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DACCA DAYS


DACCA DAYS Pacita Abad's Paintings in Bangladesh

by Jack and Kristi Garrity

Cover: Hotel Intercon (detail), 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Nomadic Spirit In Bangladesh Roving Ambassador Refugees and Immigrants Artist Profile



NOMADIC SPIRIT It might seem strange that Pacita Abad (1946-2004) would become a gypsy painter, as she was born on the remote island of Batanes, Philippines, situated strategically at the mouth of the South China Sea between Taiwan and Luzon. Nevertheless, Batanes' ancient forbears were among the first to travel across the Pacific Ocean as far as Hawaii, Easter Island and Polynesia some 5,000 years ago. With this genetic make-up, and the fact that she was born in the town post office, it was not really surprising that during her 32year artistic career, Pacita would end up traveling the globe more than the distance to the moon and back. Austronesia Map (Out of Taiwan Model). Source: The Ancestors by Sylvia Mayuga


Pacita's journeys began in 1969 with a trip from Manila to San Francisco to attend law school. Instead of continuing her studies, in 1973 she and her husband Jack embarked on a 12-month overland hitchhiking journey across Asia, from Turkey to the Philippines. Not long thereafter she decided to forego a full scholarship to the University of California Berkeley’s law school to become a painter. Landing in Istanbul Pacita entered into the cultural richness of the Islamic world. She immediately became enamored with the city’s blue-tiled mosaic mosques, ornate palaces and sumptuous bazaars. She also saw her first shadow puppet performance, which unbeknownst to her would be a precursor to her paintings of Indonesian wayang kulit shadow puppets many years later.


Egyptian mosque, 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas Heading east Pacita traveled for seven wonderful months throughout Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka. These stays had an indelible impact on Pacita and her future artistic career. She particularly loved South Asia and in later years would return to the subcontinent over 20 times.


Women in burkah, 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


She explained her feelings: “I was totally overwhelmed when I went to India, … where every woman I saw was a walking piece of art, covered with colorful fabrics, beads, mirrors, tin jewelry, dyed yarn and multicolored hair ornaments. More than twenty years later, I still wear much of the clothing and jewelry that I bought on that trip. India also had a major impact on my artistic development, as years later many of the Indian elements including embroidery, mirrors, buttons, beads and tie-dying were incorporated into my paintings.” The South Asian impact of Pacita’s journeys can be seen in a range of her figurative, mask and abstract paintings, and the most significant was her incorporation of South Asian textiles, mirrors and buttons, which she sewed onto many of her mixed media painted assemblages. Pacita’s series “The Sky is the Limit” was her homage to Rajasthan, India.


Another South Asian influence can be seen in Pacita’s nearly 20-foot high, mixed media trapunto painting “Marcos and his cronies”, which is based on a Sani exorcism mask that she saw on a trip to Sri Lanka. She immediately identified the evil demon with the corrupt Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and hoped that her painting could exorcise him, his wife and his cronies from the country. In her trapunto painting Pacita portrayed Marcos as a giant demon eating Filipino children as the central figure in her multi-masked artwork. The Marcos demon mask is flanked by 18 masks representing various deadly diseases, which she assigned to Marcos’ main henchmen, military generals, sycophant businessmen and corrupt government officials in his cabinet. Playing on a Dantesque allusion, she had the Marcos demon standing on the head of his notorious wife Imelda, portrayed as a bejeweled demon. Surrounding the masks Pacita painted thousands of dots to represent the Filipinos who were harmed by the oppressive regime.


Marcos and his cronies. Collection of Singapore Art Museum


Pacita did not just work in South Asia, however, as over her 32-year career she incessantly traveled and painted throughout the rural and urban areas of Southeast Asia, Oceana, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean Basin, as well as in the US and Europe. She was particularly drawn to tribal cultures and the creative artistic traditions she encountered in less traveled regions of the world. These experiences significantly impacted her life and were the inspiration for many of the ideas, techniques and materials that she later incorporated in her paintings. Her journeys were also tremendous cross-cultural learning experiences that made her acutely aware of the difficult lives that most people lead, especially women, who she saw subjected to pervasive discrimination, violence and sexual exploitation in country after country. Thus, as a socially concerned artist, Pacita’s early socio-political paintings focused on the urban poor, displaced people, political violence, refugees and immigrants in the countries where she worked. Pacita’s journey as an early transnational painter took a markedly different path than most artists, for instead of heading towards the world’s major art centers of New York, London and Berlin, she went off the art world's beaten track and headed to far off countries like Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Mali, Yemen and the Dominican Republic among others, and she loved it. When once asked about why she was drawn to such remote places, she laughingly responded that she would rather be in Port au Prince than Paris, because there was so much more native tradition, color and creativity in such places, and her paintings embraced this perspective.


Turkana women, 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas



IN BANGLADESH

Dacca

A few years after her Asian overland journey and just after taking art courses in Washington and New York, Pacita was excited to return to South Asia when Jack got a job as an economist improving rural roads in Bangladesh. Her arrival in Dacca (now Dhaka) in 1978 was truly the starting point for Pacita’s peripatetic painting career. Pacita was perhaps the first foreign painter to come to live in the newly independent Bangladesh when she and Jack took up residence in Dacca near the edge of Dhanmondi Lake. It was certainly a dramatic shift from living in a studio next to the Chelsea Hotel in New York and painting at the Art Students League. Pacita's fellow New York artists, some of whom had attended “The Concert for Bangladesh" in 1971, were aghast at her move away from the “epicenter of the art world” and doubted it would benefit her art career. All they knew of Bangladesh was that it was one of the poorest, highly populated countries in the world, ravaged by political violence, cyclones, floods and famine. After all, even Henry Kissinger had declared the country to be the "basket case" of South Asia. Based on her earlier South Asian travels, however, Pacita knew better and just smiled at people’s overblown concerns. Opposite: Hotel Intercon (detail), 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


On arrival in Dacca Pacita quickly set up a studio in her home and at first was not sure what she would paint. She had been drawing nude models at art school in New York, so she thought she would continue this in Dacca. Pacita then went to the nearby Shilpakala Academy where she met artist and its director Syed Jahangir, who gave her the contact of Bidana, the school’s model. He also introduced her to the work of a number of Bangladeshi artists, and two in particular had a big impact on Pacita’s work. The first was the legendary Zainul Abedin, whose powerful paintings of Bengal famines inspired her. The second was Surayia Rahman, who introduced Pacita to the Bengali stitched art of kantha, which influenced her mixed-media trapunto paintings. Termina, 1978 (49 x 35 in)

Oil on canvas


Pacita soon arranged for Bidana to come to her studio three times a week for painting sessions. That went well for a few weeks until she realized that for cultural and religious reasons Bidana could only pose fully clothed. Pacita then decided to start drawing scenes around her house and garden. Bidana with fruits, 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Syd Rose’s garden, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


House in Dhanmondi, 1978 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


However, it was not long before Pacita determined that she had to go outside and travel on the streets to depict life in Dacca. There was not too much motorized traffic in those days and the majority of people traveled by bicycle rickshaw, which she loved. Soon she was taking her sketch pad and boldly riding on rickshaws all around the city. She particularly enjoyed heading down through the bustling alleys in Old Dacca seeing the colorful market activities and all the boats along Sadarghat down by the busy Buriganga River. It was in this way that Pacita began to see Dacca with new eyes. She was exhilarated by her daily trips and would anxiously return to her studio to capture scenes that she had sketched in the morning. Richshaw driver, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


Moslem wedding, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


Old Dacca, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas



Destitude mother of twins (detail), 1978 (36 x 30 in) Ink, oil pastel on paper


The dumpster, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


Rayar Bazaar, 1978 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Country Travels Urban life in Dacca is quite different than life outside the metropolitan area and Pacita was anxious to experience rural Bangladesh at first hand. Pacita was very fortunate, as during their year in Bangladesh she went to almost every part of the country including: Khulna, Sylhet, Rangpur, Faridpur, Chittagong, Rangamati, Cox’s Bazar and even Teknaf.


Women bathing In Sadarghat, 1978 (48 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Jack’s job required him to travel around the country and Pacita was excited to be able to travel with him. He would usually drop Pacita off at a nearby village and then pick her up later in the day. It was never hard to find her, as she would always be encircled by a large crowd of children and adults, entertained by her painting someone from the village. On one of Pacita's first trips was on a river boat euphemistically nicknamed the “Rocket”. This slow-moving paddle steamer traveled on a 350 kilometer journey from Dacca to the southern delta city of Khulna. Along the way, the boat joined two of Bangladesh’s major rivers, the Meghna and the Padma (Ganges), and stopped at a number of river towns as it slowly wound its way through Bangladesh’s verdant paddy fields and lush wetlands. Pacita was mesmerized by the journey as it opened her eyes to the colorful life of riverine Bangladesh. She sketched constantly during the trip and when she later returned to her studio, created her largest painting “In Bangladesh”, a composite of scenes she saw along the country’s rivers.


In Bangladesh, 1979 (47 x 118 in) Oil on canvas



Hindu temple In Faridpur, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


On the road to Narayanganj, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


Fetching water, 1979 (16 x 12 in) Oil pastel on paper


Bridge at Narayanganj, 1978 (35 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Woman washing her hair, 1978 (33 x 26 in) Oil pastel, charcoal on paper


Travel by car was always challenging given the mix of trucks, buses and animal transport on the narrow roads, as well as the numerous rivers that would have to be crossed by irregular ferries. During frequent transport delays, Pacita would just take out her sketchbook and draw. She also brought along a small Polaroid camera and would typically take a photo while sketching someone. When she offered the person the opportunity to take the photo or her sketch, all but one person took the photo. Her favorite place to visit was Sylhet, which is located in the hilly northeast section of Bangladesh. The city is situated on the banks of the Surma River and is surrounded by lush highland terrain which supports the region’s large tea plantations. Pacita stayed at the region’s Circuit House, located adjacent to the river and directly in front of the Keane Bridge, a 1936 iron and steel structure, which was the gateway to the city. When Jack went off to work, she painted the never-ending stream of people, rickshaws, trucks and buses crossing the busy bridge. Pacita then painted the Circuit House and its overgrown grounds, as well as the adjacent Dak Bungalow. She also spent a few days on a hilly tea plantation and was pleased to find that all of the tea pickers were women, who were very happy to pose for her sketches.


Circuit house in Sylhet, 1978 (24 x 30 in) Watercolor on paper


Dak bungalow in Sylhet, 1978 (30 x 20 in) Watercolor on paper


Surma bridge (study), 1978 (26 x 33 in) Watercolor on paper


Tea Pickers in Sylhet, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


Over the year Pacita continued to visit various areas of the country and was always surprised to notice the differences in landscape and regional characteristics. She always found the environment to be hospitable and most people, especially the women, welcomed her requests to sketch and paint. As a result, she continued to paint scenes of daily life of women, fetching water, sitting in the park, washing or combing their hair, as well as school girls. In fact, one woman in Rangpur named Resmy stopped Pacita and insisted that she be painted. Another man, Ibrahim, who was begging by the road was overjoyed that Pacita chose to paint him. She painted so much during one of her country travels that she ran out of paper and had to improvise, creating a couple of paintings on newspaper pages. Pacita also had the opportunity to cross over the border to Calcutta, where she was delighted to see the paintings of Rabindranath Tagore, as well as the colorful Durga Puja celebrations. Jaintapur, 1978 (20 x 30 in) Ink on paper


Resmy in Rangpur, 1978 (33 x 26 in) Acrylic, charcoal on paper


Durga puja, 1979 (49 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Women combing her hair, 1978 (24 x 18 in) Oil pastel on paper


Ibrahim of Jaintapur, 1978 (16 x 12 in) Oil pastel on paper


Three women, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


Two sisters, 1978 (31 x 39 in) Oil pastel on paper


Soraya daydreaming, 1978 (28 x 20 in) Oil pastel on paper


Matiah-Before, 1978 (24 x 10 in) Watercolor on paper


Pacita’s trip to the southeastern part of the country was also eventful, as she had a chance to see Bangladesh’s main seaport of Chittagong and the hill station of Rangamati in the nearby Chittagong Hill Tracts. The latter spot was of particular interest because she wanted to meet the Chakma people, as throughout her travels around Bangladesh people would shout “Chakma!” at her as she passed. Pacita inquired about the Chakma and was told that they were the Burman tribal people living in the foothills along the Indian border. When she finally went to Rangamati, she was pleased to find that many of the Chakma had similar features to her native Ivatans from Batanes, and that their textiles and jewelry reminded her of those worn by to the tribes in Bontoc and Mindanao in the Philippines. Shamsee & Ronjo Bebe, 1981 (14 x 10 in) Ink on paper


Chakma, 1978 (30 x 18 in) Oil on canvas


Mosque in Chittagong, 1978 (35 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


In December 1978, Pacita celebrated the Christmas holidays with a group of friends at Cox’s Bazar, and on Jack’s birthday she surprised him with the painting, “Birthday greeting in Bengali”. Birthday greeting in Bengali, 1979 (22 x 26 in) Oil on canvas


They stayed in one of the few guest houses, and the room had a nice balcony overlooking the sandy beach. There, Pacita set up a table so she could paint. It was an idyllic scene and she decided to paint a large fish which they had bought from a local fisherman. The fish was for dinner but Pacita wanted to paint it before it was cooked. She put it on the balcony table. Within a minute a large black crow swooped down and grabbed the fish by the tail and struggled with Pacita who held the head. Pacita won the battle but was left cursing the crows as they continued to buzz her fish. Upon her return to Dacca there was an editorial in the Bangladesh Times aptly titled “The odious crow” and Pacita seized upon the inspiration to create a new painting. Sunset at Cox’s Bazaar, 1978 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


The odious crow, 1979 (35 x 49 in) Oil on canvas


While in Cox’s Bazar Pacita met a few journalists who were going down to Teknaf to report on the situation in the Rohingya refugee camps. These had hastily been set up to handle the influx of approximately 250,000 persecuted and displaced Moslem refugees fleeing across the border from Burma. Pacita and Jack asked to join the trip and the reporters agreed to take them along on the 60 kilometer trip to camps. On their arrival Pacita was shocked to see the primitive and unsanitary temporary shelters where the emaciated refugees were huddled. Unfortunately, relations between the Bangladesh government and international aid agencies were both uncoordinated and severely strained, which contributed to the fact that thousands of Rohingya refugees were dying in the camps. Pacita was stunned by the tragic conditions of the Rohingya but could not think of how to help beyond donating some money. The influx of refugees was to be a prelude to the even larger Rohingya refugee crisis 40 years later in 2017 that remains unresolved.



ROVING AMBASSADOR Before she left Dacca, Pacita held an exhibition at her studio/home in Dhanmondi, showing over 40 canvas and paper paintings that she did on the streets, villages and rivers of Bangladesh. She was pleased that the exhibit was well attended and received some coverage in the local press.


A few months earlier when she had returned to Manila for her father’s funeral, everyone asked her why she was living in Bangladesh. So Pacita decided to bring her paintings to the Philippines for an exhibition in Manila. She wanted to show people how beautiful Bangladesh was. The exhibition was held in a Manila gallery in 1979, and without realizing it, Pacita became an unofficial art ambassador for Bangladesh. In 1981 Pacita


again exhibited her Bangladesh paintings to the students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts. A few years later Syed Jahangir visited Pacita in Manila and she gave him an artwork to be included in the 1985 Asian Art Biennale in Dhaka, which was then added to the collection of the National Art Gallery in Shilpakala Academy. Some of the Bangladesh paintings are now on loan and hanging in the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC. Even after her death Pacita’s paintings are still helping to promote Bangldesh, as “Do not go” was used in an Asia Society report, and most recently the Bangladesh Embassy’s “Colors of Bangladesh” exhibit in Manila in 2017 was dedicated to Pacita.


Alone (detail), 1980 (50 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS

Refugees of Cambodia

After her year-long stay painting in Bangladesh, Pacita was excited to continue her artistic journey when they relocated to Bangkok in 1979. She was loking forward to painting the country’s lush scenery, exotic temples and rural Thai villages. However, the shocking visit to the Rohingya refugee camps had left an indelible impact on Pacita. Thus, later in the year when an even larger refugee emergency occurred in Thailand, Pacita felt that as an artist it was impossible to isolate herself from the war torn crisis affecting millions of Cambodians.

“I have always believed that an artist has a special obligation to remind society of its social responsibility.” This motivated her to visit the border camps along the Cambodian border and document the plight of the refugee’s with her paintbrush. During her visits to the camps she witnessed many examples of misery and desperation, but she also saw the great sense of relief the refugees experienced when they finally crossed the border to safety.


Flight to freedom, 1980 (84 x 180 in) Acrylic, oil on canvas



Watching and waiting, 1979 (35 x 50 in) Oil on canvas


Water of life, 1980 (35 x 50 in) Oil on canvas


What’s the matter, can’t you help my mother? 1980 (50 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Daily ration, 1980 (50 x 35 in) Oil on canvas


Immigrant Experience Because of her extensive work abroad, when Pacita finally returned to Washington, DC in 1986 she was much more aware that, in addition to the historic African-American community, there were many more ethnic cultures thriving in the city than ever before. She observed that there were numerous Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian and Mexican eateries, churches, temples and mosques filled with Spanish speaking worshipers, Asian Bhuddist followers and Middle Eastern Moslem devotees. Walking down the street she encountered Korean grocery stores, Vietnamese nail shops, Indianowned motels, Afghan rug merchants, Libyan locksmiths, Nigerian and Pakistani taxi drivers, along with construction workers from Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, among others. Wherever she went around in the greater Washington area Pacita met people of color from various countries and socio-economic backgrounds. When she gave art workshops at schools around Washington, it seemed like the “United Nations�, with kids in class representing numerous developing countries. One teacher once told Pacita that she had students from 14 different countries in her class. It was at that point that Pacita realized that she wanted her paintings to say something about the issue of immigration. She had personally experienced firsthand the academic and economic benefits, as well as the constant barbs of racial discrimination and government hassles, both as an Asian-American, woman of color living in the United States, and also while residing abroad in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Over the course of her travels she had also met hundreds of people who had their own unique immigration problems and stories. Moreover, Pacita personally experienced the realities of long waits in the US embassy lines, skeptical consular officers, uncertain visa approvals and even worse, the intimidating immigration officials at the airport, who had the arbitrary authority to send people back on the next plane.


