The trans Virgin Mary who made it into Art & Queer Culture
Giuseppe Campuzano knew the power of church imagery but seriously disliked the power of the church itself
Giuseppe Campuzano, a Peruvian artist, researcher, transvestite and activist, who died back in 2013, was no great fan of the Catholic Church. But he understood the power of religious stories and symbols, among other tropes.
Letanía, or Litany, the name of one of Campuzano’s artworks, is a Christian term for a series of prayers. In Latin America, it’s also the name for a Christmas carol recounting the nativity story and the charity the Virgin Mary received at a Bethlehem Inn.
Museo Travesti del Perú is both a performance project that evolved while Giuseppe Campuzano was alive and an archive that persists past his death in 2013.
The characters that Campuzano performed in it were rooted in his research on Chinese transvestite opera singers in late nineteenth century Lima, "paintings of sexualized black figures observed by scientist explorers, and reports of recent histories of homicide against transgender sex workers in Peru,” explains the text in Art & Queer Culture.
“The character pictured here is one that Campuzano developed to subvert normative binary genders within official Peruvian history. As a former Spanish colony, Catholicism runs deep in Peru. This character activates this religious history through the silver metallic crown that frames the head and face, which resembles the crown of the Virgin Mary.
“For Campuzano, the body of the transvestite subject is a primary source of political power, and this image/text combination activates transvestites as both sacred, mystical figures and figures subject to the violence and limitations imposed upon them by the largely Catholic, Peruvian nation-state.”
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