Grosse Pointe City artist Carl Demeulenaere stands next to “Arcada Triptych,” one of his works now on display at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery on the Wayne State University campus.

Grosse Pointe City artist Carl Demeulenaere stands next to “Arcada Triptych,” one of his works now on display at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery on the Wayne State University campus.

ARC: Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Artist’s work speaks to unity and identity

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 18, 2024

 “Nan Wood Graham and Carla DeWild” is one of Carl Demeulenaere’s signature small and highly detailed oil paintings.

“Nan Wood Graham and Carla DeWild” is one of Carl Demeulenaere’s signature small and highly detailed oil paintings.

Photo provided by Carl Demeulenaere

GROSSE POINTE CITY— A Grosse Pointe City artist was among the people selected for the second biennial art event, “I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflections of the Contemporary Queer,” a series of exhibitions and film screenings that coincide with June as Pride Month.

Carl Demeulenaere, of Grosse Pointe City, has four pieces — “Arcada Triptych,” “Nan Wood Graham and Carla DeWild,” “Pater Noster” and “Betrothed” — that are on view through June 29 at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit. For WSU grad Demeulenaere, the placement seems especially ideal.

Assembled by the nonprofit Mighty Real/Queer Detroit, the 2024 biennial “I’ll Be Your Mirror” includes more than 170 artists from the LGBTQ+ community — many of national and international renown — at 11 galleries. Participating galleries include the Detroit Artists Market, Scarab Club, College for Creative Studies Center Gallery, the Carr Center and the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens. According to the MR/QD website, this year’s event theme “explores the aesthetic mirroring between art and the viewer to highlight the role of art in achieving personal visibility and social connection.”

“I’ll Be Your Mirror” follows a successful series of art shows in 2022 that coincided with the 50th anniversary of Detroit Pride.

“Progress in social acceptance isn’t solely achieved through legislation alone,” said patrick burton, of Detroit, curator of “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” in an email interview. “It relies on artists, writers, and great thinkers to humanize what Queer people are and what Queer culture is and then take a step to show it. Amidst the backdrop of over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ (legislative) bills, pervasive discrimination, and violence persisting in 2024, this exhibition has never been more vital. Many of the featured artists convey a sense of urgency, viewing the event as a crucial platform for celebrating Queer identity and offering a lifeline to those in need.”

Demeulenaere’s work — which has included installations, jewelry, paper, painting and drawing — aims to unite rather than divide. His artworks, which are often quite small, are highly detailed and intricate, with a narrative underpinning and fine details that yield more information upon thorough scrutiny.

“With Carl’s paintings, besides the wonder, the exquisite technique of realism shines through the paintings and drawings,” said Laura Makar, gallery manager of the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, in an email interview. “The details create a further connection with the viewer, forcing you to pay attention to every aspect of the work. The viewer must spend time with each piece to understand the story, but also to fully appreciate the time and aesthetic decisions that went into the creation process.”

Demeulenaere uses stippling to blend his colors, creating what he said is the “hyper-realistic” quality of even his pencil drawings, which look like they could be highly pigmented photographs.

“In my paintings and my drawings, I don’t want to see lines,” Demeulenaere said.

His work harkens to classical art, albeit with a 20th and 21st century twist, in that his subjects aren’t exclusively white and include members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Demeulenaere said he’s always been inspired by “the richness of tonality when you look at a Flemish painting and it looks like they could come to life. The Northern Renaissance has always been a huge influence” as well.

Makar said Demeulenaere’s pieces in the exhibit add realism to a show that is otherwise largely abstract.

“Carl’s artwork illustrates a strong psychological experience,” Makar said. “The eyes and the body language of the portraits become a strong focal point. Through their gaze, a connection is made between the artwork and viewer, emphasizing the curatorial direction, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror.’ Your presence becomes part of the work, and you can’t help but wonder who you are to the individual.”

Burton has known Demeulenaere since the 1990s, when Demeulenaere — a former model and actor — appeared in some of burton’s performance art pieces at 1515 Broadway in Detroit. Demeulenaere said he’s grateful burton included him in the first event two years ago and again this year. Burton said Demeulenaere is an important figure in art.

“Carl Demeulennaere has humanized Queer culture and individuals, bridging the gap between perception and reality,” burton said. “Through personal visibility expressed in his art, he has cultivated understanding and empathy within our communities.”

Embracing his identity as a gay man wasn’t easy for Demeulenaere, who didn’t come out to his friends until he was about 27 and didn’t tell his parents about his sexual orientation until shortly before his mother’s death from cancer in 1990. His family was supportive, but he said he faced bullying when he was younger.

“When I started out in the early 1990s, the challenge was to face myself, reconcile who I am with my Christianity, and then putting myself out there — my perspective on family — on the American family — on history, on racial relationships and the concept of gay marriage,” Demeulenaere said.

At the same time, Demeulenaere said he doesn’t want to “hit people with a sledgehammer” with his work.

“Artwork is about subtlety,” Demeulenaere said. “Symbolism and metaphor are probably the most important to me.”

The shows at the Jacob Gallery and elsewhere give artists like Demeulenaere a chance to share their creative visions and to be heard and seen.

“‘I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflections of the Contemporary Queer’ highlights the role of art within today’s visual culture, pinpointing and reflecting important events, history, community, but also commenting on current cultural topics,” Makar said. “Visitors will be impacted by the exhibition and have been impressed by not just the quality and quantity of work, but content. The exhibition brings hope, inspiration, and beauty, but also dialogue. Having this exhibition on the campus at WSU, but also in Detroit, provides opportunities to meet artists on a national level, but also new ways of working to express who you are.”

Makar said the exhibition has brought people together and creates a sense of community. That was one of burton’s goals in putting all this together.

“I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflections of the Contemporary Queer transcends being just a showcase of LGBTQ+ art; it serves as a beacon of unity, fostering dialogue and understanding among diverse audiences,” burton said. “Moreover, it provides LGBTQ+ youth with positive representations, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment.”

The Elaine L. Jacob Gallery is located at 480 W. Hancock St. on the WSU campus. For more information, call the gallery at (313) 993-7813 or visit For more information about the other exhibitions and programs presented by Mighty Real/Queer Detroit, visit