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The height of AIDS as viewed through a young person’s eyes

The height of AIDS as viewed through a young person’s eyes
Courtesy Julien Tomasello

A recent exhibit brought to life the memories of a gay artist who grew up amid tragedy.

Mixing Patrick Nagel women, pool parties, and harrowing news reports, an exhibition that recently ran at Strut, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s health and wellness center, explores what it was like to be a young LGBTQ+ person at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

“‘The Secrets of Summer’ is an ongoing series of collage-on-panel works,” says a statement from the artist, Julien Tomasello, a former staffer with Plus’s sister publication Out. “Each work possesses a narrative of ‘autobiographical fiction.’ These narratives blend events, dreams, and desires I experienced as an LGBTQ+ young person during the 1980s and 1990s, with threads of fictions influenced by the books, music, films, television, and art I absorbed during this time. Escapism was a panacea to the isolation and fear I felt during my youth. The world around me seemed steeped in conformity, homophobia, and later, darkness as AIDS began its ravage of the LGBTQ+ community I hoped to become part and made the expression of love seem toxic.”

Find more information about Tomasello’s art at

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