‘Superhuman’ Pride: Meet the local Boise artist behind this year’s Pride art designs

Illustration of two superheroes wearing lesbian pride flags
Illustration courtesy of Sugar May

This year’s Boise Pride Festival artwork, designed by local Boise artist Sugar May, illustrates a comic book style “Superhuman” theme with a vintage twist. 

Local pin-up and comic artist Sugar May specializes in creating queer and LGBTQ art with a vintage and feminine aesthetic. 

In collaboration with Boise Pride, May created a design with the goal of illustrating inclusivity and empowerment for all identities, celebrating pride beyond the flag and marking this moment in LGBTQ history.

The “Superhuman” theme

May revealed that she personally asked Boise Pride if she could have the opportunity to design and create this year’s Pride art.

“I actually just asked them. I just emailed them and said, ‘Look, I’m a pin-up artist, I’m local, I’m queer. Can I do this for you?’” May said.

May shared that the whole idea behind the “Superhuman” theme dawned from repetitive images of people draping pride flags across their backs during last year’s pride festivities. The images gave the illusion that the flag was taking on the shape and ideals of a cape.

“We saw tons and tons of people sort of dawning these flags as capes and we thought that’s a really nice elevation to these ideas of queerness or the community, or the specific titles which can kind of alienate people,” May said. “It was just this really lovely theme that sort of presented itself to us. [It] elevated above the words and the titles and the politics of it.”

May shared that “superhumans” embody the archetype of hope that everyone in the LGBTQ community needs.

“I think there is something intrinsic in being a super human that means that you have a responsibility to elevate yourself but also others, whether it’s in your community or peripheral communities,” May said.

The “Superhuman” theme, coinciding with real life images of those part of and in support of the LGBTQ community, creates a simple yet beautifully unique theme that collaborates perfectly with May’s already comic style aesthetic.

“I think the best and most communicative themes tend to be the simplest ones,” May said. “You would know what a superhero or a superhuman is already … we’re surrounded by DC and Marvel and all of these icons that represent sort of bigger ideals than us. It’s not really about the individual necessarily, but it’s about the greater good and the greater good for everyone.”

Inclusivity in LGBTQ art

May shared that as a queer artist, LGBTQ themes are consistent through all of her other art. She strives to illustrate the community in a detailed and specific manner, yet still staying true to the ideals of inclusivity in the community.

May describes her art as “pin-ups with a vintage aesthetic but with a more contemporary take on sexual energy and free flowing gender and sexual orientation expression.”

“I am primarily interested in the creative flow of sex-positive energy than I am specifically about labels or any kind of particular identity. Identity politics become very complicated very quickly and they are a very hot topic,” May said. “But I am primarily interested in creativity where we approach these things because they are forever changing. They’re on a spectrum, and I think individuation and the pursuit of identity is important and intrinsic to our human experience but I think sometimes people miss the point.” 

May shared that she personally loves a more “femme aesthetic” for her art, but emphasized that the aesthetic, although individual to her, contributes to the overall concept of personal expression.

 “So my objective through my art is to explore and celebrate the playfulness, the creativity and the humanity … the ability to connect to other humans through art that is joyful, elevating and uplifting and fun.”

Illustration of two superheroes wearing lesbian pride flags
[Two superhumans wear pride flags as capes.]
Illustration courtesy of Sugar May

May shared that her collaborators at Boise Pride as well as herself were initially concerned with the idea for the design being much more specific in the illustrations compared to designs from previous years.

“It’s faces. It’s bodies. It’s literal depictions of people, and while I tried to make them fairly ethereal and androgenous and kind of like shape-shifty in a way. We were aware that we might be sort of playing with fire a little bit,” May said, “because inevitably we didn’t include everybody and their specific, most very specific circumstances which are of course going to be totally individuated no matter what.”

May emphasized her acknowledgment of her inability to specifically represent everyone in the community in the design but insists that the “Superhuman” theme is one that embodies every aspect of inclusivity by illustrating an ideal of elevation for all people, extending even beyond the flag from which the design was inspired.

“[It’s] going back to that archetype of structure, of elevation, celebration and the idea that it’s a much bigger thing than a flag. It’s a much bigger thing than a name or a title or whatever your experience, choice or condition is, it’s about elevation … the primary vector of the piece is that it’s inclusive because of our intention for everyone to feel like they are ‘superhuman,’” May said. “It’s inclusive because we believe that those ideals are sort of bigger than human, even. They are much more, I think, difficult to grasp yet more important for humanity.”

Illustrating a single moment in history

May shared that she has watched as Boise Pride has grown and developed since she was a little girl. She feels that now in Boise, Pride has become celebrated in the community rather than simply acknowledged.

“I actually think that Boise Pride has become something very special,” May said. “It’s been around for quite a long time, but Boise has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and I think that Boise Pride is sort of an entity. It’s sort of a living, breathing thing that kind of emanates through the city, and I’m proud of it. I think it’s really special.”

In collaboration with Boise Pride, May decided to also create an analogue version of the art to act as a physical representation of this specific moment in history. 

“The whole idea was that even though the poster is digital we felt like an analogue version would be really lovely to have just in the world as a piece that you can interact with … that was something that was sort of like a totem for the overall idea and the overall design,” May said.

The piece will be on display for public viewing at The Flying M downtown, a local coffee shop that May described as an important influential hub to the LGBTQ community.

The piece is also available for purchase and all proceeds go directly to Boise Pride to support the LGBTQ community and promote future Pride events.

“That money will go there (Boise Pride) so it stays in the community. It stays local, and ultimately it does what art should, and that is to serve the people, serve the community and live on beyond the artist and beyond the purchase point and beyond the event to speak to a greater trajectory and a greater future,” May said.

Inquiries for purchase of the piece may be sent directly to Sugar May.

May said she is proud to present this art to the community and have the design represent this specific moment in time, saying, “It will only mark one single point in history and it may come to a point where it is totally irrelevant or even offensive. These things come and go but it is an important marker moving forward.”

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