“I have always been hard to classify and my work is an extension of me,” Filipino-American artist Pacita Abad once told the American curator Angela Adams in 1994. “People are always trying to put things in neat little boxes. My work does not fit in any of these.”
Abad, who passed away in 2004 after a three-year-long battle with lung cancer, again takes centre stage in the recently opened exhibition A Million Things to Say. Mounted at the Museum of Contemporary Art & Design (MCAD) at the DLSU-College of St Benilde, it features 24 works out of the artist’s staggering 5,000-piece strong portfolio, highlighting key points in her storied career. These include massive canvases that showcase her signature trapunto style (a unique combination of painting, quilting, and embroidery that resulted in striking images); underwater landscapes inspired by her diving trips across the Philippines; and several works that were inspired by the culture of the various nations she travelled to. Curated by MCAD director Joselina Cruz and the artist’s London-based nephew Pio Abad, the exhibition takes its title from a 2002 abstract painting titled I Have One Million Things to Say.
The exhibition formally opened last 12 April with an in-conversation discussion between Pio Abad and Jack Garrity, the artist’s husband and current director of the Pacita Abad Art Estate, wherein they spoke of her free spirit, the way she promoted cultural diversity in her work, and the way she defied convention in virtually all aspects of her life.
At a time when cultural and racial diversity have come under attack, Abad’s statement about her work may also apply to humanity in general: we do not have to tick all the boxes, nor do we have to categorise anything or anyone.
Pacita Abad: A Million Things to Say runs until 1 July 2018. For more information about the exhibition and related lectures, visit www.mcadmanila.org.ph.
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