Pacita certainly had more than her share of unpleasant immigration encounters. She had a frightening experience in France in 1975, when she was caught without her passport by gendarmes during a metro station round-up, along with 30 unfortunate Senegalese, Malian, Algerian and Moroccan migrants. She was then herded into a police van and held overnight in a crowded Paris jail, just because she was a dark skinned foreigner who could not produce her passport, which ironically was being held at the US Embassy for a visa renewal. Yes, Pacita felt that she definitely had something to say about migration issues, and decided that her paintings might give people a better understanding of the complexities of the global migration experience. In 1984 she also had the terrifying experience of being unjustly accused as an illegal resident immigrant when her international flight landed in Hawaii. She was handcuffed by US Immigration officials in front of a plane full of passengers, and then guarded by a marshall on the flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Upon landing she and another Asian woman were detained in a unknown guarded apartment somewhere in Oakland at two o’clock in the morning. They were traumatized, hungry and scared, and only because Pacita happened to have a friend who worked in a large San Francisco law firm were they released the next day. In 1994 when Pacita finished painting her large mixed media series, titled the “American Dream”, she exhibited them at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. This series of paintings basically marked the end of Pacita’s 15-year focus on political, social realism artwork. This journey had begun in 1978 with her initial paintings in Bangladesh, and continued with paintings of Cambodia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and culminatied with her mixed-media, trapuntoed immigration portraits.


Haitians waiting at Guantanamo Bay, 1994 (94 x 69 in) Oil, painted cloth, buttons and beads on stitched and padded canvas


Caught at the border, 1991 (98 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil, mirrors, sequins on stitched and padded canvas


Mixed marriage: Mike and Jeeva, 1993 (104 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil, cloth, sequins, lace, shells, beads, gold thread, cotton yarn, mirrors, rhinestones on stitched and padded canvas


How Mali lost her accent, 1991 (94 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil on stitched and padded canvas


If my friends could see me now, 1991 (94 x 68 in) Acrylic, painted canvas, gold yarn on stitched and padded canvas


L.A. Liberty, 1992 (94 x 58 in) Acrylic, cotton yarn, plastic buttons, mirrors, gold thread, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas



ARTIST PROFILE The internationally known Philippine-American painter Pacita Abad (19462004) was born on Batanes, a small island in the South China Sea. Her 32-year painting career began when she had to leave the Philippines in 1969 due to her student political activism against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, and traveled to the United States to study law. However, a few years after receiving a Master of Arts degree in Asian History from the University of San Francisco she switched careers to dedicate her life to art. She then studied painting at the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC. and The Art Students League in New York City. Since that time Pacita never stopped being a gypsy artist and painted the globe while working on six different continents and traveling to more than 50 countries. During her career Pacita created over 5,000 artworks and her paintings were exhibited in more than 200 museums and galleries around the world. Pacita’s travels significantly impacted her life and artistic style and were the inspiration for many of the ideas, techniques and materials that she incorporated in her paintings. Her journeys were also a tremendous crosscultural learning experience that made her acutely aware of the difficult lives that most women lead around the globe. They also heightened her sensitivity to the severe political, social, economic and environmental challenges she encountered across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Not surprisingly, as a socially concerned artist Pacita’s early socio-political paintings were of urban poor, displaced people, political violence, refugees


and immigrants in countries where she worked such as Bangladesh, Sudan, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the US. After her early social realism paintings, Pacita rejected the painterly emphasis on surface flatness, and sought ways to expand her painted canvases and make her work more sculptural. With the help of her sewing skills Pacita developed a unique, innovative painting style which she called trapunto painting, that fused her painted surfaces collaged with hand-stitched traditional materials, buttons, sequins, shells, mirrors and other found objects to blend with her signature strong colors. Her first series using this technique she called “Masks and Spirits” drawing on her travel experiences. Pacita created over 50 large, vibrantly colored, hand stitched and embellished trapunto paintings depicting masks and spirits from New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Africa and the Americas. Her next artistic plunge was literally underwater, as Pacita created very large and colorful trapunto painting series based on her deep-sea scuba diving experiences throughout the Philippines. Inspired by nature’s beauty she simultaneously worked on a extensive series of flora and fauna paintings from the Australian Outback and Asia’s tropical gardens. Throughout her career her work was characterized by color, constant change and experimentation. Her most comprehensive and extensive body of work, which she focused on during the second half of her career are vibrantly colorful abstract, mixed media painted textile collages and assemblages inspired by her stays in Indonesia, Singapore, India and Yemen. Many are very large canvases, but also a number of small collages on a range of surfaces, as she continuously explored new mediums, techniques and materials including prints, paper, bark cloth, glass ceramic, steel and other mediums. Pacita also created a number of noteworthy public art installations such as her six-piece, Masks from Six Continents, in the main Washington, DC Metro Station; batik canvas collage titled Celebration and Joy installed at the Singapore Expo; large hand-stitched Zamboanga wedding tent adorned with native textiles called 100 Years Of Freedom: from Batanes to Jolo to celebrate


