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98/173/1 Painting, 'Heart and Hand', cotton / acrylic paint, designed and painted by David McDiarmid, New York, United States of America, 1984. Click to enlarge.

Painting 'Heart and Hand' by David McDiarmid

This vibrant bedsheet painting was produced by gay artist, David McDiarmid in 1984 as an expression of love and sexual liberation. His designs relate closely to urban life, hip-hop and street culture of the 1980s.

McDiarmid later went on to become closely associated with the gay pride movement and HIV/AIDS epidemic - producing Mardi Gras and ACON posters. His designs for the ACON Safe Sex posters and postcards of 1992 established his reputation as an activist artist. By 1994, more than 3380 …


Object No.


Object Statement

Painting, 'Heart and Hand', cotton / acrylic paint, designed and painted by David McDiarmid, New York, United States of America, 1984

Physical Description

Painting, bed sheet, 'Heart and hand', fluorescent acrylic fabric paint on bed sheet. The design consists of bold shapes including heart, hand, arrows and curly letters in multicoloured fluorescent and black paint. The artist's mark in lower right corner.


'd' and 'M' incorporated into the design.
Maker's mark lower right corner, in black paint, 'D84'.



2280 mm



Hand painted by David McDiarmid
Designed and made by David McDiarmid, New York, 1984. The design for the bed sheet paintings were inspired by New York hip-hop and street culture and the Hispanic boys that David had slept with (their names are incorporated into some of the other sheets in the series). 'Heart and hand', the title of this bed sheet was the proposed name of the textile company McDiarmid planned to establish. The sheets were autobiographical works.

David McDiarmid (1952-1995)

David McDiarmid (1952-1995). Studied film (& design*) at RMIT. Australian artist and outspoken AIDS activist. Looked at love, art and life in the age of HIV. By 1994, more than 3380 people had died in Australia from AIDS-related illnesses (SMH 26/11/1994 ARTS p7). The AIDS epidemic was the focus of McDiarmid's creative output.

His designs for the highly effective ACON Safe Sex posters and postcards in 1992 established him as one of Australia's most outstanding activist artists. His art and graphic designs were core to the war against intolerance and prejudice against gays and against people with AIDS. As the death toll from the AIDS epidemic rose, his work became defiant, graphically explicit and humorous. McDiarmid worked to build an identity and to improve the self-esteem of members of the gay community in Sydney, as well as helping many at the same time cope with the crisis of death and dying in the age of HIV. He himself died of AIDS on 25 May 1995.

McDiarmid was art director of the Sydney Mardi Gras workshops from 1988 to 1990. He worked in mixed media and experimented with new materials and technologies eg holograms and computer graphics.

McDiarmid also collaborated closely with the Australian designer, Linda Jackson. The textile folder in the collection contains many of the textile designs he produced for Linda when he was working in New York from 1979 to 1988.

* Ted Gott, Curator, Museum of Modern Art at Heidi, Victoria is undertaking research into the life and work of David McDiarmid.



The bed sheet painting was painted in New York and exhibited in the 'David McDiarmid - New Work' show at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, MacDonald Street, Paddington in 1984. It was then used frequently by David McDiarmid, Peter Tully and friends when they went to the beach. Subsequently it was also hung on McDiarmid's wall.

The SLNSW has been nominated as the repository for manuscripts and photographic collections of David McDiarmid and the NGV will become the repository for McDiarmid's art work. MAAS was selected by the Executor of McDiarmid's estate to be the repository for McDiarmid's graphic and textile design collection.


Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of the late David McDiarmid, 1998

Acquisition Date

19 November 1998

Cite this Object


Painting 'Heart and Hand' by David McDiarmid 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 23 June 2021, <https://ma.as/161415>


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