Senior year of high school: It's a time for hitting the beach, cruising the town, and dreaming about the wild parties to come down the road in college. Hey, you've made it, now sit back and enjoy.
On the other hand, if you're Meredyth Wilson, senior year at Palo Alto's Castilleja School was very different than that cliched description. This Palo Altan was an inspiring photographer and petitioned the school to let her take off the second semester of her senior year to work at Bay Area Young Positives, a San Francisco-based peer-run, peer-based program for young people with HIV. During her time spent at BAY Positives, she both interviewed and photographed individuals that were afflicted by the HIV virus.
Wilson graduated Castilleja in '95, and is now studying photography and sound art at the Art Institute of Chicago, but her work documenting the lives and times of the BAY Positives clients can be seen at her old school this month. "Young People Living and Working with HIV: Photos and Interviews by Alumna Meredyth Wilson" is on display through April 17 at the school's Anita Seipp Gallery.
"I think that AIDS education is really focused on prevention, not on understanding people who have HIV," Wilson said as to why she decided to begin collecting the photos and interviews. "And, in getting to know some of these people, that became more important to me."
Teens and young adults, Wilson said, have been often ignored in covering the AIDS crisis. The news focus, she believes, is on one end or the other: adults and pediatric cases.
"I don't think at the time (I began this) there was much heard from young people with HIV," said Wilson, 22. "I really felt that young people needed to hear stories from young people to understand."
Accompanying the photographs are pieces of text that are etched into zinc plates. The text consists of excerpts from interviews that Wilson conducted. She began the interviews by asking how individuals got involved with BAY Positives and then moved into their backgrounds. She really did not have a set plan to the interviews, which allowed the participants a large say in what was discussed.
"I kind of let each interview be directed by what each person brought forward," she said. "The fact that they could tell their story the way they saw it was really important to me." Although the text and photos were collected during '95, Wilson only just finished work on the exhibit last year.
"I needed to have some years pass for me to better understand and actually do justice to it," she said.
Wilson will get a chance to see her exhibit installed when she returns home to Palo Alto later this month. A reception for the artist will be held on April 17 from 5 to 7 p.m.
What: "Young People Living and Working with HIV: Photos and Interviews by Alumna Meredyth Wilson" exhibit.
Where: Anita Seipp Gallery, Castilleja School, 1311 Emerson St., Palo Alto.
When: Continues through April 17. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Gallery is closed today.
Information: Call 328-3160, ext. 406.