Gay Blood Collection is a painting made from the real blood of gay men


In 2018, a creative team printed T-shirts with ink made from the blood of gay men. The “Blood is Blood” initiative was aimed at protesting a controversial Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule forged at the height of the AIDS crisis, which prohibited men who have sex with men ( MSM) to donate blood. The policy was updated in 2015 and then again in 2020, but there are still limits on whether gay and bisexual men can donate blood. Today, it would appear that the FDA considers a gay man to be a greater threat to the blood supply than a heterosexual man who has been treated for chlamydia or genital herpes.

[Image: Mother Goods]

That’s why the same creative team, consisting of the agency Mother and the artist Stuart Semple, released a whole collection of paints, also based on real blood. The Gay Blood collection includes a fountain pen, screen printing ink, acrylic paint, spray paint and marker, all in the same deep red.

[Image: Mother Goods]

Ranging from $30 to $200 each, the supplies are designed to be protest tools for people to print shirts, paint protest signs and/or sign petitions to fight anti-homophobic and outdated policies of the FDA. In an effort to support those affected by the policy, all proceeds from sales will go to the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, a New York-based primary care center that serves LGBTQ communities.

Activists have long used color as a form of political protest. In the United States, thousands of women donned pink hats to protest Trump’s misogyny after he became president. In Mexico, every year on International Women’s Day, women demonstrate against violence by wearing purple, a color long associated with feminist movements. And in Iran, demonstrators, dressed in green, took to the streets to protest against the 2009 elections in what became known as the Green Revolution.

[Image: Mother Goods]

Now, Semple and Mother turn to the most fundamental color of all: blood red. “Color is emotional, and if you spend time looking at art, stand in front of a Van Gogh, stand in front of a Rothko, you feel something,” says Semple, known for democratizing color in cloning the Tiffany brand. Blue, and reproducing Vantablack, the blackest black in the world, after artist Anish Kapoor secured exclusive rights to the color. “When we saw those wonderful women’s marches, with that hot pink color on those banners, can you imagine it being so powerful without that color being used?”

[Image: Mother Goods]

With the Gay Blood Collection, however, the idea transcends color. “My blood and your blood aren’t that different,” Semple says. “Our blood could be purple; the fact is that we all have the same thing going through us.

Curiously, Semple says that blood is not an effective colorant, at least not in the amounts needed to create a high quality paint. If stored improperly, blood can grow harmful bacteria, and when exposed to air, it turns brown. Too much blood in the paint can also impact paint consistency and viscosity. Thus, in the case of acrylic paint, the team had to “encapsulate” small quantities in resin binders.

To mimic the color of blood, they used a mixture of pigments, both mineral and synthetic. As for the blood itself, the purpose is more symbolic than practical. “You’re painting with the blood of a creative person who donated it,” says Semple. “I don’t count on it to enhance color or hold it, I rely on it to convey meaning.”

It should be noted that the Gay Blood Collection was launched the same year that the American Red Cross declared its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. If the FDA’s outdated and discriminatory policy were eliminated, more than 600,000 pints of blood could be added to the system each year. Perhaps this mind-boggling figure should be painted on a protest sign – in blood red, of course.


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