Melinda Hannah is grateful she was brought up Mormon.
"That's where I gained my relationship with God," she said. "I've always thought the Mormon faith was remarkable."
Her relationship with the church, however, changed late last year when leaders announced couples in same-sex marriages could be excommunicated, and their children would have to disavow their parents' relationship to stay in the church.
That led Hannah to pick up her brush and start painting.
"I feel like my job is to remind people of how beautiful they are. Every time I get that chance I just love it," said the Everett artist.
Hannah calls it “The Hero's Journey.” It consists of 20 portraits of LGBT people and couples, all of them Mormon. She believes God is speaking to them through her work.
"It said, 'you are beautiful. You are precious. You have dignity and you deserve to be here,'" Hannah said.
Among Hannah’s subjects is Celeste Carolin. Carolin, a lesbian, said she has felt like she has been living in the shadows of the Mormon church her whole life.
"They say the entire Mormon church is about family, but not for you," Carolin said.
To Carolin, the portraits are a powerful step in the ongoing walk toward equality and acceptance from everyone.
"That journey of the pain, of going through this experience, being cast out by your friends and family and by your religion makes you quite strong,” Carolin said. “You come out on the other side and there is still hope.”
Neither Carolin nor Hannah have any plans to leave the church. Carolin hopes to continue her work with LGBT Mormon youth to reduce their frighteningly high rate of suicide.
Both women simply hope that one day the church will accept every marriage and everyone as unique pieces of work formed on a heavenly canvas by their creator.
The Hero's Journey project travels to Provo, Utah next week where it will displayed at Mormon conference of LGBT supporters. In December it begins a six-week run at the Schack Art Center in Everett.
Hannah is hoping for funding support to continue her work. If you'd like to help, donate on her GoFundMe page.
Copyright 2016 KING