The Huxleys: Bloodlines Artists

Bloodlines is a multi-artform exhibition which honours and worships legendary artists lost to HIV/AIDS. A loving tribute to the many influential voices silenced by the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, The Huxleys’ work evokes the colourful, rebellious and creative spirit of these queer saints.

Using their skills of costume design, performance and photography, The Huxleys’ work is designed as a joyous sparkling séance, celebrating queer excellence and interpreting each artist’s influence and oeuvre in a uniquely Huxley fashion.

Continue reading to learn about the 13 artists honoured through works bearing their names.


1. Leigh Bowery
(artist, performer, provocateur)

“Flesh is my most favourite fabric.”

Born in Melbourne, Leigh Bowery was an indefatigable rocketship of provocation. Leaving Australia at 19, Bowery instantly made a mark on London’s ecstasy-propelled club scene. A muse to French artist Lucien Freud and inspiration to Boy George, Bowery’s costume designs and performance art re-imagined kitsch symbols in garish joyful colour.


2. Freddie Mercury
(musician, singer, superstar)

“I dress to kill, but tastefully.”

Needing no introduction, Freddie Mercury electrified and defined the 70s and 80s. His singing range extended a full four octaves from bass to soprano, lending itself to bombastic vocal gymnastics that remain breathtaking today. Outrageously flamboyant on stage and sheepishly beguiling off it, Mercury detonated the conventions of a rock frontman.


3. Sylvester
(disco icon, singer extraordinaire)

“Folks think we’re strange but they’ll catch up.”

American singer-songwriter Sylvester was known as the Queen of Disco. Recognisable for his androgynous appearance and falsetto, Sylvester rose to fame with the enduring pride anthem ‘You make me Feel (Mighty Real)’. In his later years, he fought to bring attention to the impact HIV/AIDS was having in the African-American community.


4. Cookie Mueller
(actor, bad girl, muse, author)

“[On dying] You simply lose your body. You will be the same except you won’t have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes.”

Cookie Mueller gave acclaimed performances in several underground films, including starring as Cookie the Spy in John Waters’ black comedy, Pink Flamingos. Also an accomplished writer, Mueller was a columnist, art critic and gathered a cult following for her collections of prose.


5. David McDiarmid
(artist, activist)

“My priority as an artist has always been to record and celebrate our lives.”

David McDiarmid focused a vast array of mediums – collage, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, fashion – on gay lives and politics. While protesting the ABC’s refusal to run a segment on Gay Liberation, McDiarmid became the first person in Australia to be arrested at a gay rights protest. Later, he spent years as artistic director of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.


6. Hibiscus
(artist, performer, cockette)

“He was a wild-eyed Nijinsky, a Byzantine seductress possessed.” – Jet, a fellow Cockette.

Hibiscus was an exuberant performance artist and founder of The Cockettes, an avant-garde psychedelic theatre group born at the epicentre of hippiedom: Haight-Ashbury, 1969. He would later be immortalised as the turtlenecked protester placing flowers into gun barrels in Flower Power, Bernie Boston’s Pulitzer-nominated photograph.


7. Derek Jarman
(artist, filmmaker)

“I am simply trying to demystify areas of life which are very ordinary, such as HIV infection or my sexuality.”

While also prolific as an author and painter, Derek Jarman was best known as a filmmaker. His films referenced and reinvented religious, historical and artistic figures, queering the Western canon. Jarman’s final film, Blue, was an account of his personal experience of AIDS set against a delphinium-blue screen.


8. Peter Tully
(artist, designer, jeweller)

“He invented [Mardi Gras], because he had such a vision.” – William Yang

As a jeweller, Peter Tully celebrated non-precious materials, bold gay iconography and Australian motifs. His quasi-satirical approach injected humour and political statement into every fibre of his body of work. Tully was a staunch advocate for artists’ legal rights as well as the inaugural artistic director of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.


9. Keith Haring
(artist, activist)

“I am not a beginning. I am not an end. I am a link in a chain.”

A timeless figure of New York’s art scene, Keith Haring’s figures are instantly recognisable. Starting out with chalk in subways, Haring was soon painting enormous murals in Washington, Bordeaux, and Berlin. In Haring’s work for anti-racism and AIDS-related causes, his style’s frenetic quality bloomed into political urgency.


10. Willi Ninja
(dancer, model, ballroom icon)

“Child, you are fierce!”

Willi Ninja was a pioneering figure in the world of Voguing, a dance style that emerged from New York City’s African-American and Latino queer communities. His fearlessness and unmatched athleticism quickly gained global attention after the release of Paris is Burning. Beyond the dance floor, Willi Ninja was a lifelong advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.


11. Klaus Nomi
(singer, soprano, artist, alien)

“I approach everything as an absolute outsider. It is the only way I can break so many rules.”

Defying labels, Klaus Nomi was an otherworldly star whose performances were simultaneously catchy and off-kilter. Originally from Germany, his gothic sci-fi visage became a staple of New Wave Vaudeville shows in 1970s New York City. After a chance encounter with David Bowie, Nomi exploded into mainstream consciousness as the English star’s backup singer on Saturday Night Live.


12. Robert Mapplethorpe

“I want to see the devil in us all. That’s my real turn on.”

Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer and master of light. He built his reputation by applying classical compositions to queer and kink subjects with a precision that elevated them into the sublime. While his work was controversial and at one point subject to an obscenity trial, celebrities and artists never stopped clamouring for him to take their portrait.


13. Steven Arnold
(photographer, artist filmmaker)

“Do the work with love. Love is sharing the message.”

Even as a student, Steven Arnold eschewed artistic convention. Retreating from Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts, Arnold spent months on the Spanish island, Formentera. There, he and other students lived in caves, took LSD daily and experimented with costumes. Salvador Dali would later crown him the ‘prince’ of his Court of Miracles.


The Huxleys: Bloodlines
5 Jan – 5 Mar, 2023
Wed – Sun, 10am – 5pm