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'Trans-lucent' Art Exhibit Empowers Transgender Artists & Celebrates Identities

UW-Milwaukee is marking Transgender Awareness Month with a new exhibit that's a collaboration between the Union Art Gallery and the campus LGBT Resource Center. “Trans-lucent: A Transgender Empowerment Exhibition” features artwork created by transgender and non-binary people, with artists from the campus, local and national communities.

"You know, I haven’t seen too many exhibitions specifically for trans and non-binary people, and it was especially important to have an empowering exhibition for this month," says Madison Auten, Union Art Gallery manager and curator.

Within the exhibition are four bodies of work exploring the themes of self-identity and resilience: “Our Trans Family,” “Transcend,” “Transilient,” and “Note to Self.” The exhibit runs through Dec. 13 and features a range of activities outside of the exhibit on the UW-Milwaukee campus.

Portland, Ore.-based transgender non-binary artist Rae Senarighi's portraiture work “Transcend” celebrates trans and non-binary individuals throughout the world in vivid color. Senarighi says he wants you to get to know his subjects "on their terms."

"Trans and non-binary people are constantly told not to take up any space, and so the blue-sky background [in my portraits] is kind of a figurative way of reclaiming space," he notes. "And then they are all painted at a relational human size, but they're all a little bit larger than life."

As an artist who typically puts on his own shows, Senarighi says coming together with other trans artists has been a great experience that can help fill the gap in art museums where trans and non-binary artists should be.

"There are so many variables that make our experiences different and I find that interesting and beautiful." - Rae Senarighi

Salem Turchan is a local student and an interdisciplinary artist who works with the topics of marginalization and queer identity through personal storytelling. They say the power and influence of language is a critical tool in how it can reflect people's experience and ideologies.

"I think it's important that as these new terms and symbols are coming about, that they're being documented properly, and I want to do that through my work," says Turchan. "I think that personal storytelling is one of the best ways to have these two disparate people come together."

Senarighi notes that "Trans-lucent" can play an important role in educating and connecting people both within and outside of the LGBTQ community.

"There's this broad narrative out there that transgender is 'A to B.' I really find that to be not true," he says. "There are so many people who you might look at from the outside and think they've had a similar experience. But you never know what they've gone through, what things are important to them about their bodies and how they walk in the world. There are so many variables that make our experiences different and I find that interesting and beautiful."

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.