Today marks the culmination of an exuberant month that celebrated self-expression and inclusivity, proudly showcasing the immense talent of LGBTQ+ artists from Cebu. In this context, we shine a well-deserved spotlight on Wilbert "Weebong" Wee, a versatile artist recognized for their whimsical watercolor illustrations. Wee's artistic prowess can transport onlookers to magical realms, captivating them with a harmonious blend of vibrant colors and meticulous details.
Wee's artistic journey has been filled with exciting opportunities, including their participation in various local and international exhibitions. One standout event was their involvement in the Borneo Arts Festival held in Malaysia in 2019. As a member of the artist delegation organized by ArtCebu, Wee exhibited their artworks and collaborated with talented artists from Southeast Asia. Additionally, Wee served as an ambassador for an art materials company, utilizing this role to mentor and inspire fellow artists through educational demonstrations.
Outside their craft, Wee finds joy in singing, cooking, and being part of the art group Sikada and the Cebu Cosplayers Club (though the latter is now defunct).
We spoke with the usually shy Wee in the following interview about gender identity and art's intersection. Celebrating their brilliance and contributions to the LGBTQ+ artist community, let's delve into Wee’s captivating journey.
How has your experience been as an LGBT artist in Cebu? Can you share some of the challenges you've encountered?
Being an LGBTQ+ artist in Cebu can be a struggle to fit in. Spending time with other artists is helpful, sharing experiences and finding inspiration. However, the existing artist groups often lean towards being too male or female, making it difficult to open up and fully express thoughts in gatherings.
Can you describe how your sexual orientation has influenced the style and content of your paintings?
My sexual orientation may or may not directly influence my painting. However, the feedback I receive often highlights a disconnect between my plain appearance and my artwork's gentle, dreamy nature. It's peculiar because I grew up in an academic, science environment and don't conform to the stereotypical eccentric artist appearance. Nevertheless, being gay allows me to explore and illustrate my unique perspective, conveying strength and gentleness in my pieces.
Can you share any specific techniques, symbols, or visual elements you use to convey concepts of sexuality and gender identity in your artwork?
The colors and how I select and combine them in my paintings subtly represent my gay identity. However, I have only created two artworks that explicitly depict LGBTQ+ elements. Many of my pieces aim to be gender-neutral, striving for universality in their depiction.
Do you agree 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?
Art is a visual tool that allows for expression without or with minimal reliance on words. It transcends language barriers, with only cultural references acting as limitations. As a result, art possesses the potential to be an influential force, challenging societal norms and stereotypes. Even if an artwork doesn't employ an overtly confrontational style, combining elements to convey a message can leave a lasting impression on viewers. The power of art lies in its ability to resonate with those who connect with the images and stories being portrayed.
Are there any other LGBTQ+ artists in Cebu (or anywhere) whose work you admire or draw inspiration from?
I greatly admire several LGBTQ+ artists in Cebu, including Kring Demetrio, Thirdy/Zar on Canvas, Van/Tapioca Terror, Veronica Hipolito, and Kat Layno. Witnessing their artistic journeys gives me a sense of safety, assuring me that it's acceptable to illustrate and embrace who I am while continuing to grow in my craft, regardless of societal opinions.
Surprisingly, Wee holds a degree in Chemistry. Despite the apparent disparity between Chemistry and art, these two worlds intersect when exploring and manipulating colors. Wee's profound understanding of chemical reactions, pigments, and materials forms a solid foundation for their artistic expression. With this knowledge, Wee skillfully crafts mesmerizing artworks that blend harmonious color palettes, evoking a sense of wonder and awe.
Wee dedicates their time to teaching senior high school students at USC during the daytime. Looking ahead, Wee plans to devote more time to their artistic pursuits, nourishing their soul while continuing to teach.
To foster LGBTQ representation in the art world, it is vital to acknowledge and uplift talented individuals like Wee. By purchasing their creations, attending queer exhibits, and raising awareness on social media, we actively contribute to cultivating a more inclusive and vibrant artistic landscape in Cebu. Together, we can significantly promote diversity and celebrate the creative expressions of LGBTQ artists.