In December 2010, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington made headlines when it responded to protests from the Catholic League by voluntarily censoring an excerpt of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from its show on American portraiture. Why a work of art could stir such emotions is at the heart of Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, the first biography of a beleaguered art-world figure who became one of the most important voices of his generation. Wojnarowicz emerged from a Dickensian childhood that included orphanages, abusive and absent parents, and a life of hustling on the street. He first found acclaim in New York’s East Village, a neighborhood noted in the 1970s and ’80s for its abandoned buildings, junkies, and burgeoning art scene. Along with Keith Haring, Nan Goldin, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wojnarowicz helped redefine art for the times. As uptown art collectors looked downtown for the next big thing, this community of cultural outsiders was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. The ensuing culture war, the neighborhood’s gentrification, and the AIDS crisis then devastated the East Village scene. Wojnarowicz died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of thirty-seven. Carr’s brilliant biography traces the untold story of a controversial and seminal figure at a pivotal moment in American culture.
Cynthia Carr is a writer and cultural critic living in New York City. She has served as staff writer for The Village Voice and has also written about performance art and culture for ArtForum, LA Weekly, Interview, and Mirabella. She is the author of Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America and On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century.
Amy Scholder is the editorial director of the Feminist Press. Over the past twenty-five years, she has worked with David Wojnarowicz, Sapphire, Kathy Acker, Karen Finley, Barbara Hammer, June Jordan, Joni Mitchell, Kate MIllett, Judith Butler, Mary Woronov, Kate Bornstein, Jill Johnston, Justin Vivian Bond, Laurie Weeks, and many more writers and artists. She divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles