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Acacius (Stigmata) - portrait of Tony Carden
, 1991

by AñA Wojak

oil and gold leaf on cedar panel (support: 121.5 cm x 103.0 cm)

Anthony Carden (1961–1995), activist, studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York in the early 1980s before returning home to work in theatre, film and television in Sydney and Melbourne. After being diagnosed with AIDS, he joined ACTUP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), subsequently becoming a tireless lobbyist for better standards of medical care, enhanced treatment, improved hospital facilities (including beds), and effective safe sex education. He was also prominent in the fight against explicit discrimination against HIV/AIDS sufferers, and against LGBT people more generally. Together with Clover Moore, then the Member for Bligh in the NSW Legislative Assembly, he helped raise $1 million for the refurbishment of St Vincent’s Hospital’s Ward 17 South, Australia’s first dedicated ward for HIV/AIDS patients. From 1993 onwards Carden assembled a work called Warrior Blood, comprising blood droplets collected from AIDS patients, medical staff, academics, entertainers, priests, nuns and others on fabric swatches. The work was exhibited in Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994–1995, as was this portrait. His health having deteriorated throughout his years of activism, Carden died five years after his diagnosis.

In 2015, Carden’s mother Lesley Saddington donated Wojak’s painting - a significant artefact of the history of Sydney’s gay and lesbian community - to the National Portrait Gallery in honour of her son’s achievements.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Lesley Saddington 2015
Accession number: 2015.49