Illustrating queer joy—Midwest artists highlighted through MBLGTACC commissioned art

The MBLGTACC planning team and Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity will feature the creative work of Samuel Turner and Marcela Passos in Lexington this week.

The selection followed their submissions for an open, public commission of art by LGBTQIA+ Midwesterners, and artists were asked to reflect on the meanings and possibilities of Queer Joy as Our Lasting Legacy, the theme of the 31st annual conference.

Designs by Samuel Turner (left) and Marcela Passos (right) for MBLGTACC
Designs by Samuel Turner (left) and Marcela Passos (right) for MBLGTACC

Turner, of Clarkston, Michigan, is a 2023 graduate of the University of Michigan's Penny Stamps School of Art and Design. He drew inspiration for his piece from queer elders. "Their pain resulted in a society where I can exist freely," Turner said. "I imagined a couple embracing one another with a love so strong that they became a tree. Their wide-reaching canopy can provide shade and comfort to anyone who may pass by, assisting couples who too plant their seed in the same grove. The implication is that though these people may have passed away, their love will live on and make the lives of others that much easier. Through perseverance, we can all achieve a sense of belonging and self-actualization when connected to our community."

Passos, of Ann Arbor, is an undergraduate student—also at the Stamps School. "Queer joy is about finding love and happiness when life seems to be working against you," said Passos. "It's about finding a community that listens, speaks out, and understands. Queer joy is everywhere, but only if you know how to find it."

Both were interested in art at an early age. Passos, in her submission to the selection committee, wrote, "I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil." And Turner said his earliest memories of gravitating toward art came when he was in preschool—"I was anxious to talk to the other children, and drawing was a good excuse to be in your own world and express your thoughts. The act of artmaking was eventually something I could use to connect with others."

Custom MBLGTACC posters featuring each design will be available for free to attendees at the Maker Market and Vendor Fair, while supplies last. Turner's submission was also chosen for the cover of the keepsake program booklet. Both artists were compensated for their time and labor.

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