Mark sits at a cafe down the street from his house. When in public, he is comfortable with disclosing his status.

Mark loves working in his garden. Succulents are his favorite to plant because they grow quickly.

Mark suggested we begin the interview with him in his favorite place, his bed. "I like my bed; I spent a lot of time here."

Mark's tattoos are representative of his longtime work with grid patterns to create different types of images. But upon discovering his status the sign became a sort of dualistic representation of his life and his art.




Photographer: Tida Sripanich

Journalist: Margaux Permutt


My activism is that

I wear it on my body

That I'm positive


I used the plus sign in grid patterns and that shape for decades. I had always been taken by it. Part of the reason I decided to tattoo plus signs all over my body, was that it had this dual representation, of this relationship to my artwork, and to my status. As for the idea of having a symbol for ones self the choice was easy. So, I started tattooing plus signs all over my body. I even went through a phase where whenever someone, no matter who they were, would ask me, 'what are your tattoos about?,' I would tell them.

Being an out positive person in the world Forces people to not deny the existence of it or ignore it It forces some sort of dialogue or acceptance And when they see me on campus they'll know That I'm that person People choose to disclose I choose to be a positive person out in the world

    I think that the stigma has always been terrible, and I think that it's worse now in the gay community, especially in the gay community, then ever and?It's not like I consider myself to be some big radical person with these politicized ideas around HIV and AIDS but none the less, I think that the current campaigns, like the current 'awareness' (We all have AIDS, HIV is a Gay Disease, Own it End it) campaigns are horrible, and misguiding.

    I believe that if you are going to have sex with someone, and you are concerned about STDs of any kind, let alone HIV and AIDS, that you have to know what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do, and what you are comfortable with, and not comfortable with. And you need to be able to negotiate that. Now I realize that that is a lot to ask of people, but it seems to me that the 'awareness' campaign should be about empowering people to make these choices in an informed way, not this idea of those who are positive must disclose, that it is their 'moral obligation.' Because first of all that doesn't happen.

    Campaigns promote that promote disclosure I believe are less effective than campaigns focused on empowering people to choose for themselves what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable, what is safe and not safe. Each individual must have the ability to negotiate that regardless of what the other person says. For example there are web sites where you can go on looking for sex. You put a picture and a little blurb, and you can e-mil back and forth and you can hook up and have sex with people. That's great, that's fine with me. I think people should have as much sex as they want to have. But you will not believe how many of these ads say 'negatives only,' and do these people really believe that positive people don't lie, or don't know?

    So they're making a choice, about having a certain kind of sex, based on the fact that they believe these people are being honest with them. So you would rather have unsafe sex with someone who claims to be negative, than choose to have safe sex with someone who you know is being honest and telling you they're positive. When you know they're positive you can negotiate that because you know the truth.

    I think that creativity is really important, and I know that creativity is a million different things to a million different people. But for me making art for me is such an incredible passionate joy, and in a lot of ways I've lived to make art. There's something very cathartic about being a creative person, however you do, whether you plant gardens, or make art work, build furniture, write books, or whatever--I know there are a million things that I am not saying.

    People love to suffer, humans love suffering ,that's their favorite thing, and we love to watch other people suffer, and we like to compete for who's suffering the most and to me, suffering is the key to waking up, to finding transformation.

    It's easy to suffer. If I want to sit around and suffer through my life that's simple, but if you want to take your suffering, which I guarantee you, you're going to have, and try to shape that into some transformation, or some creativity, or some consciousness raising, or some awakening, that takes some work-- and that's what I enjoy about life, that's what I want my life to be about.

    That's why I say I don't care that I feel nauseous when I take my drugs. I don't care that I have HIV. It doesn't make a difference. Its not those things that I have, its what I do with them

Theoretically you don't ever have to have that conversation (positive vs. not positive) Because you are always doing what you feel you need to do to protect yourself In an informed educated and empowered way

It about telling the story of my life

It becomes my history

In a sense my tattoos and my artwork is like having a written journal

It's a visual journal


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