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Tim Tate

<< Call & Response Artists

Tim Tate

Justinians Oculus

Cast lead crystal

The Plague of Justinian was the first known plague in 541-549 AD. It was the first time that the black plague was seen on this planet and was named after the Roman Emperor Justinian I who reportedly contracted it early on in Constantinople, though he survived. It ultimately killed 1/5th of the entire population of that city over 5 years. The people there called it Justinian’s Plague. Justinian said that whenever he saw his reflection, he imagined the faces of those who died looking back.

This is Tim Tate’s second pandemic, as he has lived through the AIDS crisis. So many souls have been lost to both. Strange that the mind will forget so much of what only this moment has passed, and yet hold crystal clear the memory of what happened years ago…of men and women long since dead. Yet who can say what is real and what is not? Tate questions, “Can I believe my friends are gone when their voices are still whispering into my ears every night as I fall asleep. I will always believe they live on in my heart and mind.”

This piece is meant to underscore the similarities between the Aids Pandemic and the Covid Pandemic…and all the way back to Justinian. The similarities are striking…politicization of the virus, government misrepresenting the facts, death counts being denied, large-scale protests by those affected, and thousands of deaths. Tate hopes that those who are responsible for this misinformation see the faces of those who passed peering back from their mirrors just as Justinian did.

Tim Tate, Justinians Oculus, 2020. Image courtesy of Pete Duvall


Purchase this artwork and others from the Call & Response exhibition online at MCD’s Artists Marketplace.



Tim Tate is co-founder of the Washington Glass Studio in Washington, DC. Tim’s work is in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. He was also the 2010 recipient of the Virginia Groot Foundation award for sculpture, the 2017 London Contemporary Art Prize, and is a 2018 James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Artist…among many other awards.

He taught in Istanbul in August 2007 and at Penland School on several occasions and was the featured artist for the 2018 annual auction. He was the Development Chair for the Penland Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2018 and is the Program Chair for the James Renwick Alliance. He received his Fulbright Award from Sunderland, University in England in 2012.

He is the founder of Art Against Aids in Washington, DC and founded the Triangle Artists Group there which was focused on activism through the mid-’90s. In 2018 he was asked to speak at Yale University by speak on Craft and Conflict to represent the Queer community and its history of art activism.

He has participated in the Glasstress show twice during the 2019 Venice Biennale and the Boca Raton Museum Glasstress show in Jan. 2021. In October 2021 he will be showing at the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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