Rae Senarighi (AKA Transpainter) hand-painted a one-of-a-kind Schwinn Sting-Ray Krate for our Pride Artist Series. Rae is your average non-binary cancer survivor inspiring self-compassion, activism, and gender resilience via unapologetic portraiture of vibrant transgender and non-binary power, spreading joyful presentations and meditations worldwide. His art is internationally featured in a wide range of outlets from billboards and magazine to Netflix.
We met up with Rae to learn more about him, his art, and what Pride Month means to him.
Do you remember your first bike?
I know I liked riding bikes as a kid but don’t remember much other than it was a mountain bike because I grew up in Missoula, Montana. My favorite place to ride when I was in high school was up the Rattlesnake Creek area and up into the mountains there.
What’s your favorite thing about riding a bike?
I love the feeling of freedom on a bike. I love the wind and the smell of flowers when riding in the spring and summer.
What’s your favorite place to bike to?
Particularly here in Madison, I love the myriad of bike paths and riding around the lakes. I go with my two small kids a lot in the summer and we have so much fun together. I love that I can ride to festivals or the farmers market with my kids on the bike. It’s so fun and so much less hassle than bringing them in a car and having to walk far.
What motivates you to create your art?
I’ve always been an artist. From as young as I can remember, I’ve been interested in art. I used to watch my mom create portraits with colored pencil (she was a super talented, self-taught artist). Art has always been the way I can express myself fully. I’ve long been motivated to use my art to uplift my community and to do something good with my talents. Art keeps me going. Art is as integrated into my life as breathing.
What’s the craziest canvas you’ve ever created art on?
I mean… hand painting this Krate bike is high on the list! It was very challenging due to the small circumference of the frame with all of the curves and the double bars. But it was also super rewarding when I finally completed it. I’ve also painted on NBA jerseys for the Portland Trailblazers. Those were a challenge because they were really squirrely. I had to use clamps and stretch them onto a wood backing in order to be able to paint them.
Who/what are your biggest influences for your art, or where do you find inspiration?
My community is my inspiration. I look around and see so many people in my community fighting for equality, fighting for our rights to be included in society, for access to healthcare, housing, equal education and workplaces. All of these folks keep me motivated and inspired. We all must do our part to make the world a better place. My gift is my art, so I try to use my art to do my part in making a difference. I am driven by a cause that is so much larger than me, that it helps me remove my own ego from what I’m doing and just focus on generating as much good as I possibly can.
Where are you from and does that affect your work? How?
I’m from Missoula, Montana, a place that will always hold my heart. I have lots of community still in Montana and I have so many good memories of growing up there. There’s something about being from a less populated place that makes folks stick together. The community there is really close-knit. That has stuck with me and informed my own sense of how to care for the people I love.
What does your work aim to say?
All of my art is focused on love. I made a commitment to myself when I survived cancer in 2015 that I would not only make art that I care about but that it would always be rooted in love. This helps me focus when I feel reactive about the hardships of the world. It helps me direct my energy into what I WANT to see vs. what I’m fighting against. I want people to be able to live freely, to express themselves with creativity and nuance. Diversity makes us stronger. That is true in every way. I want to help show the beauty and diversity of my own community.
How do you celebrate Pride and what does it mean to you?
How I celebrate Pride now is different than when I was in my 20s and 30s and I love all of the gifts that Pride has provided me in various stages of my life. When I was first coming out, it was a way to meet people and celebrate and feel more confident in my own skin. Now that I’m a parent of small children, it’s a way for my spouse and I to celebrate with our kids at a parade, connect with friends and remember what we’re fighting for.
What does it mean to embrace LGBTQ+ pride?
For me, it all comes down to understanding the diversity truly does make us stronger as people. The LGBTQ+ is incredibly diverse and we are just a small segment of the human population. But we are a people who have had to buck societal norms, many of us have had to fight for our very existence. We have learned to create our own way of life through our vibrant community.
What is an issue the LGBTQ+ community is facing that many people might not know about?
There have been more than 200 bills introduced in state legislatures across the country this year attempting to write discrimination into law and many of these bills have passed or are moving ahead full steam. The focus started with discrimination against trans children but is now beginning to include trans adults. These bills aim to erase us from public life by eliminating our access to sports, to fully participating in school, and eliminating or even criminalizing life-saving healthcare. We are quite literally fighting for our lives right now and it is very important for our allies to speak up and stand with us during this incredibly scary moment in time.
What was your first thought/reaction when Schwinn first reached out?
Honestly, I was a little surprised because I’m not an avid cyclist or anything. But it was really refreshing to hear about Schwinn’s objective to really make cycling more accessible to ALL folks and I really resonated with that. Biking has been such a truly wonderful experience in my life, even though it’s never been a thing I took very seriously and have only ever done it for fun. I was stoked to be included in this campaign.
What was your favorite part of this project?
Geeking out about color with the team during our kickoff meeting was fun. Then just seeing how it all came together. Painting the bike frame was a very detailed process and a bit slow going. So getting to see the bike all assembled and finalized has been really cool.
How was it designing a bike? What was your though process / ideas behind your art on the bike?
Flowers have become a theme in my artwork only recently, in the last two years or so. I’ve heard a lot of Black transwomen say “give us our flowers while we’re still here”. Black transwomen are at the forefront of the fight for trans rights and equality. They are also most at risk of violence and discrimination. So I began integrating flowers and text to communicate positive messages fighting for trans rights as a way to pay homage to the Black trans leaders in our community.
What was fun or challenging about it?
The most challenging part was the fact that my canvas was super small and round and curving. I had to keep turning the bike this way and that and contorting my body to try and reach all of the different areas of the bike. It was challenging for sure.
What impact do you feel this project has?
In a time when trans children are being demonized across the country and banned from sports, it feels very important to me to be a part of a campaign celebrating ALL people being able to participate in sports. There is so much fear-mongering and misinformation out there currently that it can feel really overwhelming. It is really important to push back against these discriminatory narratives and fight for a more just and equitable world for ALL of us.
How does your bike design embody or celebrate Pride?
I have used various colors of blue and pink flowers, paired with white text to celebrate the trans flag. The flowers are in motion, just as we are, continually marching forward no matter the setbacks. This is a design that is purposely beautiful and delicate as well as bold and strong. I am proud to be a transman. I’m proud of my community and the strength and beauty I see every day.
The Sting-Ray Krate painted by Rae is up for auction, with proceeds benefiting The Venture Out Project, a nonprofit organization that is focused on creating a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community to experience nature. Learn more about the bike, the auction, and more on our Pride Artist Series page.