FILIPINA WINS TOP AWARD
IN BIG APPLE ART SHOW
(BY ARTHUR CALAPATIA OF THE PHILIPPINE STAR)
Manila, March 20, 2000 - The Salmagundi Club of New York is and has been a center for American art since 1871. The club was started by a small group of young artists and non-artists who gathered every Saturday evening at a large Broadway studio owned by J. Scott Hartley for an evening of sketching, critiques and good camaraderie. The word salmagundi, which means a stew or salad of many ingredients, became a suitable name for the club because the members were from a varied breed with diverse views and ideals. Several years and several location moves later, Salmagundi grew and produced renowned artists such as Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase, N.C. Wyeth, Louis C. Tiffany, Thomas Moran, and John LaFarge. Thanks to the donations from its members, the club was also able to move to a permanent location in the neighborhood of Washington Square.
Today, Salmagundi is still dedicated to the advancement of American art, including painting, sculpture, photography and art appreciation. The club has almost 600 members, comprising of artists, non artists and prominent business people. Each year, Salmagundi holds events like private auctions and exhibitions by artist members and sometimes, from artist non-members from all over the world. Aside from the rich art collection, these events also provide the opportunity for private art collectors and the general public to meet the artists personally. Cash prizes are awarded to the best works at these shows. >From Feb. 28 to March 17, Salmagundi held a show called the Annual Junior Scholarship Members Exhibition. As the name suggests, the show is a gathering of the works of young talents who are chosen as artist scholars into the club. The works vary from oil paintings to etchings to sculptures. I wa s pleased to learn that this year's winner of the top prize, the David Pena Award, is an oil painting on canvas called "Luda," by a young Filipina artist named Mia Herbosa, who is also a friend of mine. Anyone who has been following Mia's career knows that this news comes as no surprise. Last yea r, Mia's "At The Mirror" won the Red Dot at the Art Students League, an award given to the best painting in the show. In earlier exhibits, she garnered a couple of Blue Dots, an award given for honorable mention. Beginning in 1995, Mia launched her professional career with three consecutive shows in
I have known Mia for almost a year now and not a day goes by when she will not talk about her art. This is when I realized that to her, art is not just her career but her life. She sacrificed her comfortable, sheltered life with her loved ones in Manila to go to the bustling city of New York to do what she loves the most. Last Sunday, after seeing the show at Salmagundi, I had coffee with Mia at the University Café in Union Square and informally interviewed her. The following is a gist of what transpired during our conversation over Belgian waffles and a strawberry sundae:
What got you into art in the first place?
"As a kid I've always liked picture books and I loved to read. The first (artist) I would say who's had a real influence in my life was Charles Schulz. And what I liked about Charles Schulz was his little comic strip, Peanuts. It was a comic strip, yes, but it was more than that, too. The characters were his thoughts, his life, his sense of humor. And it was the first time I felt something different, realizing that art can be a powerful vehicle of a communication, direct communication from the artist to the viewer between two distinct persons. Up to high school I was still interested in that thought. Then I traveled to Europe and saw the masterpieces of Western art. In the Philippines, particularly in college, I was exposed to the work of Amorsolo and the works of Luna in the National Museum. Then my mind opened further in the exploration and study of different forms of art and diff
preceded Realism, then was followed by Impressionism and then, Post-Impressionism finally being the entry-point of Modern art. That's also the reason why I liked reading about Philippine art history, particularly the era when modern art started developing, around the time of Victorio Edades."
At what age did you start painting?
"I made my first attempt at painting when I was about seven years old. It was a still life painting of mangoes, and I used acrylic. It was one summer in the '70s. I, my mom and two of my friends formed a little class. My first teacher was my great grandmother, Doni Ongpin, who was also an artist. She set up a little plate of fruit for us to copy, and she hovered behind, trying to guide us along. I started thinking about learning to paint seriously in college. Somehow I always felt that there was something inside me that saw things differently from other people, and that no amount of explaining can express clearly what I see. That's why I got interested in exploring another vehicle of communication, which was the visual language of art."
Which artists influenced you the most?
"Ang dami eh. (There's a lot.) In college I did my thesis on Victorio Edades who is a modern artist. He inspired me not particularly with his painting style and technique but more with how he devoted his whole life to art and what he did for art in the Philippines, how he fought for what he believed in. Then I also liked Juan Luna and Hidalgo, Amorsolo. And then there are many others. I am still developing. My eye is still learning. I think I can see new things in more modern masters now, things I couldn't understand before. It's really amazing, this business of developing your eye."
