“I LOVE the story. It shows hope, the goodness of people, and the strength of character of a person who, despite her seeming difference, shows kindness and beauty,” artist Daniel Palma Tayona says.
Another titular work, Libertad (30 by 20inches, acrylic on canvas, 2018), draws from Tayona’s brief but funny and impactful encounter with Jenny, a very young drag queen or transgender who lives in Pasay and may have frequented Libertad Street.
“She has spunk, sass and innate humor in her. She’s one person that stuck in my mind for being unapologetic of who and what she was, and I celebrate her through this image. And yes, I wanted them to face each other in the exhibit space -- two faces of defiance, two faces of inner beauty,” he comments.
Another portrait of a transgender, most likely the most frequently derided group among the LGBTQ, is Beautiful (60 by 48inches, acrylic on canvas, 2017), based on a person named Piya.
“She’s a transgender born without legs, but despite she would post these video blogs of her looking gorgeous and pretty. She’s a Mariah Carey fan, and she would pose with her mirror and primp her hair and make-up. She was 17 then,” Tayona relates. “Online, she became somewhat famous after appearing in a TV program. Then a few months after her TV fame, she just disappeared. A year later, a photo of her was shown online begging alms on the street. It turns out her mother died, and having no means to support herself, became a beggar. People online began pooling resources to help her, and from some articles I read, she’s slowly recovering her derailed life. Again, it’s all about being fabulous despite being given a short stick by life.”
In the exhibit, there is lone portrait of a heterosexual man, but it is not in a good light. Lechero (48 by 24 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2017) Tayona describes as a “sort of a twisted paean to men who ‘milked’ gullible gay men.”
“I made that image as a sort of double entendre, even ambiguous in meaning, of an image,” he explains. “Lecheros were sellers of milk during the early nineteenth century. They walk around neighborhoods with their long tin or bamboo containers full of milk. As a painting, I meant it to be innocuous. In the context of an LGBTQ exhibit, it’s about the proclivities of some gay men to go for the working-class kind of straight guys who are too willing to give out their ‘milk’ for a price.”
Many works in “Reyna Elena, Libertad...” have strong biographical elements, which are equally powerful.
Witness (24 by 30inches, acrylic on canvas, 2015), based on his 2009 pen-and-ink drawing, Kapanahunan (acid-free paper, 305 by 485 millimeters), is inspired by an episode in his life when he was nineteen-years-old.
“My close friend then Malougave birth to her first child,” he says. “I helped her through it, and the father...well, he left.”
My Father’s Stories (36 by 24 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2018) tells about a dark period in the artist’s life and the redemptive power of stories.
“It is about, well, me when I was nine years old,” Tayona relates. “It was December of that year when I was molested by a relative, an in-law, as I was walking home from school. It took me years -- decades actually -- to process that, to confront and eventually forgive the abuser -- and eventually forgive me and re-nurture the hurt child in me -- and longer still to even tell my family about it.”
“Ironically, my older brother was going through a rough time himself, getting with the wrong friends, truancies, drugs,” he continues. “My parents, specifically, my father would come home at night, and he would sit with my older brother and tell him of stories from when he was a young man trying to survive World War II. Our father is the gentlest of man one can ever know in a lifetime. He adores children and animals. He never lifted a hand at us even at our naughtiest. He never raised his voice. His version of scolding us is, he’d sit with us for hours telling about the war stories of his.”
“Unbeknownst to him, I too was going through that very, very dark period, and I too would listen to his stories as he ‘scolds’ my older brother. It is these stories that actually stuck in me and gave me comfort, and I held on to that. My father’s stories were my salvation. The funny thing about it, I remember all my father’s war stories, and my older brother who my father really meant those stories for, I found out that he slept through most of them,” the artist concludes.
Among the works in “Reyna Elena, Libertad...” Tayona considers Listen(48 by 48 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2018)to be a personal favorite.
“That painting is in fulfillment for a promise I made four years ago to a friend who was part of a group that established Love Yourself, an HIV advocacy group,” he reveals.“They are constructing another branch, and it’s going to be bound for that. With the current onslaught of the HIV infections amongst our population, I felt so many things could have been avoided if only we learn to ‘listen.’ I myself have had first-hand experience in helping some individuals in seeking medical help for their being positive, and it dawned on me, I just simply listened to these individuals and the difficulty they were going through, and it helped me to help them.”
“It is my favorite for it struck very close to home for me. And I do hope, once it’s ‘out’ there, it’d help in reminding someone that we only have to ‘listen’ to begin helping another,” he says.
The exhibit may be modest—ten paintings in all—but it encompasses almost a lifetime and many, many different lives, reflecting hundreds of years of experiences, but still remains grounded to the artist’s own self.