When we look at paintings and artworks displayed in galleries and museums, we see an unfortunate story of underrepresentation. About 70 to 80 percent of artworks displayed are created by male artists, while the rest are made by female artists.
But when we get down to business, there is no dearth of women artists. So, what gives? Are women artists simply not as good enough as their male counterparts? Or are they merely not being represented properly, underrepresented, and/or even misrepresented?
That is precisely what the WOMAN: Thesis and Antithesis exhibit, featuring selected artworks from the CCP 21AM Collection, hopes to explore. A project of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, in partnership with the Yuchengco Museum Foundation, the exhibit is on view until June 24, at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati City.
Curated by museum director Jeannie Javelosa, the exhibit highlights pieces that explored women as subject matter, and works created by Filipino female artists.
Displayed on the ground floor of the museum, the Women In Society collection showcases the “almost romantic and inspirational idealization of woman and her role in society as mother, lover, and partner in the domestic scene” as seen through the artists’ personal lenses.
The exhibit notes: “Filipino artists have extensively explored women as subject matter, as a form rendered through various styles from the figurative to the abstract; and as a subject in relation to her role in community.”
Exhibited on the third floor, the Women Expressions pieces become part of a continuum of women’s visual expressions that continues to shift as political landscapes, about women’s rights and the feminine spirit gains power in the world today.
The second exhibit component showcases women artists as they “speak to the world using their art as the extension of their minds, hearts, and spirits. They express particular issues they face as women: gender biases, provocative thoughts about religious and spiritual conviction, interpersonal relationships, and the depth of complexities about identity formation.”
Most of the artworks displayed here are never-before-seen pieces from the CCP collection. One of the interesting pieces on display is the “Bottle Gatherers” by National Artist Vicente Manansala. When the CCP Visual Arts and Museum Division was restoring the painting, the team found a hidden painting behind the frame. They found an “Untitled” painting, with a totally different art style and color palette from the “Bottle Gatherers.”
Entrance fee for adults is P100, with discounted price of P50 for students, seniors, and PWDs. Free admission days are April 29, May 27, and June 24. Visiting schedule is Monday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Yuchengco Museum is located at the RCBC Plaza, corner Ayala Avenue and Senator Gil J. Puyat Avenue in Makati City.
Speaking of women artists, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation celebrates International Women’s Month and honors four women alumni of Shell National Student Art Competition (NSAC).
Visual artist Mailah Baldemor-Balde recognized and reached for her dream early in life. Born in a family of artists, she learned about color harmony before she even knew how to write. At an early age, she joined NSAC in 1993, with her artwork Lahar Country, and won a full scholarship.
Davao-based artist Vyankka Balasabas found her artistic calling when her father bought her a camera when she was 14 years old. “I would take pictures of myself in different moods, characters, and themes, and it made me learn how to convey ideas and put them into one image. At that point, I knew I wanted to pursue an art career,” said Balasabas who won third place for her stop-motion video in Shell NSAC 2015.
Currently, Balasabas dabbles with creating crypto art that is focused on showing the complexities of human emotions and fantasies.
Visual artist Rosario Bitanga-Peralta became the country’s first woman abstractionist after winning the watercolor category of Shell NSAC in 1957. She believes that self-realization and dedication to one’s art can mean throwing off some remnants of the past.
“Earlier art was based on traditional, Western modes, with local adaptations and variations often misunderstood. Today, art is more free, unlimited, and no longer holds on to traditional schools of thought but is more on self-inspiration,” said Bitanga-Peralta.
Echoing her predecessor, PintaPH founder Katrina Gosiengfiao observes that “schools of traditional arts are springing forth and taking the spotlight while Philippine traditional art becomes integrated into universities.”
The Shell NSAC 2013 grand prize winner hopes to develop a stronger art movement that can fuel “a country that is economically successful enough to fund its cultural and heritage conservation sector.”
For Baldemor-Balde, the ability to connect with like-minded artists can power up Philippine art, especially in the digital age. “Thanks to the help of social media and the Internet, artists can now connect to each other, and learn new trends in art in a more spontaneous way. The themes and subject matters continue to be timely, like climate change and public health,” she said.
When asked for her advice to young artists, Gosiengfiao enthused: “Commit to improving and honing your artistic practice indefinitely – it may bring you to places you never imagined of going. Do things conscientiously and with purpose.”
Bitanga-Peralta exhorts the youth to refine their craftsmanship and rise to the challenges in the global scene: “Persistence, creativity, production. Study and train on the basics of art, learn art history, and keep up with the world around you. Be aware.”
Before March ends, I’m wishing all the strong, empowered women out there a Happy Women’s Month! You are all simply amazing! Don’t let anyone feel you are not enough. You are a woman, you are more than enough.