Wayne Forte exhibit

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

OPENING the Bacolod Arts Month last February 1 is California-based religious artist Wayne Lacson Forte’s Filipino Themes. This painting exhibit runs until March 1 so, as of this writing, the reader has ample time to visit the Negros Museum. There, you will be mesmerized by about 30 various-sized artworks that vividly reveal what Wayne has set out to do in his professional life as a fine artist.

Wayne’s tall figure, Caucasian features and strong American twang conceal the Filipino blood running through his veins. It is through his art that his heritage is revealed. Wayne was born in Manila and moved to California when he was three. He started painting soon after and, if I may say so, he was fortunate to be led to his life’s purpose at a very young age.

Painting with a religious theme began for Wayne in his adult life.


Taking up liturgical paintings was a way for him to revive the declining interest in pairing art with the church. He saw that his mission was to bring art not to the world but to the church. His journey to where he is now was also influenced by his involvement in Christians in the Visual Arts (Civa). At the Negros Museum exhibit, you will see sturdy links to biblical figures such as Moses, Adam and Eve, and Samson and Delilah, especially Samson. It is in Samson that Wayne sees the Philippines’ political history. As one of the more famous Judges in the Book of Judges, Samson is a metaphor for self-aggrandizement, failure of national leadership due to lack of wisdom, and lack of political will due to systemic corruption.

The Philippines, though, is more than just its political history. The dynamism of our culture is reflected in all Wayne’s works (of course, hence, Filipino Themes, silly me) from the bare-breasted Itneg Woman, to the nostalgic Pounding Rice to a couple of clever updated borrowings from Damian Domingo to the quirky Madonna and Child with iPod. My favorite is the Monfort Bat Caves not only because it involves the environment but it also is reminiscent of a Grandma Moses painting. All of Wayne’s art is boldly colorful.

The artist even has the Ilonggo flavor when titling his works e.g. Paglakat sang Pinay, Mga Butkon ni Moises, Kung Indi Ka Kahibalo, and Ang Panghimalos ni Samson.

Wayne’s world (can’t resist this) in the arts can be summed up by his very words: “I have spent 60 years in the U.S. far from my roots in the Philippines. Only recently did I understand that one's education and growth in one direction necessarily implies a loss of potential and knowledge in the place that was left behind.

On the environmental plane, the world is starting to understand that with the recent explosion in modern technology comes a serious and often impoverishing loss of the secrets and wisdom held in nature and tribal cultures.

It is with this dynamic in mind that I have returned to the culture of my homeland. An incipient awareness of the traditional tribal art forms, handicrafts and storytelling inform my recent work. Asian physiognomies and costume satisfy my desire to identify with the pre-Western, pre-Modern and pre-digital. What Time art critic Robert Hughes called "the tyranny of the New" starts to reveal its soulless core when faced with the collective wisdom of the ages. Very well said, Mr. Forte. And I’d like to add that 63-year-old Wayne’s roots are truly showing.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 13, 2014.


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