In honor of Pride Month, we are dedicating each week of June to featuring young Cebuano artists who fearlessly embrace their authentic selves, using their art to challenge societal norms and gender stereotypes. This week, we had the honor of interviewing Zar, an immensely talented artist from Camotes Island, Cebu.
Zar, as the eldest sibling among five, has embarked on a self-taught artistic journey encompassing painting, digital art, and the illustration of children's books. Their artworks are mostly colorful and expressive, delving into the intricacies and profound beauty of human experience. Zar is also a frequent resource speaker, sharing knowledge on various aspects of both traditional and digital art. Among their close-knit group of friends, Zar is also referred to as Thirdy.
How would you describe your art style? What influences and inspirations have shaped it?
How has your experience been as an LGBT artist in Cebu? Can you tell us about some of the challenges you've encountered?
As a gay artist in Cebu, my experience has been filled with both rewarding and challenging moments. While the art community in Cebu is generally diverse and inclusive, stereotypes and prejudices can still affect the perception of LGBT artists. It is important to break from preconceived notions about the themes, styles, or subject matter that LGBT artists should explore. Art should be appreciated for its artistic merit beyond one's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Can you share how your sexual orientation has influenced the style and content of your paintings?
My sexual orientation plays a significant role in influencing the style and content of my paintings. My aim is to depict LGBTQ+ individuals, relationships, and stories and offer people a glimpse into their lives while fostering empathy and understanding.
Can you share any specific techniques, symbols, or visual elements you use to convey concepts of sexuality and gender identity in your artwork?
Symbols like tears, blinds, florals, butterflies, and other human emotions serve as visual shorthand for me to convey LGBTQ+ experiences and identities through my artwork. Furthermore, the body language and gestures of the figures which you will notice in my paintings play a vital role in expressing these concepts. Through posing, postures, and interactions, I aim to capture the subtle aspects of queer experiences, including confidence, vulnerability, and connection.
Do you believe that art has the power to challenge societal norms and stereotypes regarding sexuality and gender identity? If yes, how do you aim to achieve that through your work?
Yes. Art has the ability to evoke emotions, spark dialogue, and shift perspectives. It is a very important tool for social change. Art has the power to humanize the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals, making our stories relatable. By creating emotionally charged and subtle portrayals of queer individuals and their relationships, I aim to counter stigmatization and discrimination, and invite viewers to connect on a human level.
Are there any other LGBTQ+ artists in Cebu (or anywhere) whose work you admire or draw inspiration from?
I admire artists like Joseph Christian Leyendecker, a commercial artist in the United States who intricately portrays gay narratives, and Ross Tran, an illustrator and concept artist recognized on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. I also draw inspiration from my friends The Drawer Kring, Tapioca Terror, and Weebong, who create stunning and impactful art.
As Zar continues to create more artworks, their passion for pushing creative boundaries and challenging societal norms remains unwavering. To inquire about their artwork or for any further information, please visit Zar's official website at https://www.zaroncanvas.com. By supporting Zar's artistic journey, we contribute to the celebration of diversity and the empowerment of LGBTQ+ artists in their mission to foster understanding and change through the transformative power of art.