By Kaye O’Yek
Images by Pinggot Zulueta
Kaida Contemporary has always taken on the challenge of representing women artists in the Philippines by holding annual women’s month shows. Probably most notable of these is the El Farol-curated “Womb Box” in 2010 that featured up and coming artists side by side with more established ones, invoking memories of Jeona Zoleta’s electric neon-saturated squigglings on the same wall as Charito Bitanga’s meditative colored glass abstracts. This year, in line with tradition and as a way of exposing more Filipina contemporary artists to the artgoing public, the gallery’s recently renovated space in Scout Madriñan, Quezon City held two women’s group shows back-to-back.
Through The Pyre
“She Conceives By Fire” introduces Luad Collective artists as they share their common passion with clay and the endless learning curve involved in ceramic-making. Earth, water, air, and fire combined with the dexterity of the maker’s hands result in distinctive pieces that may be admired not only for their beauty, but also for their function and ability to serve as a medium of expression.
The entire process related to pottery and ceramic work may be considered a continuous collaboration with nature and its elements as the artworks’ journey is traced, from gathering components to mixing, forming, glazing, and then firing in the kiln. Aside from the finished works, images, and wall-bound test tiles related to this process are displayed in the gallery, chronicling the Luad Collective’s project of sourcing, testing, and cataloguing pottery materials from Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental.
While giving life to clay exposes the artists’ feelings, struggles, joy, pride, and other varying interpretations of the feminine psyche through sculpture, vessels, and assemblages, the pieces also underscore a woman’s resilience when faced with adversity and her innate ability to adapt depending on the roles she needs to fulfill.
Krista Nogueras’ works speak of the honor that should be attributed to a mother’s post-pregnancy body in Forbearer I and II, exalting its raw beauty, stretch marks, scars, and all. For Catcat Mendoza, it is the condition of women workers in varying states of oppression in society. Factory workers, peasants, saleswomen, migrants, and even prostitutes are represented in works that question the economic gap between the haves and have nots. Valeria Luistro creates vessels of utilitarian women, objects representing the confrontations women face every day. Whether containing something hot or cold, the vessel is expected to hold itself together, much like a multitasking superwoman who sees herself in all sorts of circumstance.
Iori Espiritu, through her pieces, shows inner musings, dealing with self-image and non-conformity with known standards of beauty. Anxiety, vulnerability, self-reproach, and body issues are dissected through relatable forms, grounding struggles that individuals face every day due to societal constraints.
With the Luad Collective birthing pieces wrought out of the earth and their own experiences in “She Conceives By Fire,” they bring to light the complexities of being a woman in today’s society. Their works underscore a woman’s flexibility as she is shaped by her experiences, strengthened and fortified by the fires brought on by life’s challenges.
Time To Listen
“In Things My Body Tells Me,” women artists from Metro Manila, Cebu, Dumaguete, Benguet, and New York initiate introspective intimations through their pieces, definitive confessions of the artists as women first, then accomplished educators, writers, leaders, organizers, curators, award winners, mothers, sisters, or daughters next. With each painting and mixed media work, they weave their voices and make their selves heard.
For New York-based National Arts Club President’s Prize awardee Libbet Loughnan, instead of merely ruminating on the painting process, as she is won’t to do, she focused on it the subject in her Meditation series. What results is poignant depictions of a quiet pause of happiness and profound gratitude, enjoying a singular moment, a break in the sun, that is now frozen on canvas for eternity.
Kelly Ramos’ Erotic Shoots may be described in the same breath, with calming mountain landscapes seen in the horizon and floating fruits and vegetables on the foreground. One may find immediate appreciation for the painterly strokes and subdued palette.
In a way, Lorna Fernandez’s Baggage underscores this process, playing around with how a woman sees humor in the men in her life, creating surprising forms out of “manly” articles of clothing embellished with beads, crochet, and needlework. With Acrobat and Milk, Amihan Jumalon gouges out the intense emotions that a mother feels for her son. With her use of acrylic paint, charcoal, and thread on paper, the artist endeavors to channel grief and further healing.
Lot Arboleda paints a woman getting ready to break out of confinement and seek release from the ominous clouds that seem to overshadow her every move in The Box.
Ayka Go’s My Closet paper doll-style watercolor on cut-out paper work explores the different roles lent by what we wear and take on as identity, while Is Jumalon’s mixed media work Overflow creates fine illustrations combined with dreamscapes made frantic by the application of shadows that seemingly aim to swallow up the figures.
Grace Corpuz warns of the pitfalls of sin in What Grows in Your Garden, with acrylic paint painstakingly applied to flat perfection as the innocent eyes of her subject belie the conflict occurring in the darker parts of the painting. Mai Secuban portrays a woman enjoying her solitude and exploring avenues of play and joy on her own, with a red balloon filled with her own breath pushing her to go Against the Current.
These personal stories let the viewing public witness tales that are not exclusively the artists’, but may be experienced by any one at any time, in different ways.
‘She Conceives By Fire’ and ‘Things My Body Tells Me’ may be viewed at Kaida Contemporary until April 8. The gallery is located at 45 Scout Madriñan St., South Triangle, Quezon City.