The program, according to WDET, “illuminates and celebrates Detroit area artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds and disciplines to enhance awareness and understanding of our communities and cultures.”
“All of life is art, in my opinion,” Waite tells Pride Source. Indeed, her oil paintings are self-portraits, in a way.
“They’re portraits more of an emotion that I’m trying to convey than just a portrait of a picture I took of myself,” she says, adding that each painting looks different from the next, whether it’s the hairstyle or the pose or the skin color, which can range from blue to gold to pink.
“Nothing is very realistic looking,” she says. “They’re very stylized.”
Waite, who names 17th-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi and modern Mexican comic book artist Inechi as influences, is essentially painting various versions of herself. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we’re all different people all the time, depending on the situation, and that we’re always having experiences that inform us and change us,” Waite says, “even if they’re very minor.” Sometimes we realize these events are life-changing, other times we don’t.
Family has certainly been a life-changing event for Waite. She grew up in the Rochester/Auburn Hills area, but has always felt drawn to Detroit, coming down on weekends in her teens.
“It was always a place where I could go and be myself,” she says. “I have such a big community here and I have for so long.”
That was not the case at home. Growing up, she didn’t feel like she fit in, not in her hometown and not in her family. While she has a good relationship with her brothers and dad, “I’m pretty much disowned by my mom, off and on,” she says.
“We have a relationship, but it’s been severely severed. It’s impossible to go back to a non-severed relationship, even if we are having a good month or something,” she says. “It is an intricate dance, learning how to be authentically myself and having a relationship with someone who thinks my authentic self is wrong and sinful and shameful.”
And so, she found refuge in Detroit. “It’s just truly one of my favorite places to be. I feel so whole here,” she says. “I can’t speak for everybody, we all have our own unique experiences, but there definitely is a family aspect to the queer community of Detroit.”
For Waite, this “family aspect” informs the “understanding of our communities and cultures” that Artists Next Door seeks. Queer people “find our own families a lot of the time,” she says, adding that she wouldn’t know “almost any queer history if it wasn’t for other queer people.”
Instead of the judgment and scrutiny she felt in her family home, she feels accepted here.
“It’s just a bunch of really creative, beautiful people,” she says. “I think the community as a whole is very accepting and understanding within the queer community, and I think a lot of people at least are very excited and willing to interact and make friends… share love with each other, whatever that means to them.”
Waite’s art is a way for her to “share love” with her community.
“They’re very large, and they’re very colorful, and they’re unwavering,” she says of her pieces.
She describes her work as “very raw and honest” and hopes it will inspire others.
“Being so honest and open and kind of attention grabbing helps other people also be that,” she says. “When you see someone being brave, it kind of helps you to be brave, as well.”