The Queer Portrait Project tells the stories of people in the queer community in my paint and in their words. I am painting queer-identified people and having each person write a short bio to accompany the painting. I am painting people I know and people I don’t know. I am painting gay people, bi people, trans people, non-binary people, old people, young people, outgoing people, shy people, tall people, short people…queer people. I seek to illustrate the diversity, breadth, and variety that is the queer community. I like the thought of art used as a connection and a bridge in this tight-knit, yet also disparate community. We sometimes subdivide ourselves according age, race, gender, and class. I hope to show, in the most basic of ways -images and words- how art can be action for change. We have the power to strengthen and sustain each other: as queers, as artists, as people.

If you are interested in posing for the project, send an email to jen@jenclausen.com

Sunday, April 29, 2012


From the time I was born there was something quite unique about me. Unfortunately, growing up in a small town had many small minded people with very loud opinions. "Is that really a girl?" "Hey you are using the wrong bathroom" I felt destined to exist in this world alone. It wasn't until I moved to Madison and experienced such a diverse culture and acceptance that I could truly start to grow and learn about how I can be comfortable in my own skin, and that I am not alone.


Hi, my name is Jenny. Although not pictured here, I normally have teeth. I was born on the north side of Madison and moved away when I was seven. For the past 12 years, Madison has once again been my home, where I first worked as a middle school teacher and, more recently, a social worker who partners with homeless families. Despite the many things we have to be grateful for in this city, it still is not necessarily easy to be queer here. I love the potential and strength that our communities have, although, like the microcosm they are, they remain highly segregated by race, class, gender, etc. The LGBTQ Narratives group is especially important to me, as it is an example of how art can be used for activism, how our words can support and transform one other, and how we can create intentional community with the goal of social justice. I appreciate projects such as this one that highlight not only our ability to be visible as queers, but also tell the stories that allow us to see ourselves reflected in each other


Mike Hanson: born and raised in Marinette Wisconsin.

When I was sitting for this portrait I was just laid off from my long-term job at a local advertising agency and surprisingly feeling so relieved that I finally had some me time. Don't get me wrong, I loved what I did for work but there has been little time for exploratory events in my life like having my portrait painted for this amazing project, and many other life affirming projects where you can see the true good in yourself and the community. When I look at my face I see sadness, but you should know that I'm excited for what lies ahead.


I am queer and I remind myself every day that queers are my family. For me, being queer isn’t just synonymous with LGBTQ. Queerness is also about making a commitment to working for social justice, even – and often most importantly – when this means engaging in struggles that don’t seem to affect us directly as individuals. Queers are not complacent. I also believe that we have profound capacities to care for each other and ourselves as we work to bring joy, peace and badassness into the world. I grew up in a small northern Michigan town where I first witnessed how complicated it can be to balance visibility and safety, especially in the absence of queer community. In my adult life, I am grateful to be out, vocal and in a position to foreground issues of relevance to queers in my work as an activist-academic, educator, writer and community organizer. Queers rock my world.


Just take a look at my face. That expression is what my mother always called "the look." It conveys disdain and disgust with all the subtlety of a kick to the groin. At an early age it became obvious that I had no filter on my brain. Whatever I think or feel will be betrayed by either the look on my face or the words from my mouth. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I should let this one speak for itself. However, the artist has requested that each queer portrait include a written statement by its queer subject. That would be me. Queer Martin. Hell, I've been called worse.

I'm just not sure I have anything else to say about being gay--not anything you'd be interested to read and certainly not anything you haven't heard before from lots of other queers and from this faggot in particular. Most of my life has revolved around feeling/acting/being queer--a consequence of being born gay and being born Southern and being inclined to fight the obvious results of those facts. There's never been any hiding my queerness or blending in with the normals, and at this point I wouldn't even if I could. The world let me know I was a sissy long before I had the slightest concept of sexuality. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would come out as a gay rights activist a full year before I kissed a boy for the first time. I spent a great deal of time and energy on fighting for equality, whatever that is. I've been beaten because I'm gay. I've been disowned because I'm gay. On the flip side, my queer sensibility informs the two qualities I value most in myself--intelligence and wit. I'm not Oscar Wilde or Paul Lynde, but I hold my own.

