Burning Child Installation

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David Wojnarowicz
Installation room, Grace Mansion Gallery
November 1-November 25, 1984


According to Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz,

“With his installation at Gracie Mansion Gallery in November 1984, David began addressing the events of his childhood for the first time. He covered a child mannequin with maps. He added flames to the child’s arms, legs, and back. The burning child runs across the bottom of the sea. David brought sand into the gallery to create his ocean floor, and added aquatic plants made of newspapers. at the back of the sandy area he placed a map-wrapped cow skull clamping a small globe in its jaws. suspended above this from the ceiling was a shark covered in maps. looming over it from the back wall--the specter the burning child ran from--was a large four-paneled painting of an ocean liner titled Dad’s Ship. On another wall, he depicted impending doom on a larger scale with his painting Soon All This Will be Picturesque Ruins. He lit the scene with tiny white Christmas lights and added a soundtrack he'd done with Doug Bressler from 3 Teens. ….David decided to include some of Greer [Lankton]’s work--six human figures, maybe a foot tall, with arms raised in supplication or distress, made from wire frames wrapped in black tape.” [1]

Plans and images can be found in: Fales, Wojnarowicz Papers: Box: 10, Folder : 61, 68, 69, 85, 86; Fales: Wojnarowicz Papers, Box: 80, Folder: Slide Box 48; Fales: Wojnarowicz Papers, Box: 82 Folder: Slide Box 61


Click here to read checklist

Installation View


Doug Bressler
Bressler was a friend and collaborator of Wojnarowicz, as well as a member of 3 Teens

Pages on Knowledge Base that link to this page


  1. Cynthia Carr, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (New York, Bloomsbury, 2012): 269.