Icons are an essential part of the visual history of religions, including those of the Catholic, Coptic and Orthodox Christian traditions. From the familiar Mary and the Archangel Gabriel to the more obscure Saint Menas or Theotokos of Vladimir, iconic depictions venerate the figures we consider holy or miraculous, marked by a defining saintly feature -- the halo.
For artist Gabriel Garcia Roman, the halo is a particularly mesmerizing aspect of spirituality. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, he immigrated to Chicago at the age of two. There he grew up in a Mexican household heavily influenced by Catholicism and religious imagery. As a kid, Garcia Roman recalls being transfixed by halos in fresco paintings, which, to him, combined suffering and strength on the dark walls of his church. "I saw the halo as a badge of nobility and selflessness," he explained to The Huffington Post. "So I try and bring that feeling into my work. I want the viewer to be mesmerized like I was as a kid and still am."
His work, "Queer Icons," consists of wildly vibrant portraits that mimic the splendor of religious iconography, with one very important caveat. His subjects are not centuries-old saints. His subjects are very real individuals who identify as QTPoC (queer and trans people of color)