Gig Depio never wanted to be an artist. And yet, he’s been one nearly his entire life. His giant paintings—layers of rusted orange and dusty desert hues—explore the American West through some of history’s iconic characters and events.
Growing up in the Philippines, Depio was always surrounded by art; his father is a portrait artist and professor of fine arts, and his mother is a gallery owner. Tired of living in his father’s shadow as his assistant, Depio went to business school in Manila before moving to the U.S. in 2002.
“I like to paint about the past, because it’s the only way you can understand how we got here, in the now,” Depio says.
He recently painted a giant, 11-by-40-foot mural for the Moapa Valley Community Center and showed his work in an exhibition, Gig Depio: Americana With Cadmium Orange, at the Capital City Arts Initiative (CCAI) and the CCAI Courthouse Gallery in Carson City.
His mural “Through the Muddy” is on display in Moapa; it’s informed by the book Muddy Valley Reflections: 145 Years of Settlement by Virginia “Beezy” Lani Tobiasson and Georgia May Bagshaw Hall. That Depio piece works as a Nevada time capsule, traveling to the time of industrialization and the type of “creative destruction” that naturally occurs when trying to make life more hospitable. “You destroy the old things that might also be good for us,” Depio says.
Given the size and scope of his work, Depio’s paintings are purposefully created to be experienced in person. That, Depio says, is a reaction to our current internet culture, and the way we’ve grown accustom to experiencing art from behind a screen.
“No matter what you do, if you want to feel the painting, you’ve got to show up,” Depio says. In this case, that means taking a mini-roadtrip to some of Nevada’s historic towns, where his latest artworks live. While he’s becoming an established artist here and throughout the world—he just had a show in Manila and is working on a show in the U.K.—life as a painter wasn’t always easy.
“I just kept getting rejected,” he says. For years, he volunteered in various spaces in the art community before finally getting his own exhibition. “I told everyone I was an artist for so many years, and no one believed me, so when I got [my first] show, I filled up that whole space.”
And while his work focuses primarily on American history—a fascination he says he had as a boy—his perspective as an immigrant is important to understanding his catalog. “I don’t want to paint about Filipino things, because that’s what people expect from me,” he says. “I like talking about history to paint a picture of what or why or how our culture came to be—most pieces are about converging cultures in a constant dialogue.”