the Philippine Centennial; and just before she died the 55-meter long Singapore Art Bridge which she covered with over 2,000 colorful circles while undergoing treatment for cancer. Pacita's paintings were featured in solo exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong; Museum of Philippine Art and the Metropolitan Museum in Manila; Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art, Bangkok, Thailand; Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic; Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke; National Center of AfroAmerican Artists, Boston; National Museum and the National Gallery of Art, Jakarta, Indonesia and the Hadeland Museum in Norway, among others. Pacita's work also appeared in numerous group exhibitions including: Beyond the Border: Art by Recent Immigrants, Bronx Museum; Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art, Asia Society, New York; Olympiad of Art (in conjunction with the 24th Olympics), National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea; 2nd Asian Art Show, Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan; La Bienal de la Habana, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Habana, Cuba; Art for Africa, traveling exhibition to Oslo, Cologne, Algiers, London and Rome; UNESCO: 40 Years, 40 Countries, 40 Artists, traveling exhibition to 15 museums around the world; Filipino Artists Abroad, Metropolitan Museum of Manila; and At Home and Abroad: 21 Contemporary Filipino Artists, traveling exhibition to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston among others. Pacita’s paintings are now held in museum, public, corporate and private art collections in over 70 countries, and are regularly included in auctions by international auction houses. Among the museums that have collected Pacita’s paintings are: the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan, Singapore Art Museum in Singapore, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, National Museum of the Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Museum Nasional of Indonesia, Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, Bronx Museum in New York and Zimmerli Art Museum in New Jersey.


Biodata Born: Batanes, Philippines, October 5, 1946 Died: Singapore, December 7, 2004 Studied at: Art Students League of New York, NY, 1977 Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC 1975 University of San Francisco, M.A. 1972 University of the Philippines, B.A. 1968 SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS Pacita held over 40 solo exhibitions at museums and galleries in Asia, the U.S., Europe, Africa and Latin America 2006 “Pacita: Through the Looking Glass”, Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay, Singapore 2005 “A Passion to Paint”, The World Bank Galleries, Washington, DC “A Special Tribute to Pacita Abad - A Philippine-American Artist”, School of Economics, Singapore Management University, Singapore 2004 “Circles in My Mind”, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila, curated by Prof. Rubén Defeo of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts (catalogue) “Genomic Medicine and Population Health”, Artist-in-Residence with GENOME Institute of Singapore 2004 “Pacita’s Painted Bridge”, Robertson Quay, Singapore (catalogue) “Circles in My Mind”, AndrewShire Gallery, Los Angeles, California (catalogue)


2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998

“Batik Dinnerware Collection”, Senayan Cafe, Jakarta “Circles in My Mind”, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore (catalogue) “Endless Blues”, Hadeland Museum, Hadeland, Norway (catalogue) “Endless Blues”, Galleri Stockgard, Siuntio, Finland (catalogue) “Endless Blues”, Artfolio Gallery, Singapore (catalogue) "The Sky is the Limit”, Pulitzer Art Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands (catalogue) "The Sky is the Limit”, Gallery Stockgard, Siuntio, Finland (catalogue) "The Sky is the Limit”, Artfolio Gallery, Singapore (catalogue) "The Sky is the Limit”, Finale Art Gallery and SM Art Center Manila, Philippines (catalogue) “Palay” Montclair State University Art Galleries, New Jersey (catalogue) “Wayang Dinnerware Collection”, Koi Gallery, Jakarta (catalogue) “Door To Life”, Artfolio Gallery, Singapore (catalogue) “Door To Life”, Luz Gallery, Manila (catalogue) “Door To Life”, Bomani Gallery, San Francisco (catalogue) “Door To Life”, Gibson Creative, Washington, DC (catalogue) “Abstract Emotions”, National Museum, Jakarta (catalogue)


1998 1996 1995 1994 1994 1993 1992 1991 1989 1988 1986

“Abstract Emotions”, Hiraya Gallery, Manila (small works) “Exploring the Spirit”, National Gallery of Indonesia (catalogue) “Thinking Big”, curated by Cora Alvina, Metropolitan Museum of Manila “Postcards from the Edge”, Galleria Duemila, Manila “Twenty-four Flowers”, Liongoren Art Gallery, Makati, Philippines “Wayang, Irian and Sumba”, National Museum, Jakarta (catalogue) “The American Dream”, curated by Angela Adams National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (brochure) “Assaulting the Deep Sea”, curated by Mark Scala Art Museum of Western Virginia (brochure) “Assaulting the Deep Sea”, curated by Deborah McLeod Peninsula Fine Arts, Norfolk, Virginia (brochure) “Flower Paintings”, Philippine Center, New York, NY ”Abstract Emotions”, Philippine Center, New York, NY “Wild At Art”, Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines “Trapunto Paintings”, Franz Bader Gallery, Washington, DC “Asian Abstractions”, Fables Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts “Oriental Abstractions”, curated by Michael Chen Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong (catalogue)


