Arte Botanica: ‘Piging’ as homage and thanksgiving

Features Philippines Sep 9, 2016 at 7:19 pm
Chandeliers: garlic (top) and bamboo PINISTAHANG HALAAN by Eden Ocampo branches (bottom) by June P. Dalisay

Chandeliers: garlic (top) and bamboo
branches (bottom) by June P. Dalisay

By Ed Maranan

MANILA—During this year’s celebration of International Earth Day, an art exhibit entitled Arte Botanica: ‘Piging’ opened in Quezon City, and ran for several months. It was an art show one could visit again and again, a veritable feast (piging) of works paying homage to Nature, and in thanksgiving for the bounty that flows from her. The works covered one wall, the ceiling, and a long table in the lobby of the Erehwon Center for the Arts off Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

The exhibit of framed and installation art pieces was put together by Erehwon Art Foundation and by the Kasibulan group of women artists. The Erehwon Center for the Arts is headed by publisher-printer and art organizer Rafael Rivera Benitez, who is currently spearheading the setting up of an American Museum of Philippine Art in Los Angeles. The Foundation is a non-stock, non-profit institution that promotes the development of Philippine art through exhibitions, workshops and lectures in collaboration with artists, art associations, institutions and the community.

Kasibulan stands for Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan, a group that was born out of the camaraderie and common cause of five women artists sometime in the late 1980s. The five were Brenda Fajardo, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, Julie Lluch, Anna Fer, and Ida Bugayong. One evening in Paete, during a field trip to the art centers of the Laguna lakeshore region, someone in the group suggested that they come up with a name that would signify the springing to life of a new feminist consciousness attuned to the female symbolism of Mother Nature, as well as the ideal of the empowered woman in Filipino society. A brainstorming ensued and gave birth to the name, the process of conception leading to a new being, for kasibulan refers to a sprouting, a blossoming.

PINISTAHANG HALAAN by Eden Ocampo

PINISTAHANG HALAAN by Eden Ocampo

After many years of actively exhibiting their works, the torch has been passed from the generation of the Kasibulan founding members, most of whom are still active in the field of visual arts, to the younger batch of artists whose works range from representational to conceptual and abstract, but still focused on feminist and environmental themes. How appropriate then that their latest venture would be an organic expression in their approach to art-making—hence, Arte Botanica. The official statement announcing the show read in part:

“The group exhibit Piging is a home to nature, and its opening coincided with the recent celebration of International Earth Day. The exhibit is a testimony to the countless gifts Mother Earth has given humankind through thousands of years. Mother Earth has provided humanity with all its needs: food and sustenance from living creatures on land and sea. Fragile living things that shoot out of the fertile ground provide not only food, but also healing of the physical body. We are able to build homes and different structures from gifts dug from the bowels of the earth, timber felled from forests and mountains. And yet, we never give anything in return. Mother Earth has been exploited and ruined, her waters poisoned, her air darkened and polluted by the continuous burning of fossil fuel, and her forests denuded and destroyed.

TIEMPO by Jana Jumalon-Alano

TIEMPO by Jana Jumalon-Alano

“Filipino artists have come together to express their disgust and to protest the destruction of the environment. We artists have bonded together to thank and give honor and homage to Nature by creating pieces using organic materials or any discards from trees, plants, the mountains and the sea.”

Leading the efforts for Kasibulan in putting the visual feast together was painter, art restorer, and Erehwon Art Foundation president June Poticar Dalisay, who had several works in the exhibit, including two chandeliers, one made from a perforated circular tin can from which dangle tiers of garlic bulbs, the other from bamboo twigs festooned with multicoloured lights surrounding the central bulb, giving the effect of a micro-cosmos of stars. From various sources, including the quiet beach of Boquete island in Mindoro, Dalisay gathered dried leaves, twigs, branches, shells, pods and other found objects that she incorporated into her art pieces.

The other artists from Kasibulan whose works featured in the show were Eden Ocampo, with her montage of shells and buds on twigs seeming to sprout from an acrylic-painted frame in Pinistahang Halaan; Jonabelle Operio, whose painting Meditation uses soil as surface medium with tiny twigs projecting root-like from the center; Veronica Laurel, whose Bloom is an ingenious folding and rolling of ‘repurposed paper from an old worn-out book’ that resembles a flower with a complex and convoluted corolla (or it could also represent universal organic growth in nature, the unfolding of life, as it were); Doris Rodriguez, contributing Pagninilay, a terracotta mini-sculpture of a mermaid-like figure resting on a leaf bed, framed by four tree branches secured with twine; and Jana Jumalon-Alano, whose sculpture Tiempo evokes melancholy and mystery with the image of a somber woman embedded on hardwood fixed inside a recessed altar.

The other art pieces on show were delicate, whimsical, playful arrangements of beads, beans and grains forming patterns on woven baskets, as well as dried leaves, stalks and twigs, coconut, sea shells, berries on branches, and other objects. Art Collective member Lourdes Inosantos’s Nature Special, for example, is an arresting assemblage of mussel shells, coconut parts, and smooth stones. Indeed, ‘Piging’ was a festive celebration of Mother Earth in an inventive way, using organic materials appropriated from the subject herself. Art becomes so much more meaningful if its form, content and message are directly sourced from Nature, whose survival—and with it, mankind’s own—has become an urgent issue and concern in our time.

PAGNINILAY by Doris Rodriguez

PAGNINILAY by Doris Rodriguez

BLOOM by Veronica Laurel

BLOOM by Veronica Laurel

MEDITATION by Jonabelle Operio

MEDITATION by Jonabelle Operio

NATURE SPECIAL by Lourdes Inosanto

NATURE SPECIAL by Lourdes Inosanto

Kasibulan members (from left) June Dalisay, Eden Ocampo, Anna Fer, Veronica Laurel, Jonabelle Operio and Doris Rodriguez PHOTOS: Eden Ocampo and Ed Maranan)

Kasibulan members (from left) June Dalisay, Eden Ocampo, Anna Fer, Veronica Laurel, Jonabelle Operio and Doris Rodriguez
PHOTOS: Eden Ocampo and Ed Maranan)