Ronald Lockett (1965–1998), Fever Within, 1995
Found tin, colored pencil, nails, on wood, 47 x 51 in.; Ackland Art Museum, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
In 1995, Lockett undertook a series of works that presented the figure of a nude seated cross-legged on a small carpet or barren floor. He titled the pieces Fever Within, referring most immediately to the HIV with which he had been diagnosed in 1994 or 1995. Lockett made at least half a dozen iterations of Fever Within, including several roughly four-foot-square variations and a rectangular composition fashioned from two salvaged metal panels stacked vertically and nailed to a recycled wood support. Both Lockett and his girlfriend knew they had been infected with HIV, and each blamed the other for the transmission of the disease. Betrayed by love, exchanging accusations of who communicated the disease to whom, Lockett spoke to the fate he shared with his partner through the lone feminine figure visually isolated against a ruined and indefinite metal background.
Ronald Lockett (1965–1998) was born in the Pipe Shop neighborhood of Bessemer, Alabama, where he lived his whole life. He graduated from high school but never pursued a traditional trade, having known since elementary school that he wanted to be an artist. Although he toyed with the idea of going to art school, he was dissuaded by his older cousin and neighbor, the artist Thornton Dial, who advised that he "had the best school of all just making artwork." Indeed, Lockett enjoyed an invaluable art education under the close mentorship of Dial, who allowed him to watch his process and offered him endless support.
Over the course of his decade-long career, Lockett produced hundreds of works of art that grappled with the horrors of the twentieth century, such as the Holocaust and Hiroshima, as well as personal matters, notably his great-aunt Sarah Dial Lockett’s death. Global and personal tragedy ultimately converged with his own diagnosis of HIV, and he died from AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 32.
Ronald Lockett’s work is in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, among others.
Learn more about Ronald Lockett here.
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