Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fat Women at Ayala Museum

Last Friday night, I braved the rains and traffic in Makati to head over to the Ayala Museum for the opening party of the sculptor Daniel de la Cruz on the third floor. I'd known Daniel since his high school days at La Salle Greenhills and we'd kept in touch in college. After graduation, however, I didn't see him again until some months back at -- coincidentally -- the opening party of another talented young artist, also at the Ayala Museum.

We hadn't been in touch for years, but I'd heard about Daniel's success as an artist via common friends, and had seen an article or two about him in the papers. In fact, I still remember very clearly the first time I saw an article about Daniel in the newspapers. It described him as a talented sculptor with an avid following. I had to re-read the article several times just to determine whether this was indeed the Daniel de la Cruz I knew - Daniel had never really shown an inkling for the arts when we were all growing up. Or perhaps I just hadn't noticed?

Anyway, I was really happy to be in touch with him again after so long -- and when he invited me to his opening, I made sure I cleared my schedule for this momentous event.

Frankly speaking, I went to the Ayala Museum to show my support for him as an old friend. I'd heard he was talented and some friends passionately collected his works -- many of them are priced in the high six-figures, by the way -- and actually engage in a bit of a tussle to get first dibs on his best pieces. But, as an old friend, I would have gone to the exhibit anyway, even if he had just pounded a couple of nails into a tin can and called this art. When you've known the artist for decades, it isn't really about the art but about friendship. You get the picture, don't you?

Wonder and amazement

So I was completely unprepared for the wonder and amazement I experienced upon seeing his fairly large, intricate, intriguing and skillfully made metal sculptures. They were all grouped in one room together, like dancers in motion. And the energy and vitality conveyed by these sculptures of robust and charming women in all sorts of poses just jumped out at me the moment I entered. I was instantly enamoured -- to the point that I was already visualizing having one of his pieces in my foyer.

Botero draws me a postcard

After going through the exhibit, I was reminded of the paintings and sculptures of rotund men and women by the internationally-acclaimed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who'd once exhibited at the Ebisu Garden Place in Tokyo and I'd met Botero himself at the opening party. I'd admired his works ever since I had seen his portrayals of fat people lining the avenues of Madrid one summer some years back. When asked about his penchant for the obese in his works, he is supposed to have said: "An artist is attracted to certain kinds of forms without knowing why." Anyway, coming face to face with him at a cocktail party in Tokyo in his honor, of course I wanted his autograph. I dug into my bag for a postcard and a sign pen and approached the artist with my request.

To my joy, Botero did not just sign his name on the postcard. He drew a dove with a flower and inscribed my name before signing his "work" with a flourish. I still have this postcard.

A positive attitude towards struggle

Crafted by hand and made from mixed metals, Daniel’s sculptures are exhibited under the theme “Precipice,” which he says reflects man’s struggles as he reaches a point in life when he is faced by a wide chasm. But he also stresses that his is a positive stance in the face of utter despair. Daniel explains: “The exhibit takes a careful glimpse at that precarious point—that singular moment in time in our individual lives when we come face-to-face with our own weaknesses and limitations—indeed, our own mortality. We may choose to back away from where we are or go forth and make a leap of faith into the unknown.”

He added, “We may totter and stumble, and indeed, fall, as we face imminent danger. But like metal—the most malleable of all primal materials—we can roll with the punches, take the blows, and emerge from the fall transformed, renewed and rendered more beautifully.”


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