Love Letter To Fan Free Clinic, Pt. 4
Boyd Clopton was a costume designer and passed in the late 1980s. His art also appears throughout the Fan Free Clinic – but it’s currently a mystery how the clinic came into possession of his work.
Editor’s Note: Fan Free Clinic was Virginia’s first free clinic. Shawn McNulty, Director of Health Outreach at Fan Free Clinic, reflects on over a decade of service to the organization in this series of articles.
Everywhere at Fan Free Clinic has the most amazing art. Most of it is done by one man, Boyd Clopton. His work has haunted and fascinated me. It is all mixed media and some of the canvases are enormous. Some are obviously studies (there is a rather provocative abstract rendering of “The Raft of the Medusa,” which hung for many years in the main lobby and is now been relocated to the Ginn Auditorium.) Some are true abstract forms and some are commentaries on HIV/AIDS.
All the works are dated between 1983 and 1985. They are all signed except for one, though the signature may be covered by the frame, and there is little doubt the work is his. The message is so poignant, “In pain? Don’t Live With It.” The most profound piece, I believe is one that has hung in my office for some years now. It is mixed media, with mixed religious iconography and newsprint of obituaries of men who have been taken by HIV. It is a magnificent work and deeply sad.
The piece, however, that is my favorite is the portrait of a man with a beard. I suspect it is a self-portrait, but I cannot find a title for the piece. The darkly featured face and his leaned forward posture, speak to me and make me love him. As I would imagine it is for all lovers of art, I cannot put my finger on why this particular piece of his work means so much to me – but it always has.
Why am I writing all of this? Because as influenced and affected as I have been by Boyd Clopton’s work I have no idea who he is. His story, at some point, became intertwined with Fan Free Clinic’s, but that story has been lost in time. I have done some of my own research and from what I gather, Clopton was a costume designer who worked with Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin and others. It also appears he passed in 1989. I have found what I believe is a picture of him with a friend of his, Jennifer Stace (who is wearing one of his costumes) though I do not know the year the photo was taken nor can I corroborate it is the same Boyd Clopton whose art graces the walls here.
I am hoping to try to reconnect Boyd Clopton’s family with Fan Free Clinic so we can document the story, come to understand why FFC is the great beneficiary of this amazing work, and do what we can to secure his legacy to the agency. If you know the Clopton family or you have any knowledge of the works that are here, I would greatly appreciate you contacting Fan Free Clinic. Please reach out to Karen Legato, Executive Director of the agency. She can be reached either by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for any help you can provide.
Shawn Patrick McNulty, Director of Health Outreach for Fan Free Clinic, has worked in HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention for more than twelve years. Born in Hampton, Virginia in 1975, Shawn ventured to Richmond in 1993 to come to VCU. After a service learning course he took on campus in 1994, he dreamed that one day he might have the opportunity to work for a place as amazing as Fan Free Clinic. More than twelve years since that dream became a reality Shawn has determined that it is time to move on, but not without first paying homage to the place that has been his “home away from home,” for so long.
“We are marching forward, leaning in, charging forward because we take seriously the importance of helping people restore their health”June 24, 2016
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