Mark Aguhar was a genderqueer/transgendered individual who spent much of their life showing the world that they were who they were and that was good enough; in essence fighting against the idea of a ‘white, straight, masculine’ dominated world. Mark could be found on many social media platforms, often expressing themselves through their thoughts, comments and artistic works.
Mark Cagaanan Aguhar was born on the 16th May 1987, in the city of Houston, Texas. Mark was born into a good sized Filipino-American family. They referred to themselves as a genderqueer person, often identifying with the pronoun ‘they’, with a transgendered-femme identity. ‘ Mark didn’t fit neatly within the grid of sexual and gender identifications that exist in our world: she was a queer, fat, femme, brown, drag, fag, transwoman’ (Young Joon Kwak, 2016). They worked hard as an artist, performer, photographer, poet, social media presence and activist, while studying a Master of Fine Arts degree at Chicago University. Unfortunately, towards the end of their studies, on the 12th March 2012, Mark sadly took their own life, they were only 25 yrs old.
Mark was well known through social media networks, using many of these platforms to express their artistic views and talents, as well as their honest, strong views on race, class and gender within the modern society. ” If you don’t know Aguhar but are on Tumblr, chances are you have seen their work” reported Simon thobault (2012) in a piece inspired by the artist’s death. Tumblr being one of Mark’s popular choices for social expression, going by the title ‘Call Out Queen’. The platform was used to call out white privilege and express through their art who they were as a person, not feeling one with the world as it is so often presented. This concept is wonderfully portrayed by Mark in their artist statement;
My work is about visibility. My work is about the fact that i’m a genderqueer person of colour fat femme fag feminist and I don’t really know what to do with that identity in this world.
It’s that thing where you grew up learning to hate every aspect of yourself and unlearning all that misery is really hard to do.
It’s that thing where you kind of regret everything you’ve ever done because it’s so complicit with white hegemony.Mark Aguhar, 2012, cited in Kwak, 2016
Social Media Presence
Whether they were sharing blog posts, images, videos, comments, tweets, responses or rants, there presence was noticed. They could be found on Twitter @markaguhar and Instagram #markaguhar, while Mark’s presence on Tumblr ‘Call Out Queen’ was huge, with the potential, known or unknown, to reach a large audience who just simply understood. Her final post simply read ‘lol, white men bore me’.
They could also be found sharing videos via YouTube under the name ‘xEmoBoy1987x‘.
Mark created a wide range of art with their favourite mediums being drawing, inks, watercolours and collage. Their vision often revolved around the male and female physical form, often represented in a nude or semi-nude display. The body forms often stood out from the expected ‘norm’ and what people would envision as the model type for nude works of art. They also took inspiration from the pornographic industry and repeatedly produced pieces to recreate this. Colour schemes were often natural or neutral pallets, with the body forms taking precedence, while backgrounds were minimal. While the other end of spectrum, Mark’s collages would be bright, vibrant, identifiable and often incorporated designs from nature and symmetrical patterns, but also totally random imagery from life such as food or objects.
Two themes appear to run through much of Mark’s photographic material, these being fashion and the male form. Fashion appears to have been a huge part of Mark’s life and gave them a great opportunity to represent themselves and their femme nature. Many photos present Mark in all their glory, showing off their own fashion style and wardrobe. Mark used themselves as a model for many of these, while relying on the display of fabric alone in others. Their photos of the male form came in two formats, almost a two-part story. First their would-be photos of various individual males standing, facing the camera, while next to them is displayed a bundle of rope. What then follows images of the same males, semi-nude, tied in bondage with the rope.
Being of the generation where social media plays a big part in your day-to-day life, Mark had the perfect opportunity to use this medium to his advantage and broadcast to a world of like-minded individuals. They were able to explore the possibilities of personal performance through still life images, where Mark delved into the exploration of self-expression. Mark used video as a talking platform for self-expression, self-belief, self-worth and self-identification. They would also share personal thoughts and quotes through social media channels on a regular basis.
Words are powerful; but can also be used against that which is seen to have power, to be part of the ‘norm’, and Mark recognized this. The Brooklyn Museum stated that “Mark Aguhar’s work poignantly evokes her desire for a self-fashioned femme identity in order to resist, escape, and surpass normative notions of gender, sex, and race” Brooklyn Museum (2019). Two well known poems by Mark are ‘Litanies to my brown heavenly body’ and ‘These are the axes’.
The key thing with Mark, their views, their opinions, was that they were honest. Honest and open to the world with their beliefs. Mark questioned everything, especially when it came down to such themes as masculinity, whiteness and privilege. So much so that they soon changed the name of their regular blog identity to ‘blogging for brown gurls’ to attach impact to their comments and writings “that called out white, male, thin privilege and affirmed brown, fat, femme agency” Bullybloggers (2012). These ideas, these criticisms, these confessions of belief and personal truth brought with it a huge following, but also a large number of trolls and haters, who aimed a considerable amount of hate speech towards Mark. However Mark often showed strength standing up for their beliefs and responding to those that attacked.
