Tuesday, January 18, 2011 | Categories: Documentaries
He's been called the Andy Warhol of Vancouver.
His name is Joe Average - and his joyful art, public generosity and flamboyant presence- have distinguished him as anything but average.
Throughout the 80's and 90's Joe Average took an artist's brush to his often grey and rain-soaked city - and painted it technicolour. His art was festooned on street banners and bridges... public squares, markets and meeting places.
His images and wild colours made people smile - and reportedly - more than a few babies stop crying . Amorous bumblebees with oversized lips leering at lilies......tangerine tigers with amethyst eyes.
All this exuberance from a man who is one of the longest surviving Canadians with HIV/AIDS. 27 years ago - when he was diagnosed with the then-unknown, terrifying and often fatal virus - the young Joe Average made a vow to make his living solely from his art. And he succeeded.
His images have been used for International AIDS conferences; on postage stamps and hang in public private collections around the world.
But today Joe Average is close to running out of income. And he has become a virtual recluse.
He has 'lipoatrophy' - a particularly ghoulish and debilitating side-effect of anti-retro viral drugs....a condition that eats away body fat. At five-feet-eight-inches tall - Joe now weighs just over 100 pounds.
And so these days, the man who had a day named for him in Vancouver - who was presented to Princess Diana and Prince Charles - spends most of his hours in his West End apartment. He leaves only on rare occasions, a trip for groceries - or to the hospital. The AIDS charity 'A Loving Spoonful' brings him meals. Life has changed colour.
Ten years ago, at a particularly tough moment in his struggle with AIDS, Joe put down his paintbrush. He hasn't picked it up since.
But - ever the creator - Joe Average has recently begun a different kind of art - in shades of grey and dark shadows - that reflects his new reality.
Here is 'The Incredible Shrinking Man, produced by Pamela Post.