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Cynthia Carr

October 4, 2012 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz

LACE is thrilled and honored to host Cynthia Carr, author of Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, for a presentation and reading from the work.

When the Catholic League and Senator John Boehner protested the National Portrait Gallery’s inclusion of an edited excerpt of David Wojnarowicz’s short silent film A Fire in My Belly in its Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibit, the museum acquiesced and removed it. Images of ants crawling on a crucifix proved to be too sacrilegious for conservatives although people on both sides of the controversy had misinterpreted the film’s meaning. No one knew the artist’s real intention. Many outside the art world, the literary world, or the gay activist world knew little about his work. Fewer still knew anything about his life. Cynthia Carr fleshes out a true portrait of an artist in the extensive and seminal FIRE IN THE BELLY: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz.


Wojnarowicz’s story is not only of New York’s East Village art scene in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s – it is also the story of a nation and the devastating disease that eliminated some of its most talented, influential artists and thinkers. That Wojnarowicz played a role in all of this is critical to understanding how eighteen years after his death his art was still pushing buttons.


By the time he died of AIDS on July 22, 1992 at the age of thirty-seven, Wojnarowicz had become one of the most important voices of his generation. He worked constantly to record realities that are repressed or marginalized and in the process, he developed a reputation as an agitator because he dealt so openly with his homosexuality and his anger with his circumstances as a Person with AIDS. And he dealt fiercely with his would-be censors. Nothing was going to stop him from expressing truth in his art.


Read Jennifer Doyle’s full review of the book for the Los Angeles Review of Books here: lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=781&fulltext=1


FIRE IN THE BELLY is a smart match of author and subject…. [Carr] mostly maintains a firm critical distance, yet this is the only biography I can recall in which the author recounts massaging the subject’s feet…. Ms. Carr’s biography is both sympathetic and compendious; it’s also a many-angled account of the downtown art world of the 1980s…. by lining Wojnarowicz in her sights, [Carr] has seized upon a vivid and peculiarly American story.”

—Dwight Garner, The New York Times


“Carr’s book is a frank, emotionally powerful oral history of New York’s downtown scene during its best years (the explosion of experimental art spaces in the early 1980s), and its worst (the plague years which followed)…. Carr has written an intimate portrait of Wojnarowicz’s struggle, even as the walls were closing in on him, to establish an understanding of his way of being in the world. FIRE IN THE BELLY honors Wojnarowicz’s vitality and passion, and that of his friends and all his lovers, too. It’s in the details. Like how when he met someone he liked, he would note in his diary, simply, ‘met a fella.’ Written by someone who was there, and isn’t afraid to show us what that meant, this story is framed by disaster, but with a fierce tenderness in the writing — an attention to little things that would fall apart under less expert hands.”

—Jennifer Doyle, Los Angeles Review of Books


“[FIRE IN THE BELLY is] unimprovable as a biography–thorough, measured, beautifully written, loving but not uncritical — as a concentrated history of his times, and as a memorial, presenting him in his entirety, twenty years dead but his ardor uncooled.”

—Luc Sante, Bookforum


“Thanks to Carr’s meticulous portrait, [Wojnarowicz’s] work again feels primal, magicked away from the bluster of whatever controversies it provoked. We come away from a book like this with a keen sense of life’s strangeness and haste, its abuses and beauty, its ultimately terrible vanishing.”

—Jeremy Lybarger, The Brooklyn Rail




Cynthia Carr first met David Wojnarowicz in 1982 and spent extensive time with him in the last months of his life. Carr was a columnist and arts reporter for the Village Voice from 1984 until 2003. Writing under the byline C. Carr, she specialized in experimental and cutting-edge art, especially performance. Some of these pieces are now collected in On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century. She is also the author of Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, A Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Artforum, Bookforum, Modern Painters, The Drama Review, and other publications. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. Carr lives in New York.


October 4, 2012
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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