April 13, 2024

The deafening silence on the University of the Philippines Baguio campus does not mean it isn’t chaotic in these unusual times. There is a hustle that goes on in that school, as is true with other universities offering tertiary education, but it is happening in some space where traffic is running through the mind while the spirit figures out the reds, greens, and yellows that blink at the crossroads of these shifts in time. But a gym turned into an art gallery brings life to the silenced bleachers that still root “There is Still Life” in the paintings and visual mixed media that will go on until December 16.

With a knack for bad timing, it was fortune that brought my feet to the Sunshine Park on the way back to townto discover that the Himnasio Amianan of UPB was finally ready for games, sports, and art exhibits in its foyer.

Frustrated that I had to choose the wrong time to visit the Baguio Convention Center with its installations and murals, I gripped the bars of the fence when I was told that even art goes on a holiday and had to walk away. Luck smiled at me when I chanced upon the tarp that announced the art exhibit and caught sight of the open gate. Health protocols followed, joy filled me when I realized that I was going to get my wish of visual fare, anyway. Then I realized that this was another version of  “plantitos and plantitas”.

True, what exhibit co-curator Joseph Carvajal said in the write up of the exhibit, that one finds “profound truths” in plants and the still life genrein art on the “cycle and transience of life”. But indeed #PlantsMakePeopleHappy is no lie. These paintings did as promised, “engage viewer’s eyes, mind and heart.” And we do gaze at art for the “solace”.

Among my favorite young artists is Danielle Florendo whose “Pot Planters” is a signature of her strokes and colors. There is some consistency in an artist’s work that gives it a style of its own, “this is Danielle”. Like a BenCab, a Leonard, a Jordan, a John Frank, a Kora, this is now a Danielle. The cheek spots and olive -colored skins are definitely her kind of work.

“Dahan Dahong Paghilom” by Ryan Rivera is truly symbolic of the “plantdemic” when the leaves of the featured plant tell of the fortune made by enterprising green thumbs that sold many of these for thousands of pesos. The green plant with a pale blue background and the hand as centerpiece tell a story of their own.

“Lily” by Glo Abeo was her first attempt at still life, according to Angelica Rosalin and Maya Mayaten, watchers from the Pasakalye artists’ group. I smiled as I looked at her work because it was almost like a photograph in its lighting. This reminded me that this lady toted heavy camera bags before it took a toll on her back and shoulders. If this was a first attempt, more should come to fore because she has the skill and talent. I particularly liked the different way that she did the background because it is reminiscent of an effect of focusing the lens of a camera where the background blurs in spots or as they say pixels.

Jocelyn Ramos’ “Million Flowers”in its pastel details and 3D effect when one came closer made me happy and sad. The image brought me a memory of Adelaida Aromin who told me the secret of the purple milflores, as we call it. She said rust makes this pale blue flower turn purple. She is one sad memory of how Covid-19 is deadly and my story of the hydrangeas that came to our soil because of the Americans.

Paper quilling in “Dad’s Las Gift” by Sheena Dawang is a unique art work that employed colored paper cut into strips that makes the strokes in the artwork with coils and rippling shapes. This artwork challenges impatient people like me to have the dexterity to do fine work with scissors, blades, glue and paper. This is a different art and craft together.

The most symbolic piece for this “plantdemic” should be Justine Amores’ Golay Girl in watercolor and gouache. The explosion of plants from the hands of the girl are so expressive of these 10 months that many have turned to self-sufficiency by planting food and plants to sustain life.

Well, there’s so much more to still life! We wish we could make the space like UPB has done to accommodate the planters and the painters where the athletes sweat.