Artists, bargain hunters, charity supporters and cross-dressers packed into Cheim & Read gallery in Chelsea last Friday for “Postcards from the Edge,” a Visual AIDS fundraiser that featured more than 1,500 artist-decorated postcards at 85 bucks a pop. The postcards crammed the gallery’s two main rooms and at one point, the place was so packed that a passerby accidentally knocked a three-dimensional piece off the wall—a photograph with a bending transparency over it so that it appeared the penis with two hands wrapped around it was coming at you.
There was no buying on Friday—visitors rescinded their purchasing privileges for the chance to ogle and strategize weekend buying. The next day masses would descend upon the gallery in the hopes of snagging a work by Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Nicole Eisenman, Louise Lawler, Barry McGee, Kiki Smith or Robert Longo—who had all donated works. The cards were marked by number, so you couldn’t be sure who’d made which card until you bought it, though it wasn’t long before we bumped into someone who said he’d found Yoko Ono’s contribution.
Fashion designer Geary Marcello had spotted it. He works frequently with Ms. Ono and said that if you’re at all familiar with her drawing style, you’d recognize the hand that drew the alleged card—a small smiling face with a tiny scrawl that read “I love you!” That night Mr. Marcello wore a pink leather jacket and piercings all around his shaved head, a bar sticking right through both sides of his nose.
“She thinks I’m pretty outrageous,” he said of Ms. Ono. “She’s always like, ‘You’re the craziest person that I’ve ever known!’ And it’s like, ‘Excuse me, I’m not.”
The photographs ranged in content, but there were obviously a few naked men. And a surprising number of bananas.
We interrupted Peter, a tall artist who works under the name PMS (his initials) and wore a purple button down, as he snapped an iPhone photo of one postcard that had a real banana and a condom pinned to it. He was interested because he’d also submitted a banana piece.
“Mine’s over there, below the guy with the big dick,” he said. “It’s the banana, at the bottom.”
He’s actually working on a whole series involving bananas.
“I draw them, and what I do is, I trace around them so I get the right shape,” he said. “I do some yellow, some psychedelic.”
Raffle ticket sales were robust, according to Lady Detoxx Bustie-AE, a cross-dresser from the Imperial Court who wandered the room with a bucket. The main prize—the ability to choose any postcard off the wall before they officially went on sale—was incentive enough for most people to buy a ticket. “Some of them, I’m just batting my eyes,” she said, and demonstrated.
The crowd got a little feisty on white wine and to settle everyone down presenters at the end of the event used Occupy Wall Street tactics. “Mic check!” they shouted to elicit a response and tell people to shut up. “Mic check!” They actually did have a mic, though, and a tiny amplifier.
“Postcards from the Edge is one way of reaching down to the depths of who we are,” said Visual AIDS executive director Amy Sadao when the mic came to her. “With our paint and ink, with our grit and glitter we embrace our collective selfhood. The beauty is that through our struggle and conviction we gain greater clarity and through clarity comes truth as we see here, dazzling originality. We are in a defining moment because we are defining it.”
The raffle followed, and attendees walked away with prizes like a year-long membership to the Guggenheim. Just as they finished reading the numbers for the grand prize winner, one man in the audience threw his torn tickets up in the air like confetti, which, if you think about it, meant that he’d had to destroy them before he knew that he’d lost. Though you had to admit it was festive.