Grace Desmarais is a queer illustrator and cartoonist currently living in a cozy corner of Eastern Massachusetts. Grace self-publishes auto-bio comics centered around themes of trauma, dis/ability, chronic illness, and art history. Grace’s work has been featured in a variety of anthologies including the Votes for Women Anthology (to be published Fall 2020) and her editorial work has been featured in magazines, including Bright Lite.
How does art and identifying as bi/queer come together for you?
Art making and my identity (as a queer woman) is mostly about community. I find myself going to drawing nights and comics festivals where fellow cartoonists are mostly queer, then cultivating incredible relationships with all of them. Being in an accepting community where I can feel safe (and heard) being myself drives me to create more honest and positive art.
How does being an artist/cartoonist inform your views on expressing emotions through art-making?
Everywhere I go I always have my sketchbook. I am constantly coming across moments throughout the day where I will think “I have to draw that” or “that’s going to be a comic.” I think viewing life in this way allows me to hold on to child like enchantment with the world around me instead of being a cynic. As I have started to write and illustrate children’s books I have also found myself really trying to harness that magical excitement about the world and transform it into something meaningful. I feel like an alchemist or a witch when I sit down to draw and write– and I think that is really what being an artist is.
Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in art?
I am absolutely smitten now. I have struggle feeling affirmed in my bi identity, primarily because I had been intimate with cis-straight-men, which was incredibly dysphoric. Now I am absolutely smitten with a partner who is also bi and it is so incredibly affirming. I feel far more seen in this relationship than I ever have. The way that translates into my art I also think is interesting, my art and comics practice is really rolling. Since I am happy and affirmed I make more work– there is nothing more that I want as an artist, particularly a queer artist, but to dispel the notion of the suffering artist makes more or better work.
In this happy relationship, where I feel affirmed and smitten, I make more work than I ever have. I feel comfortable exploring the tender sensitive side of myself because I feel comfortable being tender and sensitive in my intimacy.
Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?
I think the power of anthologies is to diversify an art medium and movement by getting as many folks as possible to feel seen in their experiences and to create allyship in creative communities. I have been a victim and survivor of violent crime and I am constantly struggling against my chronic conditions, by bringing my art to the table it allows me to feel heard. However, as a white woman in a hetero-presenting relationship I carry a lot of power and privilege, and I think it is also my responsibility to be a proactive ally in intersectional movements by recognizing the power I hold.
How if at all has the experience of being lesbian/bi changed over the years? And how has this influenced you?
My identity as a bi woman has always felt like something that just existed. I always knew that I was queer– I just didn’t know how to articulate it. My experience at Hampshire College definitely made me feel comfortable in being more loud and proud of my queer identity. As for how it’s changed my art? I think it really hasn’t changed my art as much as it’s changed how I think about art making. I think a lot about ways my art making can help community or help kids feel seen and heard– that is definitely a product of being more involved in queer communities.
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