ARTIST SERIES

The artist writes: “This project consists of a series of bird portraits that celebrate beauty and visual pleasure. Because of their singular ability of soaring into the sky, birds are universally seen as an allegory of freedom. ‘Pajaritos’ (Small Birds) represent the landing place for my life journey and embracement of queer identity. They are also my way of transforming pretty into a statement of rebellion: the angelical beauty of canaries and finches resting on a perch in front of immaculate pastel color backgrounds are as much a statement of grace as a state of defiance.

“I was initially drawn to this idea of internal strife after seeing a painting by the Italian Renaissance Master Paolo Veronese where he portrays the ‘Temptation of St. Anthony.’ Here Veronese shows St. Anthony attacked by a muscular male demon and simultaneously seduced by the devil in the form of a beautiful woman. My favorite detail is the shape of the woman’s fingers, which resemble talons. The way she caresses St. Anthony’s palm implies that no matter what guise temptation takes, one is always able to recognize it by its sharp claw. This reminded me of the struggle with my own sexuality growing up: the fear of not being able to escape from my own self and not knowing whether I could to be true to who I was amid the pressures to conform.

“I grew up in Honduras, where ‘pajaros’ is a derogative term for gay men. With my project I embrace two cultural references: the constrictive idea that in our culture colors define gender—blue for boys, pink for girls—and the liberating realization that I can defy the expected by emphasizing the delicate beauty of birds with the flamboyant use of pastel colors. These conflicting ideas are both reconciliatory and cathartic; they are a deconstruction of gender norms.

“Photographs are printed with archival pigment inks on paper and mounted on Plexiglas. Frames are painted to match the predominant background color of each photo—the dimensions of each piece are 19 x 15 inches.”

Work by Daniel Handal

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