LGBTQ Heroes: Etienne
In the world of erotic gay art, one of the iconic figures is Etienne.
Etienne is the pen-name of Domingo Orejudos.
Let’s take a look at his life, career, and legacy.
Orejudos was born in 1933 in Chicago.
He studied ballet and went on to join the Illinois Ballet Company where he became resident choreographer and danced as principle dancer for nine years.
Modelling and Photography
Orejudos began a relationship with Chuck Renslow, and Orejudos modelled for Renslow’s photography.
Together, they established a photography studio – Kris Studios – specialising in semi-nude beefcake portraits.
Art and Illustration
Orejudos began drawing commercially in 1953 – he was commissioned to draw erotic illustrations for Tomorrow’s Man, a magazine published by Irv Johnson. Johnson owned the gym where Orejudos worked out.
To protect his professional reputation, Orejudos adopted the pen name Etienne, the French equivalent of his middle name – Esteban.
Orejudos also used the pen-name Stephen for explicit illustrations that he presented in a comic-book style.
In 1958, Orejudos and Renslow bought the gym owned by Irv Johnson.
They renamed the gym as Triumph Gymnasium and Health Studio, moving their photography studio to an upper floor.
In 1963, Orejudos and Renslow expanded their publishing enterprise to launch Mars, a leather-focused magazine.
They also produced non-explicit gay-themed 16mm movie shorts, written and directed by Orejudos.
In addition to his relationship with Chuck Renslow, in 1969 Orejudos began a relationship with Robert Yuhnke, which continued until Orejudos’ death.
Orejudos and Yuhnke had a home together in Boulder, Colorado. Orejudos divided his time between Boulder and Chicago.
Orejudos died in 1991. His cause of death was pneumonia, which he was susceptible to as he had been living with HIV for a number of years.
The erotic art of Etienne celebrated the leather fetish of gay men, and portrayed gay men as strong and masculine – contrasting sharply with negative perceptions of the era that stereotyped gay men as weak and effeminate.
Working with Chuck Renslow, Orejudos helped establish many of Chicago’s queer foundations, and played an important part in shaping the identity of gay men across the US and internationally.