Melissa Ianniello: Wish it Was a Coming Out

August 3, 2022 - January 29, 2023

Vittorio Panzani, 78 years old, and William Belli, 71 years old, Trent, Trentino-South Tyrol, 2018, 18”x24” Digital Print

Melissa Ianniello: Wish it Was a Coming Out

August 3, 2022 - January 29, 2023

Artist Talk | Saturday, December 10 at 10:00 AM on Zoom

The Rochester Art Center in partnership with the Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul presents a solo exhibition of photographs and interviews created by Italian artist Melissa Ianniello (b. 1991, Naples, Italy). Produced over the last four years, and starting from the artist’s own journey as a lesbian in Italy, the ongoing series Wish it Was a Coming Out, investigates the taboo of being older and gay in Italy, a country with a history and a culture deeply rooted in religious and traditional beliefs.

In this exhibition, the stories of gay men and lesbian women between sixty and ninety years old unfold through sixteen intimate portraits and six large scale photographs of the interviewees' homes. To accompany, excerpts from the interviews conducted by the artist, and translated for an English-speaking audience, bring to light the stories of a marginalized community whose complex and relatable narratives have been systematically erased from the mainstream media.

These include William and Vittorio, a couple of 50 years who is legally married in a “civil union”, a lawful bind that guarantees same-sex couples only some of the rights of a heterosexual marriage; Pina Capizzo, 66 years old, who grew up with a violent and traditional family that forced into marrying a man for twenty two years; or Edda Billi, 89 years old, a poet and an activist with the separatist feminist and lesbian movement which believes in radical liberation of women through separation from men.

After receiving several awards in Italy and Europe, including the first edition of Best Portfolio Prize at the Biennale della Fotografia Femminile in Mantova, Italy, and the John White Keep In Flight Award at the XXXIII Eddie Adams Workshop, the series Wish it Was a Coming Out will be exhibited for the first time in North America. To complete the exhibition, an original essay by art historian Giulia Angeli (b. 1992, Florence, Italy) contextualizes the relevance of this groundbreaking work and elaborates on historical and cultural specificities of the gay and lesbian experience in Italy.

Through the lens of tenderness and care, Melissa Ianniello: Wish it Was a Coming Out addresses themes that are universally relevant: from self-determination to gay/lesbian love, from the representation of affection in advanced age to the honest portrayal of grief, loneliness and death. By bringing these stories to light, Ianniello encourages us to look with compassion at our own humanity in an attempt to celebrate love in its purest form.

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Rochester Art Center and the Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Curated by Zoe Cinel, Curator at the Rochester Art Center, with an introductory essay by Giulia Angeli, Art Historian based in Florence, Italy.


Melissa Ianniello (Naples, 1991) is an Italian documentary photographer based in Bologna, Italy. After completing her undergraduate studies in Philosophy at Alma Mater Studiorum–Università di Bologna (Italy), she studied documentary photography at Spazio Labo’ in Bologna. Through an exchange program she attended the “Photo Workshop New York”, in Brooklyn and visited the US for the first time. In 2020 she was selected to participate in the XXXIII Virtual Eddie Adams Workshop, a merit-based four-day photojournalism seminar in upstate New York.

Her artistic research focuses on themes related to gender, sexuality, and identity, as shown by projects such as Wish it Was a Coming Out (2018-now). Inspired by the artist’s personal experience of not sharing with her grandparents she was lesbian, this ongoing photo documentation and interview series explorevarious aspects of the life of older homosexual Italians and the social stigma they face.

Her photographs have been exhibited at SI FEST Savignano Immagini Festival, Helsinki Photo Festival, Photoville Fence and PHOTO IS:RAEL and they have been published by internationally renowned publications and platforms such as The Guardian, Spiegel Wissen, Internazionale, L-Mag, Are We Europe, L'Oeil de la Photographie, Medfeminiswiya and Q Code Magazine. Ianniello is also the recipient of several awards including the first edition of the Biennale della Fotografia Femminile and the John White Keep In Flight Award. She was a finalist for the Pesaresi Prize (2018) and, above all, for the W. Eugene Smith Grant (2020).


Founded in 2006, the Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul (ICC) is an independent, non-political, non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization open to anyone interested in the unique phenomena of Italian culture. We offer a comprehensive approach to Italian language and culture and reject stereotypes and divisive rhetoric.

Our Mission is to promote the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Italian language and culture through educational and cultural events in the greater Twin Cities area.

Our Vision is to create a broad and inclusive cultural community by serving as a beacon for classic and contemporary Italian culture through its language, arts, food, science and technology.