Marian Henel – born in 1926 in the village of Przystań near Częstochowa, died in 1993 in Branice. Henel created tapestries, drawings, and photographs. He completed six classes of primary school. After the war, he worked in the state security apparatus and also as an agricultural labourer on a state-owned farm. From 1960 until his death, he remained in the Hospital for the Mentally Ill in Branice.


Selected photographs, undated
vintage prints
courtesy of the Hospital for the Mentally Ill in Branice

Marian Henel was the queer artist, with an undefined sexuality which manifested itself in photographic self-portraits. Henel was fascinated by women of large proportions, which he transformed himself into, dressing in costumes he made himself. He treated his body as a medium for his art: he ate sugar in order to gain weight, he scrupulously tested and practiced poses in order to achieve the perfect shot. Some of these photographs show dolls which he posed. Only 88 original prints have survived up into our times. Many of his creative strategies also had their counterparts in the work of non-mainstream artists, if only to mention the New York underground queer scene and the works of artists like Jack Smith.