Daniel dela Cruz’s dark art can be a defense against depression.
His exhibit “Finding the Light” is an immersive walk through a somber space filled with figures in varying stages of despair.
It is presented by Art Cube Gallery at today’s Art Fair Philippines in Makati City.
The narrative starts with a shelf lined with faceless white sculptures in hoodies and casual clothes. Instead of faces, they have cell phones playing videos on cyberbullying, suicide and sadness; others show words of encouragement and inspiration.
The upright artworks are titled after popular hashtags: #Goals, #Selfie, #Trending, #Viral—a collective call on how social media can contribute to mental health issues among young people.
“What is seen online is not necessarily the truth,” Dela Cruz said. “A lot of it is curated and filtered, and all of us are guilty—it’s human nature.”
“Finding the Light” is Dela Cruz’s “shout out to the community” to recognize mental health as a real issue. He got interested in the topic after seeing tragedies happen to his friend and family.
“Those situations led me into studying society,” he said. “Why did suicide become a common thing now, how did it become an acceptable alternative to people?”
His conclusion: Mental health issues stem from the lack of conversation and discussion, and he can use his art to help out.
Dela Cruz transformed the room into a haunting hub of hammered metal sculptures encased in glass. All of them are slumped, head down, with masks or electronics by their feet.
Some figures are trapped in a glass dome, like the Enchanted Rose in “Beauty in the Beast.” Others are inside a rectangular “mobile phone” case complete with apps. The rest are in a “double prison” of mini metal cage and glass, symbolizing deeper isolation.
There are two anchor pieces: “There Is Never Enough Darkness to Keep Out of the Light” and “The Sun Never Abandons the Moon.” These sculpture pieces feature individuals crouched in defeat, their spines lined with chunky shards of glass.
“Can you imagine living with that kind of pain daily, and still have the compassion for others,” the artist asked.
Dela Cruz clarifies that he is not demonizing technology, instead he is encouraging face-to-face communication especially among family members.
Before going out, fairgoers can write on sticky notes positive reminders and things that they are grateful for. These little neon squares cover a black-lit wall—a colorful contrast to the heaviness of the room.
Such activity is aimed at the “undiagnosed” Filipinos who are scared of asking for help, according to MentalHealthPH cofounder Roy Dahildahil.
One literally sees the light at the end of Dela Cruz’s exhibit. Flyers from mental health advocacy groups are also available at the exit.
“The best art comes from deep emotions,” Dela Cruz said. “I am hoping this exhibit can encourage people to channel their powerful feelings into something positive.” —With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil
Daniel dela Cruz’s “Finding the Light” is supported by Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines Boxless Society, Buhay Movement, #MentalHealthPH, Silakbo PH, Tala: Mental Wellness.
Art Fair Philippines is ongoing until today, Feb. 24, at The Link car park, Makati City.