So it's like many artists had a contribution to your art?
"Yes, that's how it is for everyone I think. And I guess that's why I believe in artists exhibiting their works even if it's not a selling show because it has a unique power to influence people. I was influenced by all the exhibits that I've seen in person, and the ones I've seen in books. I like art that has a sentiment behind it, not just art that was made for sales, for a livelihood. Unfortunately, the majority of artists need to sell regularly, as it is what allows us to live, and to continue our art. This will always be a tension inside, I think. I like art being that it deals with a person's mind, and shows what the artist is thinking at the moment of painting. This gives another dimension to the painting, it's not just a picture of something. Sometimes an artist is thinking of something that he could not grasp, but feels, and traces of its show in his painting. It's like some
Is that what you try to do with your own painting?
"I don't think it's something that you can consciously do but I hope that after I do a painting, someone will get the feeling that I got when I was painting it."
You told me before that art can lead to spirituality. How is that?
"As I developed my painting, and was studying landscape art, I saw George Inness' paintings, all landscapes that always had a strong element of spirituality. Like they were of real places, but were also unreal, real and unreal, fusing in your eyes, you know. Spirituality not only deals with religion per se, more like painting and the study, pursuit, and understanding of it can lead you to questions about life, which is basically spirituality. Or maybe it's closer to philosophy, the pursuit and love of wisdom? I spent one afternoon with the late Onib Olmedo in August of 1996 and he said something very interesting. He said that if an artist is true to him or herself no matter what, then he or she would always be a catalyst, or a strong influence in the community because of the truth that was found between his soul and his art."
How's your school, the Art Students League?
"I was blessed that I found this school in 1992, which is a school that gave me a lot of freedom and a school where I found really strong teachers. They constantly discussed, dissected, and analyzed the practices, theories, and methods of the Old Masters. In this early period, all my influences were the old masters--Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Whistler, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velasquez, and many more--all for the truth of what they saw, how they explored the visual experience in their lives through painting. And that would always blow my mind."
What is it like to be an artist at our age (early 30s)?
"Most people our age have the stability of full time jobs or are starting families. It's quite financially difficult to have art as your career. I feel lucky and blessed that I'm able to survive, people do buy my work. I'm lucky to have parents like mine who are supportive. I know how trying it can be on their patience. I understand. That's why I find it sad that there are people who are talented but who are unable to express themselves through art because they need to have other jobs which takes up most of their time. Time would pass by without your being able to use the gift that was given to you. It's a depressing feeling."
Let's talk about your etching.
"This is my fourth year of etching and I find it a very interesting medium. Using the ink, the press and the acid is so different from brushes, and paint and canvas because there is more of a separation between the actual work and the final product. So it opened my mind to another way of expressing myself using another medium. Personally, for me etching opens up more of the subconscious than paintings because paintings deal more with illusion with color, while etchings are more graphic and the subject is more powerful because of the effect of black upon white, if it's a black and white print. Like the information is less, and so the viewer feels like filling up the gaps with his imagination. There is more interaction."
What is one of your most memorable anecdotes from your experience in painting?
"Last February, I was in a painting workshop under one of America's portrait masters, Everett Kinstler, and the singer, Tony Bennett was there, studying, too. You know he is also an artist. I was so disappointed, because when they called the spots, I was stuck with one of the last ones, and only had the nape of the model to do. So I still tried my best, and at the end of the afternoon, had a pretty interesting painting of the ear and back of the model's head. I noticed someone standing behind me, and it was Tony Bennett, he smiled and said it was lovely. I was very much flattered and amused to have this comment from him, I told him thanks and mentioned that I liked his music, too!"
We stepped out of the café and into a bright spring day. Walking westward, we made our way towards Fifth Avenue, and the venerable old brownstone which housed the Salmagundi Club. The thought running through my mind was that it certainly is very refreshing to know an artist who paints like the old masters and keeps their values, wisdom and tradition into the 21st century. Yet Mia is still humble enough to count her blessings and not forget those who have influenced her and helped her career. As long as there is her hunger to learn more, and her need to express her truth, Mia will continue to astound everyone with her vibrant colors and passionate brushstrokes. If you haven't heard of Mia Herbosa, she is not an up-and-coming Filipina artist--she is already happening
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
© Copyright, 2000 by PHILIPPINE
HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved
Back to the PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONILINE HomePage