Artwork Expresses Grief, Love, Gender, Justice & Pride

Artwork Expresses Grief, Love, Gender, Justice & Pride

(Crystal A. Proxmire, June 2, 2017)

Ferndale, MI – Creating pieces for the Summer of Pride exhibit at Affirmations in Ferndale, Jenn Frazier of Newport had a dream that she should include her mother. Though she normally works in stained glass, the dream led her to create a mosaic that included rainbows, a butterfly and a picture of her mom who passed away unexpectedly just two months ago.
“She was such an amazing mom and that meant so much to me,” Frazier said.  “I could trust her completely and she was very supportive.  When I came out she knitted me a rainbow blanket. It was so sweet.”

She said that making art is healthy, like therapy.  It also felt good to tap into techniques she’d not used in a while.  The mosaic piece with her mother and the accompanying rainbow crayon melt piece were pathways back to youth.  “I haven’t done a crayon melt since high school,” she said.  “It was fun.  In high school we had these heat lamps and you had to hold it under there for like ten minutes.  For this I used a heat gun and it got things moving quickly.  It was really fun.”

Coming to Ferndale Pride is also helping her tap into the fun of life and memories of younger times.  “I used to teach yoga and facilitated the women’s group,” she said.  “I love Ferndale and I love Ferndale Pride.  It’s my favorite because it’s small enough that I can still see people I know.”

Unlike Frazier, Melissa Yurashus of Toledo had never set foot in Ferndale or the Affirmations community center before coming to drop off art for the show.  A friend had given her the heads up about the exhibit and she wanted to be involved.  Her untitled portrait explores her personal body image and the public’s perception of her as a butch lesbian.

“I’m in retail management and I get questioned all the time.  Am I wearing the right name tag?  Am I really a woman?  It’s not something I am okay with accepting,” Yurashus said.  “Just because I do not look like what society thinks of as feminine does not mean I am any less of a woman. I shouldn’t have to keep answering the same question every day of my life.”

Yurashus normally is a sculptor, but after hearing about the Summer of Pride theme she decided to go bold and “talk about something people don’t always talk about,” she said.  “I have friends that don’t want me around when they go out because people will think they are a lesbian.  There are people who don’t want me around because I don’t fit in with their image…I wish society could just drop all the stereotypes and let people be themselves.”

For Chris Chapman, drawing fantasy artwork is his escape.  “I feel like ink and pencil help me to get out my feeling.  Drawing is more therapeutic to me than talking to people.  I don’t even want to think about what it would be like not to draw, it is such an important thing in my life.”

Chapman is a student of mortuary science with an interest in facial recognition and facial reconstruction, a profession where having a strong sense of bone structure and the ability to sketch accurately is essential.

In his art the figures are monsters, dragons, birds and other mythical creatures.  “I like fantasy.  So many times you want to escape but you can’t,” he said.

Chapman has been coming to Affirmations for five years and began volunteering about a year ago at the front desk.  “I was just ready to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” he said.

The Summer of Pride Exhibit in the Pittman-Puckett Gallery of Affirmations runs through July 28.  There are ten artists featured, including Ari Elle, Jeffrey Burnett, Maddie Adams and Michele Coldren.  The opening is part of the kickoff to Ferndale Pride, which takes place Saturday, June 3 from 1-10pm in Downtown Ferndale.  Affirmations is located at 290 W. 9 Mile.  Learn more at

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