Six Gay Men were Decapitated, Unnamed Men – “Enter Life More Fully” – 2018
Mixed media on canvas, 200 x 540 x 3.5 cm, Polyptych by Angel Correa
Technique and materials used
Mixed media on canvas (black and white printed cotton and polycotton fabrics): Acrylics, vinyl paints, mediums, gesso, water-based inks, permanent-ink markers, satin and matte varnishes
Detailed description of the work
I have compassionately devoted much to the development of this polyptych, which was conceived as six panels, each depicting a beheaded male figure, and each with his head placed precariously between his missing feet. I’ve added to each canvas’s unique texture and multi-layered fabric pattern a fragmented rainbow flag, painting big columns of colour: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. I’ve also used my brushes and pencils to do the work, and a black water base ink marker to get the contours of the male body silhouettes, wounds, and heads done.
To research these real-life decapitated persons, I made careful reference to police reports and autopsy sketches, combining these with photographs of who befell a similar fate. This assisted me with my abstractions of bodily injury. I’ve thus seen horrendous photos which bear witness to violent aspect of human behaviour. These men remain nameless, as journalists and humanitarian organisation could not obtain their names before their corpses were unceremoniously buried. We do know, however, that after they were publicly beheaded, their bodies were repeatedly and irreverently defiled.
Aside from decapitation, their corpses were subjected to various and unimaginable brutalities. We don’t know whether there were family-member pleas for them to be spared or pardoned, due to position or circumstance. We don’t know whether they were single, husbands or fathers, or how they came to be ‘outed’. This is the start of a conversation. We need to do something about this serious issue because we don’t know who could be next somewhere.
What is important is to realise that each of the lifeless men I depicted were in real life, and not so long ago (in 2016), beheaded on a single day. It’s sad and scary to know that six countries worldwide continue to enact the death penalty for people found to be in same-sex relationships: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. Despite more media coverage, I remain none the wiser about the names of the six departed souls I chose to commemorate, nor the strength of their love.
Each of these men – and the men they allegedly loved, if perhaps only briefly – speaks to me individually. During my research there were crying moments, tears and fears whilst working in my studio – along with tense pain in my chest and a lot of emotional and physical exhaustion at the of each day. It took me time to recover, day after day.
This particular work is very special to me because it was whilst researching in order to plan this piece that I was reminded of my reason to be working full time as an artist; I reminded myself that can’t stop myself now. The realisation came to me that I’m here to give testimony to various instances of sociocultural conflict in the world. It’s an ideal large-scale and fearless collection for a human rights organisation, human-rights advocacy charity, or a cultural museum.