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Guide to the Janine Vega Collection of David Wojnarowicz Letters
1976-1980
 MSS.238

Fales Library and Special Collections
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70 Washington Square South
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New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2596
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Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Bryan O'Keefe, 2009.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 06, 2017
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator - rcp: Vega, Janine Pommy
Creator - crp: Wojnarowicz, David
Title: The Janine Vega Collection of David Wojnarowicz Letters
Dates [inclusive]: 1976-1980
Quantity: 0.2 Linear Feet
Call Phrase: MSS.238

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Biographical Note

David Michael Wojnarowicz

David Michael Wojnarowicz was an openly gay artist, writer, and activist who chronicled a late-twentieth century New York ravaged by AIDS. His multi-media work is notable for combining elements of personal narrative with erotic, often confrontational imagery.

Wojnarowicz was born on September 14, 1954 in Red Bank, New Jersey. Following his parents' divorce, Wojnarowicz moved with his mother to New York City, where he claims he began hustling at age eleven. He attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan for a time, although he never graduated. Wojnarowicz left his mother's apartment at age sixteen to live on the streets, where for two years he was a victim of numerous assaults, before seeking shelter at a halfway house.

In the ensuing years, Wojnarowicz traveled, often by hopping trains and hitchhiking. He lived in San Francisco, as well as in France with his sister, before eventually returning to New York, where he worked as a busboy or janitor to support himself and his art. His activities at this time included performing in a band (Three Teens Kill 4 - No Motive) featuring children's instruments and tape recordings of found sounds, and documenting the Lower West Side’s marginal characters through his film, writing and photography. His well-known series Arthur Rimbaud in New York, featuring images of the artist wearing a photographic mask of the symbolist poet, was created in 1978-79.

In the early 80s Wojnarowicz became known in the East Village art scene for making use of re-contextualized stencils, found maps, and grocery-store price signs to produce stark tableaux. By the mid-80s, after the death of his lover, the photographer Peter Hujar, and his own diagnosis with the disease, AIDS became a constant undercurrent in his work. The artist continued to work with images of decay, disaster and sexuality, adopting a militant stance against what he perceived as the complacency and ignorance surrounding the disease. An iconic image of the Wojnarowicz from this time appears in the film Silence = Death, where he appears with his mouth sewn shut in a reference to the ACT-UP slogan.

At this controversial point in his career he was drafted in the "culture wars": the NEA rescinded and finally restored funding for an exhibition catalog in which he attacked various public figures, and he was criticized by both a member of Congress and the American Family Association. His book Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration was published in 1991. He continued to produce work until his death in 1992 at age 37.

SOURCES:

"David Michael Wojnarowicz."The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 3: 1991-1993. Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

"David Wojnarowicz." Contemporary Artists, 5th ed. St. James Press, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

Kimmelman, Michael. "David Wojnarowicz, 37, Artist in Many Media.(Cultural Desk)(Obituary)." The New York Times (July 24, 1992): NA. New York Times and New York Post (2000-present). Gale. New York Public Library. 22 May 2009. http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=SPN.SP00.

 Janine Pommy Vega

Janine Pommy Vega is a poet, performance artist, and lecturer. In the early 1960s in Greenwich Village, she met Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and other writers who would later become known as the beat generation. After the death of her husband, the Peruvian painter Fernando Vega, her book Poems to Fernando (1968) was published by City Lights Books. In the 1970s, Pommy Vega traveled to Colombia and Peru on a pilgrimage in search of the female divinity, settling at Lake Titicaca and writing the books  Journal of a Hermit (1974) and  Morning Passage (1976). She has been involved with poetry-in-the-prisons programs and New York Poets in the Schools, and has worked as a story-teller in homes for the aged, reform schools, and for Headstart Projects. She has said about her spiritual beliefs: "All religions pass by many roads to the Same Place; I worship the One."

Bibliography

Poems

Poems to Fernando, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 1968; Kraus Reprint Company (Millwood, NY), 1973.
 Journal of a Hermit, Cherry Valley Editions (Cherry Valley, NY), 1974.
 Morning Passage, Telephone Books (New York), 1976.
Here at the Door, Zone Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1978.
 The Bard Owl, Kulchur Press (New York), 1980.
 Drunk on a Glacier, Talking to Flies, Tooth of Time Books (Santa Fe, NM), 1988.
 Threading the Maze, Cloud Mountain (Old Bridge, NJ), 1992.
 Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents, City Lights Books, 1997.
 Mad Dogs of Trieste: New and Selected Poems, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 2000.

OTHER

Candles Burn in Memory Town: Poems from Both Sides of the Wall, Segue Books (New York), 1989.

SOURCES:

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. Reproduced in  Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

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Scope and Content note

The Janine Vega Collection of David Wojnarowicz Letters contains correspondence from David Wojnarowicz to Janine Pommy Vega sent between February 23, 1976 and June 28, 1980. The correspondence includes letters, postcards, and Xeroxed artwork by Wojnarowicz.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into one series. Letters are arranged chronologically.

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Correspondence

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Wojnarowicz, David
  • Vega, Janine Pommy

Document Type

  • Correspondence.

Subject Topics

  • American poetry |y 20th century.

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Administrative Information

Provenance

The Janine Vega Collection of David Wojnarowicz Letters was donated to the Fales Library by Philip Aarons in 2008.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections, fales.library@nyu.edu, 212-998-2596.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections, fales.library@nyu.edu, 212-998-2596.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); David Wojnarowicz / Janine Pommy Vega Letters; MSS 238; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.

Related Materials

The David Wojnarowicz Papers

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 February 23, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 2 May 20, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 3 May 29, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 4 July 17, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 5 September 8, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 6 October 1, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 7 October 16, 1976
1976
Box: 1 Folder : 8 May 13, 1977

General

Xeroxed text/image collage "AT THE TRACK EMANUEL PANCAKE RECALLED"

1977
Box: 1 Folder : 9 May 13, 1977
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 10 July 15, 1977
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 11 July 21, 1977
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 12 July 27, 1977
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 13 August 19, 1977
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 14 September 1, 1977
1977
Box: 1 Folder : 15 May 2, 1978
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 16 September 29, 1978
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 17 November 7, 1978
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 18 [December] 1978
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 19 December 29, 1978
1978
Box: 1 Folder : 20 January 21, 1979
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 21 February 20, 1979
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 22 July 20, 1979
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 23 September 26, 1979
1979
Box: 1 Folder : 24 Undated postcard
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 25 February 29, 1980
1980
Box: 1 Folder : 26 April 14, 1980
1980
Box: 1 Folder : 27 April 15, 1980

General

Xeroxed Arthur Rimbaud in New York images, [Coney Island].

1980
Box: 1 Folder : 28 May 14, 1980
1980
Box: 1 Folder : 29 May 25, 1980
1980
Box: 1 Folder : 30 June 28, 1980
1980

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