Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Five Former Beauty Queens amidst the Convoluted World of Art

Published in Manila Bulletin(Arts and Living), August 1, 2011

"Believe it or not, I can actually draw.” 
-- Jean Michel Basquiat, American artist

WHAT DO THE five former beauty queens have to show in the art world that is already saturated with all kinds of ludicrous ‘isms,’ cyclical artistic themes, farcical and portentous art that feeds on ‘shock value,’ needless to mention the ejaculative aesthetic aggrandizement to viagrate the sale of the chosen few (known or unknown artists) in auction houses?

Is there anything new and exciting that they can offer or is it just another showbiz platitude to create a sensation, i.e., show off their ostensibly artistic prowess and sell their art?

On the contrary, their recently launched group exhibit titled “Art and Beauty” does not only create a stir (nay, a ‘tsunamic splash’), it also proves that beauty and brain can do more than just promote beauty products, walk down a catwalk at fashion shows, act in film, or appear on television, but also create sublime art par excellence.  

The participating artists are Evangeline Pascual (Miss World 1973 1st Runner-up), Melanie Marquez (Bb. Pilipinas International 1979 and Miss International 1979), Maria Isabel Lopez (Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1982), Lani Lobangco (Bb. Pilipinas 1998 semi-finalist and Miss Photogenic), and Nina Ricci Alagao (Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2000).

Present during the opening last July 13, 2011 at Ricco-Renzo Galleries & Café in Makati were some celebrities, politicians, and showbiz personalities, like Mr. Chavit Singson, Mayor Jun Jun Binay, Ms. Gloria Diaz, Ms. Cory Quirino, Ms. Joyce Ann Burton, Ms. Elvie Pineda, Ms. Rachel Lobangco, Mr. Jao Mapa, the NCCA Chairman (Head, Sub-Commission on the Arts) Mr. Felipe M. de Leon, Jr., gallery owner Mr. Paulito Garcia, and author-art critic Mr. Cid Reyes, among others.

Organized by multi-awarded Filipino movie actor Maria Isabel Lopez in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Character Building Foundation, Inc., the group show is a tour de force in artistic style, medium, and technique. Their respective art is unmistakably an opus of a professional painter and, perhaps, more sincere and honest than the work of a mediocre artist.

Evangeline Pascual’s ‘Echoes of the Art’

Anyone who is following Evangeline Pascual, also known as “Vangie,” on her radio program in DWIZ 882AM is familiar with her “Echoes of the Heart” every Saturday afternoon. It is one of the longest running radio counseling programs in the country for almost two decades now. Unbeknownst to her fans and followers, their host-counselor finds time brandishing a paintbrush in front of her canvas to pour out the ‘echoes’ of her art.

Adept with the metaphysical principles of love, beauty, and ideas as a radio host and counselor, her art echoes the transcendental nature of forms and colors on canvas. Some of her abstract paintings are visceral depiction of the unknown yet, they are sensually tangible and imposing. Her dynamic strokes with craggy surface and vibrant colors reflect the exuberance of her personality. In essence, her art is a creative journey of self-expression that traverses between the ephemeral and spiritual.

A first runner-up of Miss World 1973 (she allegedly refused the crown of Miss World after the disavowed winning contestant, Miss USA, was disqualified from the title 38 years ago), Evangeline is woman of staunch principle, but a gregarious character, unassuming, and an iconic figure of strength, intellect, and beauty. After Miss World, she embraced her movie career as actor and later, as broadcaster, social worker, and an active member of religious group Oasis of Love Catholic Charismatic Community.

The Encaustic Oeuvre of Melanie Marquez

Encaustic art may be fun to create on the surface of a board or canvas by heating wax and toning the pigments of color, but it is a difficult process to master. However, Melanie Marquez has chosen a medium that she could effortlessly execute with élan and eloquence. Her nude women, for instance, exude with opulent form and translucent color, mimicking the sensual female skin. Putting an emphasis on the figure’s head and body sans hands and feet, her naked women exemplify elegance with mystical allure, apt for her chosen title ‘Melanie’s Mystique.’

Unlike the uncomplicated forms of her creation, Melanie is a complex celebrity figure.  She has been known for being outspoken of her thoughts and feelings. But who is Melanie without being audacious as a former beauty titlist and a supermodel of international stature?

At a very young age of 15, Melanie has already been exposed to the showbiz and fashion industry locally and internationally. After winning the Bb. Pilipinas International and Miss International in 1979 respectively, she has garnered several beauty titles, citations and awards both local and abroad. To date, she is the most featured Asian celebrity in magazine covers in America, Europe, and Asia spanning more than two decades of her multi-faceted career as a beauty titlist and fashion model, movie actor, talk show host, movie producer, and product endorser.

In 2006, Melanie obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the International Academy of Management and Economics.