1986 1985 1984 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977

"Assaulting the Deep Sea", Underwater installation at Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines “Batanes – Landscape and People”, curated by Ray Albano Cultural Center of the Philippines “A Painter Looks at the World”, curated by Arturo Luz Museum of Philippine Art (catalogue) “Scenes From the Upper Nile”, curated by Harriet Kennedy Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, Massachusetts “Portraits of Cambodia”, curated by Amy Lighthill Boston University Art Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts (catalogue) “Streets of Santo Domingo”, curated by Isabel Caceres de De Castro Altos De Chavon, La Romana, Dominican Republic (catalogue) “Portraits of Cambodia”, curated by Daeng Chatvichai Promadhathavedi Bhirasri, Institute of Modern Art, Bangkok, Thailand “Recent Paintings of the Sudan”, curated by Abdullah Shibrain Exhibition Hall, Khartoum, Sudan “Paintings of Bangladesh”, Dhaka, Bangladesh “Recent Paintings”, 15th Street Studio, Washington, DC


SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS Pacita participated in more than 50 group and traveling exhibitions throughout the world. 2012 “BEAT” Exhibit, Lopez Memorial Museum Library, Pasig City, Philippines 2008 “The Sum of its Parts”, Lopez Memorial Museum Library, Pasig City, Philippines 2007 “The Big Picture Show“, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore 2006 “The Shape That Is“, Jendela Gallery, The Esplanade, Singapore 2004 "Crossings: Philippine Works from the Singapore Art Museum ", Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines 2004 “Global Entrepolis” by Singapore's Economic Development Board at Suntec City Singapore, Singapore “SingArt - A Brush With Lions”, Raffles Hotel, Singapore “TOYM Art Exhibit", Manila, Philippines (catalogue) 2003 “The Third Asia Women Art Exhibition”, Seoul, Korea “Seoul International Women’s Art Fair”, Seoul, Korea "Brown Strokes on a White Canvas, 2003" Eight Filipino-American Artists at George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia and Harmony Hall, Fort Washington, Maryland “Philippine Exhibit”, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC


2002 2001 2001 2000 1999

"Sino-Filipino Contemporary Art", Asia World Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan (catalogue) “Spirited Faces: Painting in the Woman”, Gallerie Belvedere, Singapore “Singapore Art Fair 2002, “Suntec City, Singapore “Sky is the Limit installation”, curated by Valentine Willy The Esplanade, Singapore (catalogue) “Brown Strokes on a White Canvas”, World Bank Gallery and Foundry Gallery, Washington, DC “The Studio Portrait, A collaborative project by Carol Sun”, Bronx Museum, New York, NY “Mask: The Other Face of Humanity”, Sonobudoyo Museum Yogyakarta, Indonesia “Conversations with the Permanent Collection”, Bronx Museum, New York, NY "ARTSingapore 2000”, First Contemporary Southeast Asian Festival, MITA, Singapore “Luna: comic drama and art to wear”, directed by Gilda Cordero Fernando, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila ”Handmade: Shifting Paradigms”, curated by Tay Swee Lin, Singapore Art Museum (catalogue) "Women Beyond Borders”, a traveling exhibit organized by Lorraine Serena, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Southern California, Akino Fuku Museum, Japan, Tin Sheds Gallery University of Sydney,


Australia; Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Sydney; Gallery Saigon, Vietnam; Gallery One, Tokyo, Japan 1999 1998 1997

"Global Woman Project 1999-2000”, curated by Claudia De Monte, traveling exhibit in the United States "Histories (Re)membered: Selections from the Permanent Collection”, Paine Webber Art Gallery, New York, NY "V'spartio (Very Special Arts)", Artfolio, Singapore and Osaka, Japan "At Home and Abroad: 21 Contemporary Filipino Artists”, traveling exhibition to Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Metropolitan Museum of Manila (Catalogue) “Woman”, Institute of Contemporary Art (PS.1), New York, NY “Bayan”, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Philippines “The Gallery Artists, Part 2”, Brix Gallery, Manila, Philippines “New Asian Art”, Hong Kong Visual Arts Center, Hong Kong “World Batik Exhibition”, Ardiyanto Gallery, Yogyakarta, Indonesia “Filipino Artists Abroad”, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Philippines “National Craft Acquisition Award”, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia “Talk Back! The Community Responds to the Permanent Collection”, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, New York, NY


