Earlier this year a dear friend of mine wrote to me with an idea.
She and her partner were preparing for a formal commitment ceremony with their closest friends, family and loved ones and she wanted to work together to create a unique gift for those mentors who were accompanying them in making this life long commitment.
I was honored by the invitation to collaborate with this couple during such a special time and I was energized by the idea of creating commissioned art as an expression of gratitude for such special people in their lives.
My friend shared with me a few details that were guiding her vision, she wanted to include the biblical phrase, "I Have Called You Friends" to honor the deep friendships they have formed and she wanted the painting, whatever it might be, to serve as a sort of icon, an image to be "gazed at with love."
And together we started brainstorming. She shared with me a bit more about the people on what she and her partner called their "heart team," a small group of mentors who were accompanying them as they prepared for their commitment ceremony and who they hoped would continued to accompany them as they grew as a couple in the years to come.
We decided together that the painting ought to include and embrace diversity and celebrate, in particular, queer identity in honoring the people on their "heart team" and their diverse identities.
Then my friend gave me the freedom to take the idea from there. I sought out pictures of woman identified and queer identified people of color for inspiration and I found great joy in depicting love and friendship against the backdrop of rainbow splendor.
I had never imagined before the idea of a queer icon, but as the concept emerged I found reclaiming the classic idea of Christian icons to be liberating.
When I shared the final version with my friend who commissioned the painting, she said, "I am just in awe of this piece. I am so happy to just stare at it...It is truly beautiful."
For those of us who grew up in communities that were not open to diverse expressions of gender, sexuality and faith, coming together to support and celebrate one another while also collaborating in making art together, is an incredibly empowering process.
I would not have dreamed up this "queer icon" without my dear friend's vision guiding us along the way and I am just so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this important gift for such important people in their lives.