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The Voice Of Gay Youth 

Art exhibit reflects struggles and joys

For those who have faced the challenge and emerged victorious at the end of the long dark tunnel, surviving your teen years when you know you're gay can prove to be worthy of celebration. Few emerge unscathed from that time, but many gather strength from the experience.There's no doubt that the transition from child to adulthood can be difficult for just about anybody. Studies show, however, that the challenges faced by the gay teen are far more troubling -- young gay and lesbian people may account for as much as one third of all youth suicides.

Gordon Marcelo is the Program Coordinator for Time Out Youth, an outreach program aimed at Charlotte's gay and lesbian youth community. He's also an artist, and his work is currently on exhibit in the gallery section at the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Center on Central Avenue.

Marcelo is one of the many 20-somethings in this world who made it through the tunnel. This exhibit is his celebration.

A native of the Philippines, Marcelo spent much of his childhood and formative years in American Samoa. In the late 1990s, his family moved to Charlotte. After a few years, they decided to move to Nashville; Marcelo, however, chose to remain here.

"I liked it here," he recalls. "Things were beginning to happen and many of my friends and people I cared about were here. I wanted to stay."

Marcelo's style of artistry is self-taught -- in some cases it could even be referred to as outsider art -- but its impact is clearly no less than the work of the classically trained.

"I feel as though I've been an artist my entire life," he explains. "From the time I was a little kid, I was always fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I wanted to make the world around me look like that. One day, I decided to take a photograph and cut it up to see what I could achieve."

The images in this exhibit feel youthful, questioning and exuberant, yet at times also extremely troubled.

A collage of a veiled woman in blue is striking and alive with color. Marcelo reveals the true meaning behind the piece: "That image is an attempt to capture how I feel about women, from my perspective. I know there's still a lot of oppression, and there's still a long way to go. Sometimes in things that are considered weak by society at large, you can actually find great strength."

The only non-collage work in the collection, "Symbiosis of Love and Hate," is a series of swastikas and hearts surrounding a cross in pastels on paper. It's accompanied by text: "Sometimes there are tears that are never meant to be seen. They well up inside the way emptiness does. Emptiness can be so heavy."

"It's about passion," Marcello offers. "Love and hate are opposed and intertwined."

In all the pieces collected here, nowhere is that troubled emotional state more evident than in "Father, I Wish I Could Hate You." The very title speaks volumes.

A collage work of pen and ink sketch with incorporated multi-media, "Father..." seemingly depicts a distressed self-portrait. Black stretches of electrical tape appear across sketched lines -- perhaps an attempt to metaphorically paste together a failing relationship -- while black handprints seem to absolve the artist of the experienced pain.

Despite all the angst and drama captured in Marcelo's exhibit, one doesn't have to look hard to find the silver lining in what could be considered a dark cloud.

"I use my artwork to work through things," Marcelo reveals on an upbeat note. "Problems I'm having in relationships with other people and the world around me come out here. It's a great outlet."

A black and white photograph from the early 1980s depicts a clearly happy time for Marcelo. The artist is captured as a prepubescent boy with his mom.

In a dramatic effort to expand the image, Marcelo stretched out the rafters that held up the ceiling of the building where the photo was taken through the collage effect. It achieves the intended result but somehow pushes the photo even further into antiquity. The picture could have easily been shot in the early 1960s.

"It's a tribute to my mom," confesses Marcelo. "We had a close relationship and she's always been great and very supportive."

Mixed media works by Gordon Marcelo are on display through July 12 at the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Center, 1401 Central Avenue. For more details, call 704-333-0144.

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