Diagnosed in 1987 with HIV, Steers’s subject matter often speaks to the experience of living through an evolving Queer identity and the devastating AIDS crisis. Steers maintained a commitment to figuration throughout his career, cut dramatically short by AIDS at the age of 32. Flag, Megaphone (1992) marks a departure from Steers’s usual domestic scenes. Alluding to the US government’s inaction in the wake of the AIDS crisis, the image features a seated man perched on a blank tv, which broadcasts nothing, contemplating an American flag-festooned megaphone and microphone, which amplify silence. Speaking to Steers’s own frustration with the national response to AIDS—in 1991, he wrote an outraged letter to President Bush for declining to appear at the Sixth National AIDS Conference and going instead to a fundraising event for the homophobic senator Jesse Helms—the image marks one of Steers’s more overt political statements.
Estate of Hugh Steers
Schröder, Barbara and Karen Kelly, eds. Hugh Steers: The Complete Paintings, 1983-1994. New York: Visual AIDS, 2015, pp. 143, 225.