HYDE PARK — When Sky Cubacub stepped out of the elevator and saw the completed wall-sized mural of themselves staring back, they could not believe how perfect the depiction was.
Cubacub, a non-binary, queer, disabled Filipinx activist, organizer and founder of Rebirth Garments, is the subject of a new 22-by-10-foot mural that honors Cubacub’s leadership and visibility within the LGBTQ community.
The mural, titled “Rebirth,” was created by artists Andy Bellomo and Sandra Antongiorgi. Antongiorgi painted the portrait while Bellomo designed and painted the colorful background.
The piece is featured inside Flood’s Hall, a Hyde Park nonprofit meeting and network space at 1515 E. 52nd Place that houses Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ organization on the South Side.
“I feel super honored and very strong and powerful when I look at it,” Cubacub said. “I have never seen a photo-realistic painting of myself so the skill that both Andy and Sandra have is amazing.”
Bellomo and Antongiorgi say the piece reflects their mission to highlight the activism from people of color in Chicago’s LGBTQ community. Cubacub acutely represents the leadership seen in the community, making them a perfect icon to paint, Bellomo said.
“Sky is a fierce leader and an underground hero,” Bellomo said. “They are on the ground doing the work day after day.”
Antongiorgi said the project depicts visibility and the courage it takes to represent the activist’s authentic self.
“We acknowledge their contribution and [how they] expand and challenge notions of beauty and power in the work they are doing, so what better person to feature than Sky?” Antongiorgi said.
Since 2014, Cubacub has been making garments and accessories for people of varying genders, sizes and abilities. Their work is particularly geared toward trans people and people with disabilities who often do not feel represented in mainstream clothing.
Cubacub also started Radical Visibility, a movement based on claiming body positivity through the use of bright colors, exuberant fabrics and innovative designs to empower those who typically feel shunned by society.
They most recently made masks for protesters that were donated to Brave Space Alliance, and are providing image descriptions of protest resources for those who are blind and visually impaired on their Radical Visibility Collective Instagram page.
The mural was unveiled May 26 on social media, since the artists could not hold an in-person celebration due to the pandemic. The artists paused their promotional efforts out of respect for the Black Lives Matter movement and recent demonstrations for racial justice.
But that work, which centers around the demand for increased visibility and equal treatment of historically marginalized communities, is embedded within the artists’ mission to showcase Black and Brown queer voices in celebration of Pride Month.
“There are people working that hard in our community who not a lot of people in the heteronormative world know about and need to know about because it is such a source of education,” Bellomo said.
“Rebirth,” which was funded by Flood’s Hall, is the second piece in the Queer Mural Series. Bellomo, Antongiorgi and artist Sam Kirk began collaborating in 2018 with a Boystown mural of Kiam Marcelo Junio, a non-binary interdisciplinary artist and holistic healer.
“Our goal is to dot the city with these murals,” said Antongiorgi, who also worked on the first mural in the city depicting a Black trans woman with Kirk in 2016. “We want to break the inertia of keeping marginalized people on the fringe.”
LaSaia Wade, founder of Brave Space Alliance, said the mural reflects the people the organization serves. She hopes all of its walls will be filled with artwork representing Black and Brown organizers creating positive change like Cubacub.
“It’s an inclusive mural for disabled people to understand they are welcome in the space,” Wade said. “The collective work Sky does pushes Chicago to the next level.”
Cubacub said the mural is a perfect pairing with Brave Space and wants people to see the queer community as diverse and interconnected.
“Chicago’s queer community is super intersectional,” Cubacub said. “Even if the white gaze of Boystown is seen the most, this is what we are.”
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