CELLS, 1986-89
Water-based media on paper

When I was first diagnosed I started the Cell Series as a way of looking at the virus inside me, down to the cellular level. I thought if I could do that, visualize that, then I could control it because I’d know what it looks like inside me.

In the autumn of 1987, Aulerich-Sugai was diagnosed with HIV-related illnesses and his painting became more urgent as he suddenly faced his own mortality. Many works display cells in mitosis and helper T cells, interrogating the HIV as it divided in his body and weakened his immune response. The series of over 100 paintings and drawings—oil on canvas and mixed media on paper—spans a period of four years and displays a broad range in the use of color, form, and texture. The composition of the paintings was influenced by his study of ukiyo-e woodblock prints.