“Although Aguhar died by suicide on March 12, 2012, her legacy continues to teach us about the possibilities we can find in queerness, and the power of everyday expression as a tool for survival.” (Vice, 2018) Interestingly, for many, this realisation did not surface until after their death and so it was during this time that the appreciation for their work and outspoken nature really grew.
While the majority of their artistic work was created during their time at art school, it has taken a life of its own since their death. A whole host of exhibitions have been developed to represent their art styles, their queerness and their views on life.
The company ChancesDances who created the ‘Critical Fierceness Queer Art Grant’ in 2005 made the decision in 2012 to expand their award system and introduce the ‘Mark Aguhar Memorial Grant’ “which seeks to fund projects by queer woman-identified and trans-feminine artists of colour”. (Eler 2012)
In 2016 there was a terrible shooting in Orlando, at the Pulse Gay Club. This was a huge tragedy for the LGBTQ community and a terrible loss of life. But, if there is one thing the LGBTQ community is good at, it’s coming together, supporting each other and those around them. As part of this the LGBTQ community absorbed and shared Mark Aguhar’s ‘Litanies to My Heavenly Brown Body’ solidarity.
Unfortunately, it was not all sunshine and roses. Not long after Mark’s death “a satellite church affiliated with controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll was vandalized early Tuesday (April 24) and a group calling itself the “Angry Queers” has reportedly taken responsibility”.(Beaven 2012) This could have been seen as just a random act, however those involved made it clear that this had been done to represent the memory of Mark Aguhar, along with other queer and trans individuals that had recently died or taken their own lives.
No matter what direction we go in the future, I think Mark Aguhar will always be with us and we will find multiple ways to celebrate them as a person, as an artist and as a fighter for those less fortunate and considered to be outside the ‘norm’.
If you would like to take a more in-depth look at the work of Mark Aguhar then please do visit their social media channels, which are currently still available online; these being
Aguhar, M. (2009) Commissioned piece just finished this morning, haven’t slept at all going to crash and then maybe go out later tonight. Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/post/291067583/commissioned-piece-just-finished-this-morning (Accessed: 2022).
Aguhar, M. (2010) Sketch for 3-Dimensional object (Nick) Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/post/1471849300/sketch-for-3-dimensional-object-nick (Accessed: 2022).
Aguhar, M. (2010) think this is the first drawing of my imaginary BF, Jared Padescu. Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/post/340606520/think-this-is-the-first-drawing-of-my-imaginary (Accessed: 2022).
Aguhar, M. (2011) Femme Realness Queen Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/post/5065018050/femme-realness-queen (Accessed: 2022).
Aguhar, M. (2011) Fringe Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/post/5203083540/fringe (Accessed: 2022).
Aguhar, M. (2012) ‘Untitled’. Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/post/18425566333 (Accessed: 2022).
Aguhar, M. @markaguhar I like how my contouring makes me look plastic but not TOO plastic? [Twitter] 25 January. Available at: https://twitter.com/markaguhar/status/162261633933123585 (Accessed: 10 January 2022)
Beaven, S. (2012) ‘Angry Queers’ damage Driscoll’s Portland Church . Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/angry-queers-damage-driscolls-portland-church/2012/04/25/gIQA0zEShT_story.html (Accessed: 2022).
Brooklyn Museum @brooklynmuseum Mark Aguhar’s work poignantly evokes her desire for a self-fashioned femme identity in order to resist, escape, and surpass normative notions of gender, sex, and race. bit.ly/2VPRHrs Don’t miss #NobodyPromisedYouTomorrow before it closes on Dec 8. #Stonewall50 [Twitter] 16 November. Available at: https://twitter.com/brooklynmuseum/status/1195793721884676096 (Accessed: 19 January 2022).
DrKimReadSociologist (2014) SecondtoNone, Nic kay reads Litanies to My Heavenly Brown Body by Mark Aguhar. 2014. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH7qZMKa5iA (Accessed: 2022).
Eler, A. (2012) Grant Committee: Critical Fierceness Queer Art Grant. Available at: https://aliciaeler.com/2012/07/24/critical-fierceness-grant/ (Accessed: 2022).
Kwak, Y, J. (2016/2020-2021) Critics page Mark Aguhar. Available at: Mark Aguhar – The Brooklyn Rail (Accessed: 2021).
Mark Aguhar xEmoBoy1987x (2012) Glamour. 2012. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atYsGfjjRpE (Accessed: 2022).
Perez, R. (2012/2022) ‘Political rants and raves – Mark Aguhar’s Critical Flippancy’, Bullybloggers, 2012. Available at: https://bullybloggers.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/mark-aguhars-critical-flippancy/ (Accessed: 2022).
Thibault, S. (2012/2021) The work and death of Mark Aguhar. Available at: https://xtramagazine.com/culture/the-work-and-death-of-mark-aguhar-25328 (Accessed: 2021).
Vice (2018/2021) ‘I’d rather be beautiful than male’: Remembering the radical art of Mark Aguhar. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en/article/j5bwm8/mark-aguhar-art-id-rather-be-beautiful-than-male (Accessed: 2021).