See, nothing new here. My life is like a local theater production of a Tennessee Williams play. If you don't believe me, you should meet my mother. But I digress. Despite evidence to the contrary, I'm tired of thinking about and talking about being gay. Thankfully, I may be among the last for whom being queer eclipses the other components of our identities. To quote Little Edie, "I have no makeup on... but things are getting better!" Each generation paves more of the road, and we're nearing a time when gay folks can do less paving and more walking. This is what so many of us have been fighting for--the opportunity to stop being queer and start simply being. This faggot has done enough paving for now. I'm ready to walk, so y'all better get off my runway. If you don't think I mean business, just take a look at my face.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


People often talk about how small the queer community is, mostly like it's a bad thing. But I love being a part of the queer community! Realizing I was queer was one of the best things to happen to me. Not only because I got to stop pretending to be something I wasn't, but I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. And isn't that what we all want? You don't hear straight people saying, "Oh, I have such a sense if belonging with the straight community," because it's the norm. Queerness aside, I never saw myself as part of the mainstream. It just seemed so...boring. And too many people there. I found conformity unsettling, which is why I sometimes wonder how much of my queerness is chosen or innate. Which came first- rejection of the majority or being gay? It doesn't really matter. I just like being a part of a community where social networks are constantly intersecting, yet new people are coming in. I love that there are so many events that give me the chance to identify as queer, along with something else- queer and writer, queer and performer, queer and athlete, queer and activist, queer and social. I like having this common link that joins us together. I guess it makes sense that I am currently working with queer youth to both cultivate their own community, as well as acquaint them with the adult queer community. I love this community and I am committed to ensuring its existence for future queers.


I was born and raised in a small farm community in northern Wisconsin, in a time when it was impossible to feel good about my orientation. I managed to survive with my interest in art, movies, theater, travel, and books. That was my salvation...and those things kept me sane. I now find myself teaching graphic design, proud of the creative community I am part of.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Being born queer isn’t easy. Being born queer in Janesville, Wisconsin was especially difficult. It was an incredibly bigoted town to have grow up in. When I turned eighteen, I looked at my parents and said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting the hell outta here!” I caught a lot of guff growing up, always being picked on simply for being who I was, even though that person wasn’t even fully developed yet. It forced me to grow up fast and toughen up. Looking back, I’m thankful for my experiences there. Without it, I wouldn’t be the gay warrior that I am today.


I'm David. I'm gay. In a lot of ways that I'm not complaining about, I've lived a pretty sheltered life. I grew up in a liberal part of a liberal town. In seventh grade, my teachers brought couples straight and gay to visit our class as part of a unit on human sexuality. (Also featured was Woody the educational wooden dildo.) In the first eighteen years of my life, I was called "homo" in total one time, and it was kind of a novelty, like "would you look at that—a bigot!" Not everything in my life has been totally fabulous and amazing, but when I think about how things would have been for me only fifty or sixty years ago, life seems pretty good.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I could be described in many terms, but no single word seems to be accurate. I'm smart and funny, except when I'm foolish and awkward. I'm independent and assertive and confident, yet some of my defining moments have been when I was shy or anxious or scared. Some see me as cheerful and kind, and to others I'm dark and selfish. I'm queer, but I'm told that sometimes I 'act straight' (whatever that means). I'm rarely described as masculine, but I am more athletic than anyone I know. There doesn't seem to be a single word that can describe me. Well maybe just one: Nick.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I was recently asked an innocuous question by a friend. What does it means to be gay. My answer was unexpected. Although being gay is an integral part of my psyche and emotional being, its meaning has changed much throughout my life….When I was young with little concept of what gay was to me it meant hate and ridicule….As a young adult spent as a closeted man being gay meant secrets, self hate, and denial…..As an older adult with the acceptance of family and friends being gay meant awareness, discovery and love…….And now as I have gained the wisdom of my years being gay is truth of self and social responsibility. I am accountable to live my life as an open gay man. To demonstrate to the people in my community that being gay is a rich and rewarding life. I am loving, giving, respectful, and truthful. I am so many wonderful things to so many people. And one day they will realize that I too deserve to be married to the one I love.