They: New Works by Martin Wannam

January 10, 2020

Martin WannamGod Ezra, 2017

“One of my interests is in the deconstruction of Catholic imagery and concepts, and in their re-construction through queerness. Choosing the term queerness is intentional because the word is broad, and because it gives presence and power to something that Catholicism specifically refers to as not normal. Rather than normalize queerness, I want to highlight in a positive light what makes the community uni-que, and in doing so overpower a heternomative system.” 

 

By utilizing and manipulating materials such as glitter, foam, concrete, makeup, and religious ephemera, Wannam’s work acts in revolt towards the heteronormative norms instituted by the Catholic Church and government of their native country of Guatemala. In an effort to disrespect these institutions, items and objects representative of the Church are appropriated into the bodies and backdrops of Queer existence in Guatemela, after they have been burnt, painted, tarnished, and destroyed. The result for the viewer is a forced re-adjustment from an initial de-politicized attraction towards the pop and kitsch outer layers of the work, creating an intentional discomfort.  

 

The act of re-contextualizing and re-staging is core to Wannam’s photography and sculpture work. Holy figures of Catholicism are transformed into queer icons in drag, as they mimick and reclaim the space of the fixed postures of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, and of God that are etched into our collective consciousness. Hate crimes towards the LGBTQ community fueled by the Evangelical Church and machismo in the region, are re-staged through a literal bluntness paired with a cunning sensitivity of the symbolic and emotional. The guatemala flag becomes a flag for queer sexuality and expression. Foam absorbs mother mary into its flesh. All of which not only renounces the violence and discrimination received, but turn the attempt of erasure into an expression of immortality. 

 

Wannam is from Guatemala. He received his BA in graphic design from Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala City, and will be receiving his MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico in 2020.