Hugh Steers was a figurative painter who was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, ultimately succumbing to AIDS-related complications in 1995 at the age of 32. For the duration of his tragically short career, he created melancholy, yet radiant compositions of everyday life that documented the devastation of the AIDS epidemic while celebrating Queer identity and desire.
In Bandages (1992), Steers paints a male figure, nude except for diaper-like bandages, examining his neck in a bedroom mirror. The ambiguous image is haunted by the specter of AIDS. The disease is obliquely referenced not just by the bandages the man wears, but also by his actions—studying his lymph nodes to see if they are swollen—and the three large bottles of pills that rest on the desk in his room. Capturing the precarity and uncertainty of the illness, Steers’s canvas evokes the emotional devastation of the epidemic, in which individuals were forced to confront the vicissitudes of the disease alone with little hope of recovery.