(SPOT.ph) As with all its editions, Art Fair Philippines' roster of featured artists often gives us a glimpse of the past, present, and future of the local art scene. It's something that's evident in this year's selection, which includes established and familiar names like Jaime de Guzman and Onib Olmedo, younger personalities like Gene Paul Martin, and artists from outside Manila, like Perry Argel and Neil Pasilan. Then there's Jellyfish Kisses, a name that would inevitably your attention. “It’s a persona,” the artist tells SPOT.ph in an interview.
The Creation of a '50s Housewife
Jellyfish Kisses, who still uses his real name Anton Belardo and responds to either “he” or the singular “they,” is a character that the artist uses and projects himself into to overcome social situations. “Nag-start siya as a persona pero ngayon parang isa na lang [ako at] siya. May issues pa rin ako sa pagiging awkward ko socially pero ngayon kasi nahanap ko na 'yong gusto ko talagang i-express sa sarili ko through Jellyfish Kisses,” Belardo explains. This persona isn’t afraid to go out of the house wearing a neon green wig, blue face paint, a nose ring, a DIY skirt with mismatching quilt patterns layered over a pair of pants, and high-heeled shoes. “Gusto ko i-try i-present ang sarili ko sa perception ko of myself on the inside.”
But Jellyfish Kisses wasn’t Belardo’s first persona. “Matagal ko na siyang ginagawa, lagi nga akong nagpapalit ng name before. Pero ito 'yong nag-stick talaga. I think ito 'yong pinaka-authentic version ng sarili ko. Mas feminine na, talagang pinush ko na 'yong queerness ko.”
Jellyfish Kisses’ everyday look, which is also reflected in his art, is inspired by the aesthetics and ideals of the ‘50s and ‘60s—“very candy-coated, glass-like, perfect pero behind it, there is sadness.” He adds that it’s very reminiscent of the 2002 movie and Michael Cunningham novel The Hours—a copy of which he has in his shelves.
It’s not a surprise that Belardo’s outfit is typically met with raised eyebrows among the conservative public. But Jellyfish Kisses’ bright-pink eye shadow is stronger than all the side eyes. "Ngayon kasi malakas na 'yong loob ko. Naso-zone ko out ko na 'yong mga tao.” He has created a safe space for himself as a genderqueer, and he wants to share the same warmth of acceptance with everyone through his art.