Born in New Jersey, David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) suffered abuse as a child and grew up largely on the streets, managing somewhat amazingly to acquire a good education despite his troubled youth.
In 1979, living in New York's East Village, he began both his photographic series "Arthur Rimbaud in New York" and his street paintings. As Rimbaud, an alienated Wojnarowicz can be seen riding the New York City subway, eating in a cafe, and even masturbating.
Wojnarowicz worked in a wide range of media throughout his career but is best known for the series of photo-based works that were at the center of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding controversy in the late 1980s, "Tongues of Flame."
Controversial because of their explicit gay content, they juxtaposed images culled from gay pornography with images from popular culture. In 1990, Wojnarowicz and the Center for Constitutional Rights sued Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association for illegally reproducing artwork from the "Tongues of Flames" catalogue.
His works, which resonate with the anger and frustration felt by gay men in the face of AIDS and homophobia, have been included in a traveling retrospective.