Artist-Activist Francesca Galliani Brings Her Messages of Empowerment to Fashion

December 08, 2017 5:00 PM

Modern day social activism can be found and utilized everywhere from social media to organized protests. With so many different mediums to express one’s values, virtually anyone can have a voice. Such is the case for Francesca Galliani, an established Italian artist and photographer who expresses her principles of liberation, human rights, and empowerment through her photographs. Whether she’s capturing the beauty and authenticity of two men interlocked in passion or lensing a portrait of transgender youth, there’s always a palpable sense of genuine emotion that runs through her work. It’s that raw vulnerability and emotion in her subjects that’s enabled her work to be displayed in galleries and exhibitions all over the world. Galliani understands the importance of standing for what you believe in and has always pledged to use art as a form of such expression. An active ally and member of the LGBTQ community, she never wavers in her resoluteness and longs for the day acceptance and equality for all are ingrained in our society. It was during Pride Month in 2015 in New York City, where she currently resides, that she first branched out into clothes and now has a line of t-shirts, sweaters, and jackets called Made in Me 8 that are both screen-printed with her gelatin silver print artwork and hand-painted. Galliani manually works vintage t-shirts and modifies them with raw edges, collages of different materials, unfinished seams and metal details. These pieces of "wearable art" are imbued with social messages of hope and acceptance such as “Love Wins,” “No Bullies,” and “Transgender Rocks.” TWELV caught up with Francesca to learn more about her upbringing, the universal nature of her work, and why she’s not done yet.


TWELV: Have you always been interested in art and photography? 

Francesca Galliani:  Certainly not always. I grew up in Italy but didn’t have any artistic inclinations until I moved to the U.S. when I was 19. I decided to enroll in art school in Washington D.C. and took classes for fun. I was always pretty good at drawing, but I also took a basic photography class where I learned how to really use a camera. I fell in love with photography almost immediately, and I spent a lot of time in the dark room with my photographs. My instructor was very supportive and really encouraged me to pursue my newfound passion. I discovered how much life photography gave me, and in many ways, it suspended me and enriched me. I went to Corcoran School of Art and received my BFA there.

TWELV: How did you find your niche after college?

FG: My heart was really in the fine arts, but eventually I began to engage in fashion photography. I was interested in fashion from an artistic point of view, where I sought to create a mood and transmit a message. With my clothing line, I’m going back to fashion but from a totally different point of view. I really admired Robert Mapplethorpe as someone who really put himself out there. I practiced fashion photography with magazines in Milan, where I travelled to 2-6 times a year. It’s really the market that’s embraced my work the most. Eventually I moved to New York City in 1990 after living in D.C. for 8 years. 

TWELV: How do you go about choosing your subjects and capturing the image you want?

FG:  I choose my subjects based on the project I want to work on. And for each shoot, I always aim to start from a blank slate and then listen. I have these intimate conversations with my subjects that will allow me to form an element of trust. Having that connection is very important to me. In school I did some nude self-portraits, and for me, it was always a way to access emotions from my subjects that clothes would otherwise prevent by being a wall of sorts. I like to showcase beauty in all its forms. I’ve shot nude men together as well as beautiful, erotic, sensual women but who are also very strong. My work is grounded in socio-political elements that I hope are brought out with each shot. Two men in love, kissing, for example, presents a message about basic human rights. And I started photographing transgender women in the nineties.

TWELV: How do you see art, in particular your work, affecting change in society?

FG:  We’ve come a long way with LGBTQ rights and acceptance but still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of violence, particularly towards trans women of color. As far as my work goes, I want to bring out the beauty and dignity in these people who’ve been rejected by society. My next project, for example, will be with one person as opposed to the multiple subjects I’ve shot together in the past. And I’m taking it further and hope to capture and explore the different sides of our sexuality. In order to bring about change in society, art has to think outside of the box. There’s something very immediate about work that’s pushing boundaries, because it sparks dialogue right away. Looking at our past– Stonewall, the AIDS crisis– all this brought so much awareness. Education, arts, teaching demonstrations, standing up for our rights– it all contributes to progress.

TWELV: Why do you think your work has resonated with so many different galleries and exhibitions worldwide?

FG: Everyone can relate to the human condition. Emotions are universal and my work is rooted in that. Conceptual art is intellectual, but the work I do is more human in nature.

TWELV: The LGBTQ community is of particular importance to you. How has this impacted your work?

FG: This hits very close to home for me. This is my community and it’s important to carry this message wherever I go. The way I express myself and advocate for my community is through my art and it all starts with awareness. Through my work, I hope to break barriers of preconceived notions and help advance my community’s causes this way.

TWELV: How did Made In Me 8 come about?

FG: The name itself is made up of two parts. I chose Made In Me because my art comes from within, and I take it to another level. And then I chose to add 8 because it’s always been my number. I was born on 8/8. It started during pride in 2015, the year gay marriage was legalized. I made some t-shirts for my friends with the words “Love Wins” and everyone wanted to know where I got them. This allowed me to take my art to the streets and make it more accessible for a wider audience. The screen-printed shirts have my original art work literally printed on them. I chose artworks that express my point of view. They start a conversation, which is very hard to do with so many different strong points of view, especially in this divided climate. The hand-painted shirts have strong messages of hope and acceptance. There is power in words and they draw you in more. Context is everything. 







Instagram: @madeinme8  / Facebook: Made in Me 8


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