The Vatican stopped artist Gonzalo Orquín, but not forever.
In September 2013, Orquín was set to open an exhibit, called "Trialogo," showing photographs of same-sex couples kissing in beautiful baroque Italian churches. But it was halted after the gallery received a letter directly from the Vatican threatening legal action and saying that "the church is against the exhibition" because it shows "expressions of affection that do not belong in a place of worship." (See the complete letter on the following pages.)
So Orquín began looking for a safe place outside Italy to exhibit his works of art and found Gallery MooiMan, which went a step further and produced a book of the images, telling of the story of how the gallery met Orquín. The exhibition opened March 9 and continues until May 11.
Orquín said he was surprised how hard it was to find models for the photographs. "Many are friends, others came after I asked all the people I know to help me by telling about my project. I was impressed that so many people declined," he remembers. "The reason remains a mystery for me."
Since 2004, Orquín (above) has lived and worked in Italy and he's been disappointed by the country's progress for equality.
"The desire and the need to have a law that protects same-sex couples in Italy is very strong," he said. "But sadly, for me Italy remains the most homophobic Western country."
Still, he can sound as critical of LGBT people living there as he is of its leaders. "Some homophobes are gay people," he said, "I think that there is no brotherhood or respect in the gay community, and I think that they may be ashamed to publicly demand their rights. Politicians are busy with other things and then there is the church. Every day there is a bishop or cardinal who goes on TV to say that homosexuals are sick and the natural family needs to be protected. I feel deep anger and shame every time a member of the church insults me in this way. I pray that God will forgive them and I have faith that Pope Francis will help us, why not?"
A book, Sí, quiero, was produced by MooiMan Gallery for the exhibition and includes the photo series, an interview with Orquín, the letter from the Vatican, as well as some of Orquín's paintings — his usual art medium. The book is written in English and Dutch and is the sixth produced by MooiMan. In May 2014 some of the images will be seen at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York.
Click though for a selection of the images that the Vatican opposed >>>
Sandro Kortekaas at Galerie Mooi Man tells us that the photos had to be taken quickly, so that lighting and focus were often difficult.