LGBT Art from Gym Equipment

Creativity with a social conscience.

The famed historic Castro district of San Francisco is one of our nation’s first gay communities.  It was the neighborhood in which Daniel Goldstein lived.  And worked out.

The Muscle System, a gay gym favorite in the area, was getting new leather bench coverings for its equipment. Replacing the old ‘Icarian’ brand covers that had their heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90’s.

The ‘80’s and ‘90s, of course, being the early years of the AIDS epidemic; when the disease was just becoming known to the world.

Goldstein saw these old leather benches and noticed that there were figures woren into them that looked ghostly. Years upon years of gym patrons had been unknowingly adding their presence to the leather and creating a patina of people. Almost all these people were related to the LGBT community. Many of which were victims of HIV/AIDS in the decades when there was nothing medicine could do for them. These leather bench coverings became a shroud that documented decades of people who dealt with these weighty issues.

Goldstein, who himself contracted HIV in 1984, saw in the benches the years of friends who were sick while taking care that they were in shape. He rescued the old coverings and then framed them for public viewing.

The name ‘Icarian Series’ came from the brand name of the exercise machines themselves.

I know these leathers qualify more as ‘found’ art, but it took an exemplary mind to see them for what they represented. I find myself moved.

I find myself moved.