Three Emerging Gay Artists to Watch

Denver Garza, Bacoor City (IG: slowtear)

Fractured, mental and maybe even schizo. Those are some of the adjectives that could very well describe the composition, media and narrative offered by Denver Garza’s works.

A B. S. Psych graduate, Denver also racked up units for a Master’s Degree in Psychology. He also did time (four years!) of clinical practice at a private psychiatric facility. Perhaps this background accounts for the shattered features and kaleidoscopic colors his subjects possess. His people are split apart, ripped to pieces and vivisected into incomprehensible bits.

His youth belies the maturity of his works. At age 30, Denver’s works are surprisingly deliberate, a testament to a quest, an arduous search, an exploration for who knows what, exactly? Identity? Meaning? Or something as prosaic and as meaningless as success?

Denver admits his sexuality translates into his works, although not heavily. He is a self-described maximalist, fond of assemblage and collage. However, he’s started painting in oil, and that means he has plenty of room to grow.

From his Instagram, one receives the impression that Denver meant to convey the glacial, inexorable pace of being split asunder. That was, until a more literal friend posed the query: does he mean “slaughter”? If it does, then we are sure to be slayed, as we are captivated by his incipient brilliance.

Jon Ray Fernandez

Jonray Fernandez, Makati City (IG: jonrayfernandez)

Jonray’s ouevre is the product of his very gay sensibility. One part highbrow intellectual (he can hold discourses on the British royal family for hours) and another part high camp (perhaps a product of growing up straddling the eras of Madonna and Britney), Jonray’s canvasses are stylized female icons, spanning high fashion supermodels to famous aristocratic mistresses.

Self-taught, the haciendero’s son turned flight attendant turned full time visual artist is making up for lost time, as nowadays, his waking hours are spent in a blur of creating, ranting about politics, posting about his adopted stray cat, and creating some more.

Having a couple of shows under his belt (both in contemporary gallery Qube in Cebu), Jonray now has his eyes fixed firmly on Manila, with a well-received group show participation at the Provenance Gallery.

All through his canvasses, one can discern the gay man’s identity just screaming through, as penciled eyebrows, wasp waists, roaring 20’s silhouettes and folklore-ish native skirts characterize his creatures.

At his previous show entitled Luna’s Dream, posh, glamorous femmes were translated through the eyes of Luna, his adopted kitten. Or so we are made to think, although of course, it is the steady, unflinching and unapologetically gay gaze of Jonray, locked onto the world around him, that translates into his canvasses.

Mark Espuerta

Mark Espuerta, Bacolod City (IG: mkesp_art)

There is a vulnerability to Mark Espuerta’s figure sketches. His male characters all have their faces turned away from the onlooker, hiding their eyes. Or their emotions. Or their expressions. That, or their eyes have been shaded out or blurred, or entirely scratched over. There is even a sketch where a man has his entire head buried in the ground, much like an ostrich hiding from the world. Another man has a sack of cloth placed over the head, and yet another sports a gigantic banana leaf to replace his face.

Perhaps, it is because Mark has not fully come out. Could it be that he is still uncertain as to how the world will perceive him? Or is it apprehension over being too revealing? Perhaps there is fear as well. Fear of rejection, of being judged, or of how the world will react to him or receive him.

Newly graduated from Bacolod’s La Consolacion College of Fine Arts, and welcomed into Charlie Co’s fold (Charlie has adopted an entire family of artists at his Orange Gallery), Mark has experimented with not just visual arts but also found and concept art. He prefers his style to be labeled “contemporary impressionism”, and confesses to being easily influenced by artists he admires.

To pay the bills, Mark punches in at a local call center, but the urge to create strikes him from time to time. He likes graphite and ink, and sometimes, acrylic. Being surrounded by Charlie Co’s protégées, there’s sure to be more output from his fount of ideas, but hopefully, artistic success lures him into full time creation.

As he starts becoming more comfortable in his style and his sexuality, hopefully, Mark’s male figures can become more engaging. They can start turning towards the admirer, meeting gazes openly, without hesitation or shame. Perhaps, even flirtatiously. That will be an evolution that would be interesting to watch.

This post was written by contributor JT Gonzales. JT is an art enthusiast and collector who has written about Filipino artists and the local art scene in several national and regional publications. He also writes a regular column in the Opinion section of the Freeman, the Cebu affiliate of the Philippine Star.