Day Without Art to honor a fallen local artist

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As part of the World AIDS Day celebrations at the Salt Lake City and County Building, a symbolic shrouding of Ruby Slippers, by the late DeWayne Sessions, will be featured. The shrouding will commemorate the Day Without Art, a response from galleries and museums that feature works by artists with HIV or AIDS to illustrate the impacts of the disease.

Sessions, who was HIV positive, was an iconic figure in the Utah art scene. His sponsorship of programs such as Art Positive, a series of art workshops for those infected with the HIV virus, as well as those who support and care for them, led him to receive the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Artist Award.

Sessions passed away in 2006 from complications from the disease, at the age of 47.

His artful expression and love for each person he came in contact with is what made him such an extraordinary person, said Diann Sessions, his sister.

“I don’t think I could have asked for a better brother. I think I could easily refer to him as a quiet giant. His artwork portrayed his personality so perfectly. There was so much depth to it. It goes all the way to his core,” she said.

[wp_bannerize group=”350″]DeWayne passed away the day after a documentary about his struggle with the disease was first aired. A Work in Progress follows DeWayne’s grapplings and how his art, activism and life were impacted by the disease.

“One of his paintings, Lest Ye Forget, perfectly portrays DeWayne’s drive for life,” said Diann. “It shows faceless people marching and shows that most people see people with AIDS as not really people, just faceless marchers. I think that painting explains a lot of what he was about. He wanted those that were affected or infected by HIV to know that they are valued and show that they were people with extreme amounts of love, caring and giving.”

DeWayne’s headstone is engraved with a saying, “My life is increased because I saved all the pieces.” This motto became his mantra after he was first diagnosed with AIDS, said Diann.

He had everything going in his life – a new truck, a new home, a great job; all of that was taken away when he was diagnosed. He was devastated and took his anger out on a charcoal drawing of himself then tore it into pieces, but he never threw away the pieces.

“He started putting those pieces back together as he put his life back together, even though everything wasn’t exactly the same. He thought his life was increased because he saved all the pieces. I think that was a lesson he learned slowly and wanted to help others learn,” she said.

The shrouding of DeWayne’s Ruby Slippers will occur Thursday, Dec. 1, 5:30 p.m., in a ceremony with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and the Salt Lake City Council.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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