Leylâ Gediz, Cocoon, 2009, oil on canvas, 39 3⁄8 × 39 3⁄8". From “Positive Space.”

Leylâ Gediz, Cocoon, 2009, oil on canvas, 39 3⁄8 × 39 3⁄8". From “Positive Space.”

“Positive Space”

HIV emerged in Turkey in the 1980s, and people infected with it were soon stigmatized by Turkish politicians and newspapers alike. The aids epidemic unsettled boundaries between public and private and pushed Turks to openly discuss sexuality. HIV remains a public health challenge (the number of Turks living with HIV increased from 672 in 2011 to 2,844 in 2017), but until recently, Turkish artists had remained tight-lipped about the disease.

In 2009, nearly twenty-five years after AIDS first turned up in Turkey, Leylâ Gediz painted Cocoon, a portrait of a friend who had just been diagnosed with HIV. This work, which has been in a private collection for nine years and was on public view in Turkey for the first time in this group show, depicts a moment of silent desperation. The hunched figure’s gloom seeps into the surrounding colors; globes with the staff of Aesculapius inside them float in

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