As celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising this month kick into full gear, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York, working in collaboration with Deutsche Bank, has commissioned an artist to stage an action as part of its participation in the annual NYC Pride March on June 30.
The museum will present large-scale reproductions of Gabriel Garcia Román’s “Queer Icons” series, which features portraits of queer and trans people of color depicted as religious icons. The pieces include black-and-white images of the subjects staring directly at the viewer that are collaged on colorful backgrounds, along with text the subjects have written about their identities and a halo that frames their faces.
For the procession, the museum will create around 100 standards of the portraits (two variations of each image) that will be attached to 10-foot poles to be carried by volunteers. (Those interested in participating can learn more here.)
Garcia Román began working on the ongoing series in 2011, as a way to recognize the contributions of people of color to queer history and activism. (Some works from the series are currently on view at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California.) He started by shooting his friends, but as the project grew, he began photographing activists, community organizers, and artists as well.
[Read a roundtable discussion about the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and its lasting impact on the art world.]
Among those featured in the series, which numbers around 50 images, are artists Lola Flash, Kia LaBeija, Fatima Jamal, and Ignacio G Rivera, as well as activists Jennicet Eva Gutierrez, Ezak Amaviska Perez, Ericka Hart, and Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, and drag queen and writer Panda Dulce.
“It’s about reclaiming history,” Garcia Román told ARTnews. “This project shifts the narrative back to the communities that have been made invisible by the mainstream society. These are our modern-day saints—people who are putting their lives on the line for our community.”
In recent years, the Leslie-Lohman has not participated in the NYC Pride March, since the museum is closed because it designates Pride a holiday. This year, however, it was invited to walk alongside Deutsche Bank, which funds the museum’s “Embrace” program that provides educational tools to public schools in New York City.
“When we were invited by Deutsche Bank to march with them, I knew that as an art museum we needed to participate with an artist project,” Leslie-Lohman executive director Gonzalo Casals said. “In a parade that is so important to the context of the anniversary of Stonewall, we wanted to use this platform to celebrate the voices of those who are marginalized and often don’t get the attention in the mainstream.”