The Art of Activism: Rae Senarighi

About Gabriel Joffe

“The Love Series #17” by Rae Senarighi

Rae Senarighi is a painter, designer, and muralist based in Portland, Oregon. The front cover of the Summer 2018 issue of The Public Eye features a piece from “The Love Series,” which he conceptualized after a cancer diagnosis. Senarighi decided that all of his future artwork would come from a place of love. “I essentially spent a year meditating on love and painting abstract color fields,” he said. “It was a wonderful and healing experience for me.” His previous years of work in scientific illustration furthered his understanding of “how interconnected we all are, and how much we all have in common with the natural world and with each other.”

His TRANSCEND series is currently touring art galleries and community spaces in several U.S. cities as well as London. It features portraiture of transgender and non-binary individuals from all over the world “who are living their lives out in the open, and choosing integrity over safety.” Senarighi paints each individual with skin tones made up of a rainbow pallet to bring the viewer’s focus on the “vibrant living breathing souls” depicted and elicit a sense of pride and unity. The larger-than-life portraits in this series represent resent trans people reclaiming space in direct response to oppression. Being transgender is “not just about one experience, not linear and not simple,” Senarighi said. “Each transgender person is unique with incredibly diverse experiences yet we are united in a common struggle.”

As a transgender non-binary artist, Senarighi is personally driven to combat the misunderstanding and marginalization of the trans community through art, which he says is “the way I know how to communicate best.”

“Portrait galleries worldwide are filled with White, presumably cisgender men and women, and it is my personal passion to help change that.” He explains that this goal is “larger than me or any single election cycle” and is inspired by the work of artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Kadir Nelson, and Harmonia Rosales.

Senarighi hopes that trans youth will be able to see themselves in the fine art world and experience the power of seeing beautiful and revered images of their own community. “By elevating our stories, our community will be empowered.”

“Ceraun” by Rae Senarighi. See more at: www.raesenarighi.com

Gabriel Joffe is PRA's program coordinator.