” or offering an explanation for, “I Do Not.”

My uncle lived a life rich in stories. When I called upon his good friend Albert to give me the scoop, this man, who was much more conservative than my uncle, laughed long and hard before recalling past events for my benefit. David was 20-years-old when he first pursued marriage. He was 40-years-old when he died.

“What if all my friends were dying? What if all my friends were dead?” is a question posed by artist Harris David Harris through his video installation series showing On The Ground Floor. Sadly, by way of the Great Book of David, I witnessed the answer firsthand. My uncle and many of his kindred were among those lost in the early wave of the AIDS epidemic. 

In Harris’ video portraits, he captures his generation's "current nostalgia for the fashion and visual culture of the 80's and early 90's" while reflecting on his peers' lack of knowledge "about those who came before us." In his artist's statement, Harris ponders a query directed at millennials by author and queer activist Sarah Schulman, “Do they wonder why there are so few sixty-year-old versions of themselves passing by on the sidewalk?”

Last week's Supreme Court's decision in favor of marriage equality, has me doing quite a bit of pondering myself. Imagining mostly, how the good luck idiom, “the third time’s a charm” could have applied to David, had he been afforded the opportunity to stay with us a little while longer.