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  • Writer's pictureLocal History Collection

Frank C. Moore, Class of 1971

What do you know about the Harbor Hill Light, Roslyn High School's annual yearbook? Did you know that the first yearbook was issued in 1927? The Local History Collection contains a near-complete run of these yearbooks which are available for both staff and patron use. Yearbooks provide a useful resource for researching current and former members of the Roslyn community who have graduated from Roslyn High School. They also give insight into the atmosphere of the year, captured through the lens of its youth.

A fine example of why it is important for us to maintain the yearbook collection is found in the case of painter and AIDS activist Frank C. Moore (June 22, 1953 – April 21, 2002). As we celebrate Pride throughout the month of June, we have a responsibility to uplift the stories of members of the LGBTQIA+ community whose association with Roslyn places them well within our sphere of historical discussion. At this point in time, the Local History Collection contains few materials on Roslyn residents who identify within that community. This interrupts our conscious journey toward maintaining an inclusive archive that offers wide representation for its diverse patrons.

Although he was a notable painter and AIDS activist, Frank C. Moore, RHS Class of 1971, is not represented in the Local History Collection beyond his numerous appearances in the 1971 yearbook. This is unfortunate considering Moore's cultural impact, and a situation we hope to remedy in the future by collecting more information about the artist and the time he spent in Roslyn.


Moore was born in Manhattan in 1953 and raised in Roslyn along with his brother and sister. After graduating from Roslyn High School in 1971, he earned degrees in Art and Psy­chol­ogy at Yale, graduating from there in 1975. According to his profile on

"In 1977, Frank moved to New York City, where he began a career as an artist and designer. Between 1977 and 1979, he stud­ied at the Cité Inter­na­tionale des Arts in Paris, sup­port­ing him­self by teach­ing Eng­lish to Mus­lim youth. In addi­tion to cre­at­ing paint­ings and draw­ings, he designed sets and cos­tumes, most notably for the chore­o­g­ra­pher Jim Self, with whom he cre­ated Beehive, a bal­let film short, which won a Bessie in 1985. That same year, Frank learned he was HIV-pos­i­tive. From that point on, AIDS became a cen­tral theme in his work, often appear­ing com­min­gled with his other main inter­ests: the envi­ron­ment, homo­sex­u­al­ity, and the health care sys­tem. Although Frank viewed his work as polit­i­cal, its ani­mat­ing spirit was curios­ity rather than anger or alarm. 'The AIDS virus is just a virus,' he once told an inter­viewer. 'It has no per­sonal agenda against me. It’s just another crea­ture in God’s cre­ation.'”

Moore’s paintings take on a surreal, dreamlike aesthetic in dealing with topics that can be difficult to digest. The ironic beauty represented in haunting themes of horrific experiences is one of his work's most powerful attributes. They effectively communicate the profundity of his bearing witness to the AIDS crisis as it unfolded both around and inside him. His deep understanding of symbolism is evident in paintings such as Hospital (1992). Painted on wood, the work, which depicts a bleak, arctic scene of ice fragments floating precariously in frigid waters, includes icicle-like embellishments around the frame:

Hospital (1992)

Close observation reveals that many of the shards carry fragile, bed-ridden bodies while others take the shape of a coffin and spell AIDS in broken ice. Surrounding this glacial mass of suffering, blood teems and pours from enormous pipelines, disrupting the sterile landscape and interlacing themes of environmental concern.

In addition to his paintings, the legacy of Moore’s work as an activist endures in his close involvement with the artist collective Visual AIDS and the creation of the Red Ribbon. From the Visual AIDS website:

"Through a series of meetings in April and May of 1991, and using the yellow ribbons as inspiration, the Red Ribbon was born. The color red was chosen for its 'connection to blood and the idea of passion—not only anger, but love...' The ribbon format was selected in part because it was easy to recreate and wear. The original instructions were to 'cut the red ribbon in 6 inch length, then fold at the top into an inverted 'V' shape. Use a safety pin to attach to clothing.'"

Jeremy Irons at the Tony Awards in '91

These days, there are many awareness ribbons that represent various causes, but the Red Ribbon was one of the first and most visible through celebrities wearing them at public events.

Although he received his HIV diagnosis in 1985, Moore battled the disease for 17 years before passing away in 2002 at the age of 48. Despite his illness, he continued to raise awareness for the cause of AIDS and create works that address complex issues.

Though we wish we could have profiled Frank Moore during his lifetime, we can look back at the mark he made on his hometown through his senior yearbook.

The Class of 1971 designed their yearbook so that each student had the opportunity to be accompanied by an additional image alongside their senior portrait. While some chose to feature the family dog, a baby picture, or to leave their space blank, Moore’s portrait is paired with a line drawing of a face, along with the word “TabДh”, which has different meanings in various languages.

Though mysterious and abstract, the image’s inclusion reveals the artist’s early talent and interest in creating works that cause the viewer to stop and think about possible meanings. It is also worth noting that in his entry's accompanying text, Moore identifies himself as a patron of the Bryant Library. In fact, one of his works is titled Library (1989):

The painting is a sprawling depiction of a vast sea of titles, some experiencing destruction in a distant fire. An unmanned rowboat approaches the foreground, suggesting the desolation that is left in the wake of literary censorship. The impressive work is framed by actual books, making it a multimedia work.

Other early examples of Moore's creative expression are found in a showcase of student art, which features works that explore the mediums of ceramic and textile.

The organizational, leadership, and collaborative skills that were essential to his work as an activist were no doubt cultivated through Moore’s role as Class President in his senior year, as well as his membership in the Key Club, Russian Club, and Honor Society.

As melancholy as it may be to regard the bright promise of youth against the painful knowledge of an untimely death, there is much gratitude to be expressed in being able to learn information about Moore that is not available elsewhere. This further underscores the importance of historical research using primary sources when possible.

We were recently visited by high school acquaintances of Moore who briefly shared their memories of him during his high school years. We hope to collect more information on Moore's early years in Roslyn. Considering his civic contributions to Roslyn High School alongside his later work as an activist and celebrated artist, he is an undoubtedly important part of the town's history and a local gay icon.

If you have any firsthand information about Frank Moore, we would love to learn more! Alternatively, if you are able to point us in the direction of more information about his life in Roslyn we would be most appreciative. The Local History Collection exists and continues to grow through community contributions and we encourage you to get in touch through our contact form.


In Memoriam

Frank C. Moore

(1953 - 2002)


Yale Aids Memorial Project: Frank Moore

(Ed. Note: A version of this article was originally published in June of 2021.)


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