'Landlocked astronaut' shares Pride through art

By Erika Stark 27 August 2019 3 min read

Brianna Strong wanted to be an astronaut. Now, they’re an artist. And the two professions are more similar than you might think.

“I feel like scientific inquiry and artistic inquiry reach for the same thing but in different ways,” Strong said.

“Science reaches for predictability while art reaches for possibility.”

“I recognized that art was a way of reaching for understanding that made sense to me and also meant that I’d be reaching for human beings,” they continued.

As a visual artist, Strong said they now feel as though they’re living their “plan B” as a “landlocked astronaut.”

“My artwork itself really is inventing trajectories between things and people and places,” they said. “I feel like connecting with other people is actually a way of defying gravity.”

'Dignifying a personal truth'

Strong’s artistic trajectory led them to collide with ATB over the summer. As part of our celebration of Calgary Pride this year, we were looking to work with folks within Calgary’s LGBTQ2+ community to create a visual representation of what pride meant to them.

That’s where Strong came in—artistic vision, scientific approach, and out-of-this world creativity in tow.

“It’s such a provocative question, so simply stated, but so deeply different and meaningful for each person,” they said. “Pride really is dignifying a personal truth with an expression.”

Strong, who identifies as genderqueer, described the experience of pride as a “powerful energetic shift” that requires something “deeply internal to become externalized in some way.”

Strong created an illustration called Undulate to reflect that energetic shift. Their artistic bent towards physics is reflected in the illustration, which depicts the faces of six people through a series of waveforms.

“The primary concern of physics is to reconcile the mysteries of a shared physical reality,” Strong said in their artist statement about the piece. “The concept of a waveform becomes all the more affecting because it signifies variable change and continuous movement.”

Brianna Strong standing in front of Pride Wall

Calgary visual artist Brianna Strong stands in front of her illustration, titled 'Undulate,' at Calgary Pride in September. She created the mural in partnership with ATB to celebrate the expression of pride as a 'powerful energetic shift.'

Representation matters

The five people featured in the illustration are all members of Calgary’s LGBTQ2+ community.

“I don’t often do representational work, so the choice to deliberately represent actual human beings was something I wouldn’t have done without this provocation,” Strong said. “I became so committed to the idea of a visible representation of a human, with a lived life, with a lived history.”

Strong stressed the importance of representation of marginalized communities and people.

“There are so many different forms of erasure and varying levels of severity that we see in society and I think that omission is one form of erasure,” Strong said. “Not seeing yourself reflected in a greater society is a form of omission.”

“Visibility resists the dissolution of our own identities to see ourselves reflected in someone else, or in media or culture,” Strong continued. “ I am such a privileged person, so in turn it’s my responsibility to hold space for those voices and ways of beings that aren’t given as much space.”

Experience Undulate at Calgary Pride

Undulate will be on display during Calgary Pride on Sept. 1 at Pride in the Park, located in Prince’s Island Park.

Take a photo in front of the illustration and post it (publicly) to social media using the hashtag #ATBpride, and we’ll donate $10 to fYrefly in Schools on your behalf.

fYrefly in Schools is an educational initiative developed to help reduce discrimination against sexual and gender minority youth, increase awareness of the impacts of homophobia and transphobia, and equip students with the tools they need to become effective allies for diversity, equity, and human rights within their schools and communities.

ATB is proud to be the presenting partner of Calgary Pride, as well as a longtime supporter of Camp fYrefly and fYrefly in Schools.​​

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