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'Queer, Brown femme power' radiates at new Boystown mural
by Jake Wittich
2018-09-24

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A new mural honoring non-binary people located in the heart of Boystown aims to open a dialogue about intersectionality within the LGBTQ community.

The 750-square-foot mural on the side of the Howard Brown Health Center in Boystown, 3245 N. Halsted St., features Kiam Marcelo Junio, a non-binary interdisciplinary artist and holistic healer. The artists—Sam Kirk, Andy Bellomo and Sandra Antongiorgi—hope it's the first in a series of murals celebrating queer people throughout Chicago.

"We wanted to open a dialogue about non-binary and gender nonconforming folks within the [LGBTQ] community," Bellomo said. "We're creating more conversation around and visibility for for non-binary and gender-nonconforming folks through public art."

At the center of the mural is a portrait of Marcelo Junio, painted by Antongiorgi. The background, a collaboration between Kirk and Bellomo, features abstract line work and other designs that aim to capture the essence of Marcelo Junio as a person.

"There's a beauty to how centered [Marcelo Junio] is and their confidence, peacefulness and healing qualities," Antongiorgi said. "They are such a presence and have a power within that you can see in the mural."

The artists applied a 22-carat gold leafing to create Marcelo Junio's lips, eye makeup and some of the line work in the background.

"Kiam is big, majestic, royal and regal, and the gold captures that," Bellomo said. "The gold leafing is innovative and makes the mural more special and celebratory."

Planning for the mural started about two years ago, according to Kirk. After securing funding and finding a location for mural, the artists started painting the wall Aug. 13.

Bellomo said painting the mural was heartwarming because they were interrupted almost every few minutes by people commenting on its beauty.

"Lots of people were stopping by and saying, 'I see so much queer, brown, femme power here,'" Bellomo said. "And that's the idea—from this one person, you see this higher community of people they represent."

Bellomo said it was important to create a mural that creates dialogue about how groups of people can be marginalized within the larger LGBTQ community so people can learn to better support one another.

"It's a necessary conversation at this moment, and you can see this mural from four blocks away, so you can can't ignore it," Bellomo said.

Marcelo Junio said they were honored to be chosen as mural's subject, and that their inclusion represents intersectionality within the LGBTQ community.

"Being an orphan, a transnational adoptee, Filipino and queer, I know from the outside it can look very conflicting and complicated," Marcelo Junio said. "I'm gay, but I'm different from the gay people I see on magazines and TV. I'm Filipino, but not like all the other Filipino boys I know. So every group I belong to, I've always felt like an outsider at some point. Intersectionality ties all that together, and this mural is a statement that people like me belong here too."

Before starting work on the mural, Antongiorgi met with Marcelo Junio to learn more about their character, practices, politics and beliefs so they could be accurately represented in their portrait.

"We are all mirrors to one another," Marcelo Junio said. "I understand my own complexity, beauty, place in space and time, and that I'm worthy of love. I hope that people can feel that from the mural and see themselves just as big and just as worthy of being celebrated."

Bellomo said they are working on a proposal to start a series of queer murals throughout Chicago, but they need funders to make future projects possible. The first mural was funded by Howard Brown Health, Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Ald. Tom Tunney ( 44th Ward ) and the Northalsted Business Alliance.

"We hope future murals would be not just in Boystown and spread throughout Chicago, especially its South and West sides, where there's a need for more LGBTQ visibility," Kirk said. "I hope to get the city out of its segregated mindset."

Antongiorgi, Bellomo, Kirk and Marcelo Junio will officially unveil the mural at a celebration starting 2:30 p.m. Sept. 29 outside the Howard Brown Health Center in Boystown.


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