The Dyadic Art of Maria Isabel Lopez

Maria Isabel Lopez uses natural stones, corals, seashells, sand mortar, and acrylic paint to create highly textured and realistic composition. In her landscape titled “On the Rocks,” she ingeniously employs her trademark medium to create an illusion of rocks, river, and mountains with organic color and texture. From a distance, the artwork evokes realistic countryside scenery, but at a closer look, it also offers a different visual experience with intricate titivation of natural stones, corals, seashells, and sand mortar. The result is a mosaic art within a painting.

Equally impressive are her nude figures from which she explores the depths of forms either by rendering textured paint or by embedding natural colored stones. Unlike some of her raunchier roles in movies, her nude paintings are reticently demure, exploring the sensuality of female body in an unobtrusive manner.

As movie actor, painter, and fashioner designer, Maria Isabel is as generous as her oeuvre: from a complex role in films to the elaborate detail of her paintings and fashion designs.  She is the epitome of a Filipino actor who has no qualms assuming any role, so long as it liberates her creative passion and gives justice to the character that she plays in a movie.  In like manner, she has no foreboding hesitation to cavort and experiment sundry mediums on canvas to suit her artistic taste and style.

A Fine Arts graduate of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, she was proclaimed the Bb. Pilipinas Universe in 1982. Since then, her acting career took off, receiving several awards in the showbiz industry both local and abroad. Her 2009 movie “Kinatay,” from which she also derived her “Kinatay” series paintings, won the Best Director award for Brillante Mendoza in 2009 Cannes Film Festival. She is the founder and event organizer for The Film Artist Group and a former fashion designer for Rustan’s and SM Department stores. 

Lani Lobangco and the Femineity of Her Aesthetics

One of the Filipino artists who could masterfully portray feminine movement and dance postures with such passion and sensitivity is Lani Lobangco. She has a perceptive and unique way of drawing out the poignancy of body movement with strong contrast of tonal values and color. Well-defined forms, smooth brushstrokes, and lucid colors characterize the feminine touch of an artist, perchance a manifestation of Lani’s genteel personality.

To appreciate her works further, it is imperative that one must be familiar with the basic ballet dance movements. In “Bras Bas,” for example, Lani portrays the positioning of both arms where the fingers are almost touching each other, forming an oval shape at hips level. The visual narrative conveys a sense of oneness and harmony.

In another painting titled “Sous-Sus,” known as releve or rise in the tight positioning of feet either in pointe or in demi pointe, Lani focuses her depiction below the ballerina’s legs down to the tip of her raised feet. Hence, one can feel the tension and the struggle of the dancer to maintain the balance in a tight fifth position.  In real life, the painting can be a metaphor of human struggle to maintain the balance between career and family.

A painter, movie actor, and a 1998 Bb. Pilipinas semi-finalist and Miss Photogenic, Lani is a graduate of Fine Arts (Advertising major) at the University of Santo Tomas, 1987.  Later, she took up Interior Design at Philippine School of Interior Design in the year 1999 -2000. She is currently the president of a family-owned business, E.P. ELLE Corp., founded by her mother Ms. Elvie Pineda.

The  Social Realism of Nina Ricci Alagao 

There is an atmosphere of empirical and intangible sadness in the art of Nina Ricci Alagao. It is trudging on the emotional, psychological, and mental state of man and the blatant condition of decay and decadence in his society.

One such iconic painting is a portrayal of a desperate man in the midst of his defiled belongings titled “Ondoy” (based on the tragic Typhoon Ondoy in 2009). Wet and covered with mud throughout his body, the man’s head is bent in an almost sedate manner; his face is burdened with indescribable anguish and despair. The detailed depiction of protruding radius bone and veins in his lower left arm down to his hand heightens the feeling of helplessness. And one can almost touch the dried tears on his cheeks or hear the incessant gasps of hopelessness in his lungs.

A sensitive and activist artist, in the loose of the word, Nina has the uncanny articulacy of portraying the intensity of human emotion. Whether her subject is happy or sad, she has a way of capturing her viewers with the hyper-realistic rendition of her figures, dramatic interplay of contrasts, and distinctive choice of colors on canvas. However, these elements could not have been eloquently translated without the artist’s fluency to percolate her feeling and passion through her art.

Nina’s proclivity in aesthetics started in her teenage life when she became a scholar at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Los Baños, Laguna, majoring in Visual Arts. After high school, she studied further and finished her degree in Fine Arts (major in visual communications) at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

In 2000, Nina won the Bb. Pilipinas Universe, representing the country in the same year at the Miss Universe beauty pageant. Currently active in the art scene, she wanted to use her art as a vehicle to help the least fortunate by raising funds through her exhibitions.

To sum, it is humbling and fascinating to immerse in the artworks of the former beauty queens, knowing that the mind and body that created them have embodied the quintessence of physical and intellectual beauty. Their art is still unfazed and unsullied by aesthetic angst and duplicity, which is common within the subculture of artists.

‘Art is a confession,’ said French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus. And confession, that is: These former beauty titlists confess the perspicuity of their vision as women, echoing the inner dreams and desires of their soul as inherently creative and nurturing being. 

Former Beauty Queens 

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