Artist creates, gives paintings for HIV/AIDS center

Three dramatic abstract paintings depicting the body’s triumph over HIV now grace the halls of Stanford’s new Positive Care Clinic in Atherton, Calif. The triptych, titled “Miracle of Hope,” is a gift from Woodside artist Dave Putnam, who said he was inspired by some HIV-positive friends who found it helpful to envision the internal turmoil — and ultimate victory — over the disease.

“The whole idea began percolating in my mind — that hope begins on a molecular level, where there is a kind of warfare going on,” Putnam said. He noted that after antiretroviral treatment first became available in the late 1990s, “The good guys began winning. These drugs have saved millions of people, and no one is really acknowledging that. So I thought, maybe it’s time we are positive about it — about the good things that have happened.”

The first painting in the series shows a cell that is permeated by multiple black dots. These represent the invasion of the HIV protease enzyme, which is essential to survival of the virus. Blue dots on the canvas are used to capture the image of the fighters — the protease inhibitors that stop cell growth. In the second work, the blue dots spread and overtake the nasty enzyme. In the last painting, a bright yellow canvas shines through, as the enzyme is destroyed (though remnants of the virus remain, as current therapies never completely eradicate it).

Putnam unveiled the artworks earlier this year in a reception at his Woodside gallery. He also donated 30 percent of the proceeds from his August art sales to the clinic, which serves more than 500 patients. The clinic, which was started in 1994, provides comprehensive care for those with HIV/AIDS and related conditions. In May, it moved from the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System to its new quarters in Atherton. The clinic is directed by Andrew Zolopa, MD, associate professor of medicine and acting chief of infectious diseases at the School of Medicine.

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