Queer Celebration

Laurie says:

It seemed right today both in commemoration of gay marriage and to celebrate the ecstatic Pride Day in San Francisco, to show these Queer Icons by photographer Gabriel García Román.

He says about one of his photographs:  The following images are a collaboration between myself and a QTPOC poet/spoken word artist. I took their portrait and gave them a packet that included a copy of their portrait, a sharpie and tracing paper and asked them to hand write some of their work around their portrait. The text was completely up to them.

I took that tracing paper, created a screen and screen printed that around the one of a kind print…

The originality with which he combines collage and photography is striking.  I particularly admire the collaborative quality and that the he includes the work of the writers and poets he photographs as they would like it expressed.

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Julissa Rodriguez is a poet and tattoo artist from the Bronx, NY.  Her family is from the Dominican Republic.

Román says: The subjects in the series are drawn from many aspects of the gender and queer spectrum, elevating an image of a population that’s generally under-represented in the art world. The series references the portraiture styles of Renaissance, Flemish and Christian Orthodox paintings, while illuminating contemporary figures, which are multi-dimensional, powerful, and proud. The subjects in Queer Icons are people of color, who maintain separate, individual identities within the queer community.  These explorations of the edges of genders take place in the nuances of the contemporary urban world.  A simple eye shape, an angle of a mouth, the tilt of the head – indicate a queering of conventional forms and roles.

… the outsiders portrayed are repositioned as central to narrative, like saints – inherently worthy of attention, emulation, and storytelling.

Much like traditional religious paintings conferred a sense of safety, calm and meditation into a home, the works in this series aspire to a similar sense of refuge, drawn from the inner grace of the subjects out onto a world that might not always be safe

From code switch: The photo series, called “Queer Icons” evokes the colorful, religious artwork that Roman grew up with. “Because I grew up Catholic in a Mexican community in Chicago, my first introduction to art was religious art,” he says.

He was particularly inspired by the fresco paintings of haloed saints that decorated the walls of his neighborhood church. “I’ve always thought of the halo as something very powerful — it’s like a badge of nobility,” he says.

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Jahmal Golden is a poet and a student at The New School.

And because Roman’s subjects are activists and artists who do good for the community, “I wanted to represent them as saints,” he says.

He also wanted to capture their pride and their strength. “I wanted them to be warriors — that’s why a lot of them are looking straight at the camera, saying ‘Here I am, and I’m not going to hide.'”

Some of the images feature poems or prose, written by the subject of the portraits. Roman uses the silkscreen printing method to layer text and photograph with color and pattern.

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Bakar Wilson is a poet and an adjunct professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

…Like many of the people he has photographed, Roman, 41, says he often grapples with his identity. He moved with his family from Zacatecas, Mexico to the US when he was two years old, and they were undocumented until he was 15. “I grew up in the states always being reminded that I was Mexican,” he says. “When I finally went to Mexico for the first time, when I was 31, everyone there was like ‘You’re not Mexican — you’re American.’ “

These images play with feelings of not belonging, and, above all, being seen.

Sonia Guiñansaca (below) is an undocumented poet and community organizer who was born in Ecuador and has been raised in Harlem since age five. She is a board member at NYSYLC, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of undocumented youth.

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Today you were reminded that you are not “queer” enough, not “artistic” enough, not “migrant” enough…

Today you cry. Today you write. Today you make love to your queer partner.

Today, all femmed out you disrupt the gaze. Today you love and not just survive!

On the Ground at Officer Involved Killings

Laurie and Debbie say:

At their “The Counted” project, The Guardian has documented 532 people killed by the police in the United States in 2015.  Photographer Josh Begley has collected Google Maps aerial photographs of the locations of almost 500 of these deaths, and arranged them in a project he calls “Officer Involved.”

Teju Cole, writing at The Intercept, says:

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In row after row, we see photographs of corners, streets, suburbs, towns, all in daylight, almost all free of human presence. All these images — in spite of the mysterious lyric beauty of some of them — were captured indiscriminately by the all-seeing eye of Google, either with a bird’s-eye view or at street level. They were then selected and set into an array by Begley. In one sense, they are the same as any other stills randomly pulled from Google Maps. But when we look at these photographs in particular, we are also seeing the last thing that some other human being saw. It is an immersion in the environment of someone’s last moments.

 

img71Jessica Hernandez – Denver, CO

 

Stripped of blood, shotgun shells, vehicle parts, and home-made altars, the sites are in some way bare and neutral, interchangeable (as Cole says) with any other 450 Google aerial images.

We disagree with Cole about one thing: these are not the last thing some other human being saw. You don’t see the birdseye view of the place where you are; you see a lamp post, a steering wheel, a cop’s gun in your face, the sidewalk. What they are is the last place some human being lived, the last air some human being breathed. What they also are is the place people who loved that human being go to mourn, the place people who are fighting these hundreds upon hundreds of deaths go to pay their respects.

 

img67Darin Hutchins – Baltimore, MD

 

So what’s the point of these neutral, distant images? They don’t grab your heart. They might (as they do for Debbie) take you to places like this that you’ve been yourself, physically. They might (as they do for both of us) serve as a chilling reminder of just how many, just how frequent, just how final. Because they are visuals and not numbers, they bring a kind of solidity to the all-too-familiar litany of “yet another, yet another.”

If you want to know more about the numbers, go to the database site. They break their data down by identified race (yes, more than 75% are African-American or Latino/Hispanic), by gender (more than 95% male), by state, by name, by how they died, and more.

 

img75Nicolas Tewa – Phoenix, AZ

Begley’s photographs do something the numbers can’t do; they remind us that these officer-involved killings are happening around us, in places that look familiar, sometimes places we recognize, sometimes places we live. Will they change anyone’s mind, or move someone to understand something new? We can’t know that; we often talk about photographs making the invisible visible. Begley’s photographs are a step toward understanding the inconceivable.