Julissa. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen.
Gabriel García Román didn’t pick up a camera until he was in his mid-twenties. Born in Mexico, raised in Chicago, and a recent transplant to the East Coast at the time, Román began doing self-portraits with the intention of “making myself visible, making my queerness visible, my Americanized Mexicanness visible.” Those images became what he calls the “building blocks” for subsequent projects, such as “Defining You.”
“I broke open the idea of bi-culturalism, which brings baggage that many of us who were born elsewhere and raised in this country from a young age have had to struggle with,” Román explains, “like the idea of not being from ‘there’ or from ‘here.’ I chose to photograph people who toe the line between two cultures, one native and the other adopted.”
In his latest series, Queer Icons, Román complicates the identity narrative. His colorful portraits depict subjects at particular intersections of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation, while the integration of personal storytelling allows them to proclaim their own unique positions. The subjects speak for themselves. In this way, Queer Icons moves beyond exploration to become a celebration — of both collectivity and individuality.
Interview in Fragments with Artist Gabriel García Román
Kay. 2015, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen, 11×14, image size 8×10. Text by Queer Icon Kay Ulanday Barrett.
I was searching to find myself — searching to find my place in this world or to stake a claim on a piece of this world.
Erica. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10.
Photography is such a prevalent thing in modern society. Most people have cameras in their phones and [are] taking selfies, pictures of your everyday are so common that we forget there are still many parts of the world where photography is inaccessible.
Tamara. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10.
I’d like to travel to some of the most underdeveloped areas of the globe and set up a simple photo booth where people would come and have their portrait taken and would have an instant copy of the photo printed for them. They would walk away with something tangible they could keep for themselves or give away.
Jairo. 2014, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10.
In most cases, when a portrait is taken, the sitter’s voice becomes silent and their image is flattened; the photographer and viewer that decide what narrative they will give that image. I wanted to break out of that concept by giving the subject their voice back to make the image fully dimensional, physically and metaphorically.
Sonia. 2015, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Poetry by Queer Icon Sonia Guiñansaca.
With my most recent iteration in Queer Icons, I have decided to give the models a chance to speak about their identity. It’s become a collaboration between them and me. The colors and metallic papers I use give them dimension, while the text they write around the image gives them a voice. The combination of both adds to the visibility.
Bakar. 2015, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10.
For some in the younger generation of Mexican-Americans, religion, specifically Catholicism, is more of a cultural element than a spiritual one. The cross, the rosary, and images of La Virgen de Guadalupe have become part of the Mexican-American identity, these images have moved from the church and onto tattoos and clothing; it is a form of showing Mexican pride.
Emanuel. 2015, From the series Queer Icons, Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle, 11×14, image size 8×10. Poetry by Queer Icon Emanuel Xavier
I combined that aspect of myself with my queerness. This led me into thinking of how few images of queer POC are out in the world and how it’s my community of QTPOC that are the most vulnerable in this society; yet here we are, alive and proud.
I defy the idea that as a queer person I should hide that aspect of myself so as to not ruffle any cultural norms. Instead I wanted visibility… not only for myself but for my community.
The series continues to unfold, and can be viewed on Román’s website.