Finding the Light
February 22 – 24, 2019
Art Fair Philippines 2019 – The Best in Philippine Modern and Contemporary
Art Cube Gallery,7th Level, Booth #40, The Link,
Makati Avenue corner Parkway Drive, Makati City, Philippines
Finding the Light
by Rissa A. Coronel
When we speak of Daniel dela Cruz’s work, what comes to mind are his intricately detailed metal sculptures, the immersive atmosphere of his exhibits, and his success in solo and group shows both locally and abroad. His focus has been on exploring a wide range of subjects and themes for much of his career; this time for his 2019 solo exhibit, he aims to shed light upon an issue that is all too real in this day and age.
Mental health has recently received considerable attention in the country, especially with the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Act (RA 11036) into law. However, it will take a while for every Filipino to feel its effects: there are roughly only 600 psychologists for nearly 100 million Filipinos*. Most mental health professionals are in Metro Manila, and there is no insurance coverage for outpatient mental health. Our well-being is compromised by our constantly changing sociopolitical climate and technologically-oriented lifestyle.
Still, we do what we can as advocates. Daniel dela Cruz interprets mental health through the almost-literal screen of social media—a tool that is more often than not, a double-edged sword. A platform for connection and social good can also be the source of social media envy, cyberbullying, and disinformation. This is exemplified through “#Viral,” in which we are inundated with a montage of themes from seven figures with devices for heads. The themes from the talking heads blend together to form an overwhelming barrage about fake news, cyberbullying, and mental health crises.
Dela Cruz retains his signature otherworldly style to encapsulate the mobile world—arguably a world all on its own, with its own representations and schemas of reality. In his works like
“Coming Out of the Storm” we see the all-too-familiar smartphone lock screen, then we see its captive audience, and then we see ourselves. Behind the facade of connectedness is the isolation of constantly being behind the screen. Faced with this context, the mirror situates the viewer in this sobering position, prompting self-realization.
Each sculpture possesses a mask, representative of the online persona—the facade that everyone online constantly curates, filters and perfects. More often than not, we compare our real lives with the facades of others. The most powerful iteration of this mask is seen in “Digital Persona”, a mask presented as a spider that spins its web and entraps us in a world of our own making.
As Dela Cruz cautions against the overuse and abuse of social media, so does he express his support for the cause of mental health. This exhibit is his sincere attempt at empathizing with those struggling with mental health issues, as well as drumming up support for the cause of mental health awareness. It was through constant consultation with the following advocacy and support groups that this exhibit has come to fruition. The groups— Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines, Buhay Movement, #MentalHealthPH, Tala Wellness, Boxless Society, and Silakbo PH—each have their different strengths but work together towards the same key goal of spreading mental health awareness in the Philippines. The final exhibit is a special collaboration between the artist’s sculptures and the advocacy groups’ ideas. It is his sincere belief that, as we await the strengthening of our country’s professional mental healthcare systems, it is these advocacy groups and their spirit of community that are at the forefront of the mental health movement in the Philippines.
Through cooperation with the aforementioned mental health groups, representatives came forward to share their stories. Pertinent local facts and figures are shared by experts and personalities in the field, as well.
In “Fragile,” the figure represents the story of those living with mental health needs—looking like a straightforward, struggling human figure upfront, but filled with depth once looked at from all sides. The golden drawers betray the masks she puts on, with all but one fallen to the floor. The artist’s mastery shines through in the hair and lace, both ornately crafted from metal yet looking fluid and dynamic.
Lastly, “Even Flowers Bloom in the Dark” leaves a message of hope that even in darkness, one can find the slightest glimmer of light and hold onto it. Through the cracks of the otherwise macabre skull, new life has found its way back into the light, ready for its new beginning.
Finding the light is a continuous process, especially for those struggling with their mental health. Through the marriage of art and advocacy, Daniel Dela Cruz’s exhibit seeks to inform in a creative setting and help those who visit find their inner light in the process. As the artist himself puts it, “the exhibit is as well a tribute to the strength, resilience, and courage that people living with mental health conditions possess.”
Finding the Light seeks to serve not just as an exhibit, but as a mental health resource center where people may learn about who to approach for help through providing contact details, helplines, and emergency numbers.
Art Fair Philippines is a premier yearly art fair in the Philippines. Its 2019 run will be from February 22 to 24, 2019 at The Link, Parkway Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City.
Related article to this exhibit: