Galib Braschler
In College of Human Ecology, Human Centered Design

On the heels of National Coming Out Day, a new documentary will premiere that celebrates the love and lives of those lost in the decades-long AIDS epidemic and demonstrates the power of a mother’s love.

The documentary, “Echoes of Enduring Love,” features the story of Mark Goldstaub, one of the founding members of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, and his partner Edmund Wojcik. It also illustrates the journey of Mark’s mother from acceptance to activism. The film grew out of an archival exhibit titled “Threads of Life, Love, and Loss: An HIV/AIDS Story,” which includes garments, accessories, documents, ephemera and film from the collection of Sylvia Goldstaub, Mark's mother, who died in 2017. Other pieces on display come from the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection, the National AIDS Memorial and friends and families of Goldstaub and his partner.

two men standing close together on an NYC sidewalk
Cathy Blaivas/Provided

In an image from the exhibit, Mark Goldstaub and Edmund Wojcik pose for an impromptu photo on a New York City sidewalk. The leather jacket in the image is on display as part of the exhibit. 

The documentary debuts at 5:45 p.m. today in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Room G151, and will be followed by a Q&A panel with participants from the film. A reception in the Human Ecology Commons will precede the screening at 5 p.m. 

In the summer of 2021, Denise Green, associate professor in Human Ecology and Director of the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection; along with Brenda Marston, Curator of the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell; and Michael Mamp, associate professor of textiles, apparel design, and merchandising at Louisiana State University, set out to curate a fashion exhibit that tells the story about HIV/AIDS from the perspective of one mother-son pair that focuses not just on the tragedy of the son’s passing, but the triumphs of his life. 

“The research began with an archive donated to Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection by Sylvia Goldstaub, who lost her son Mark to AIDS-related illness in 1988, and quickly grew into a much larger story about the power of love and the power of archives,” Green said. “Through the archive, and all those it connected us to, the film is able to reanimate the past by bringing people together in the present.” 

Love is the driving force behind the film, which begins with the story of Sylvia and Bernie Goldstaub and how they turned grief and loss into activism. Through her book, Unconditional Love, and eye-catching self-fashioned outfits, Sylvia used creative expression to reach other parents of LGBTQ+ children with a simple message: love your children no matter what. The film also captures the love between Sylvia and Bernie’s son Mark Goldstaub (1951-1988) and his partner Edmund Wojcik (1955-1995), along with their friends, colleagues, family members, and all whose lives they touched.

The film’s title, “Echoes of Enduring Love,” refers to the way those loved and lost remain present through memories and materials. The archive is itself a character in the film, a powerful force that Marston said, “is a very strong antidote to the forces in society that want to make some people invisible.” 

The exhibit, on display through Dec. 2 in the Human Ecology Commons and Level T display cases, explores how dress, textiles and archives can be used to fight for health equity amid an ongoing global health crisis that has lasted more than 40 years and claimed upwards of 40 million lives.

“Threads of Life, Love, and Loss” is the first exhibit of “Threads of History: Textiles at Cornell,” a series organized by Cornell University Library, which highlights different collections and topics related to textiles and clothing – from the plight of enslaved people toiling in the cotton fields to labor unions organizing in garment factories.

It was made possible with support of the Cornell Council for the Arts, Laurie Conrad Music and Arts Fund of Community Foundation of Tompkins County, Cornell University Library, College of Human Ecology, and the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection in the Department of Human Centered Design.