During this semester I took Illustration in tandem with Theological Foundations. I have always had a complicated relationship with my Catholic identity, and my bisexual identity. This strain was made stronger when the Vatican claimed that they can deem gay people holy, but not their union.
In my theology class, we learned about the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of people who dress as “drag nuns.” As an organization, they advocate for safe-sex practices, as well as for the gay community. During the same time, Lil Nas X came out with his music video for Montero, in which he reclaimed the narrative of “gays going to hell.” These served as the inspiration for making a statement against the Vatican’s ruling, and for mixing gay and religious imagery while doing so.
First I found an article that articulated what I was feeling. While I couldn’t find the “perfect article” this one was pretty close: https://apnews.com/article/lgbtq-catholics-vatican-rebuff-same-sex-unions-d51a65e2880c4daf7ef58a199e2fd47f
From here I read the article a few times and began sketching ideas. These are the two concepts I landed on:
I used Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi as an inspiration for my primary illustration, as it’s a portrait of Jesus and particularly inviting to look at.
I then wanted to find a portrait of Mary and Joseph for my secondary illustration, as this would be in direct response to the quote “you can bless the individuals but not the union.” This reference was harder to find, as in many depictions of Mary and Joseph they’re separate from one another. The piece I used was the Doni Tondo by Michelangelo. I used the pose from this painting but nixed many of the details as I wanted to build motifs that would be recurring in both of my pieces.
The motifs I used were arrows, apples, and the halos in both pieces. The arrows were a suggestion from Professor Ries to represent the hurt of the LGBTQ+ Community. This was modeled after different paintings of St. Sebastian. I used the apple to represent gay unions being seen as sinful, and the halos to represent the individuals being holy.
Here are my pieces in progress:
Something I wanted to carry into this project from previous projects was to slow down on my pieces. I did this by using slack for feedback more often, as well as picking a more painterly rendering style. Forcing myself to digitally paint not only made me slow down, but also made my pieces stand out from my other work. Furthermore, the style also makes it clear that I’m referencing renaissance art, and creates an almost haunting atmosphere to my pieces.
Here are the finished pieces:
Here are my mockups:
I’m really proud of these pieces. While yes, there are always things I’d like to improve, I think I poured a lot of myself into these, and people can see that. I actually posted my primary illustration to my Instagram and had someone reach out to me and say that it meant a lot to them to feel represented and seen in my art.
That’s what I want to accomplish as an artist. If I can make even one person feel seen, then I think I have successfully done my job. I have grown a lot during this course, and I still have a lot of growing yet to do. Something I forget though is that my impact as an artist is growing with me. The main thing I can take away from this course is no matter where my artistic career takes me, be that teaching, illustrating, pattern design, whatever, I want to make an impact on people. I want them to feel seen.