1997 1996 1996

1995

“8th International Biennal Print and Drawing Exhibit”, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (catalogue) “Book Art IV”, Luz Gallery, Makati, Philippines ”7th International Biennal Print and Drawing Exhibit”, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (catalogue) ”National Craft Acquisition Award”, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia “Memories of Overdevelopment: Philippine Diaspora in Contemporary Visual Art”, curated by Yong Soon Min and Alan de Souza, traveling exhibit to University of California Art Galleries, North Dakota Art Museum; Plug-In Gallery, Canada “Looking at Ourselves: The American Portrait”, curated by Laura Vookles, Hudson River Museum of Westchester in New York (brochure) “Eight Paths to a Journey: Cultural Identity and the Immigration Experience”, curated by Mel Watkin, Ellipse Gallery, Arlington, Virginia “Defining Ourselves”, curated by Anna Fariello, Radford University Galleries, Radford, Virginia “Contemporary Art of the Non-Aligned Countries”, curated by G. Sheikh T.K. Sabapathy, A. Poshyananda and Jim Supangkat, National Gallery of Indonesia (catalogue) “AKO, Filipino Self Portraits”, curated by Cora Alvina, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Philippines


1995 1993 1993

1992

“disOriented: Shifting Identities of Asian Women in America”, curated by Margo Machida Steinbaum Krauss Gallery and Henry Street Settlement Abrams Art Center, New York, NY “Beyond the Border: Art by Recent Immigrants”, curated by Betti Sue Hertz, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (catalogue) “Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art”, curated by Margo Machida and organized by the Asia Society Galleries, NY - traveling to the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts, Hawaii; Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena, San Francisco MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts and Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Texas (catalogue) “TOUCH, Beyond the Visual”, curated by Angela Adams and Paula Owen - a traveling exhibitions organized by the Hand Workshop, Richmond, Virginia to include Sawtooth Center for the Visual Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, Danville, Virginia; Piedmont Arts Association, Martinsville, Virginia (catalogue) “Women’s Spirit with Pacita Abad, Hung Liu, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Howardena Pindell, Joyce Scott”, Bomani Gallery, San Francisco, California “Washington Project for the Arts at the Hemicycle”, curated by Marilyn Zeitlin Alan Prokop, Judy Jashinsky and Sammy Hoi, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC “Crossing Over/Changing Places”, curated by Jane Farmer, sponsored by USIA, a traveling exhibit in the United States and Europe including Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Helsinki City Art Kunstmuseum, Denmark; National Gallery of Art, Athens; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (catalogue)


1991 1991 1990 1988 1986 1984

”Fiber: The State of the Art”, curated by Rebecca Stevens, Meyerhoff Gallery, Maryland Institute and College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland “Nine Paths to a Journey: The Immigrant Experience”, curated by Mel Watkin Ellipse Gallery, Arlington, Virginia (brochure) “Day of the Dead”, curated by Geno Rodriguez, Alternative Museum, New York, NY (brochure) “Art for Africa”, curated by Andre Parinaud, traveling exhibition to museums in Paris, Oslo, Cologne, Algiers, London and Rome ”Olympiad of Art”, curated by Ante Glibota, Pierre Restany, Thomas Messer and Uske Nakahara, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (catalogue) “La Bienal de la Habana”, Museo Nacional de Belles Artes, Habana, Cuba (catalogue) “UNESCO: 40 Years, 40 Countries, 40 Artists”, curated by Andre Parinaud traveling exhibit in museums of 40 member countries (catalogue) “First International Print Bienale”, curated by Huang Tsai-lang, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (catalogue) “Asian Art Biennale”, curated by Syed Jahangir, National Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh (catalogue) “Second Asian Art Show” curated by Nonon Padilla, Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan (catalogue) “Three Faces in Philippine Art”, curated by Rod Paras Perez, BMW Gallery, Munich, Germany (catalogue)


1984

“Sino-Filipino Modern Art”, Asia World Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan “Association of South East Asian Countries”, curated by Rod Paras Perez, a traveling exhibition to museums in South East Asian countries

COSTUME DESIGNS Pacita was involved as a costume designer for a number of collaborative Asian theater groups • “Luna: Comic Drama and Art to Wear”, theater extravaganza for the New Millennium with an all star cast of Filipino artists, models and performers produced by Gilda Cordero Fernando and directed by Manny Chaves, Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2000 • “Long After Love”, Pacific Bridge Theater, Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian, 1992 • “Folktales of Lola Ita”, sponsored by Amauan, Applecore Theater, New York, NY 1988 WORKSHOPS AND LECTURES Pacita constantly gave workshops and artist talks to children, women and students across the world during her 32-year artistic career. 2004 “Painting the Globe” Artist Talk, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore "ArtSingapore 2004: Asian Contemporary Art, Where Are We Going From Here?" Artist Talk, Suntec City, Singapore "Paper Pulp and Print" Workshop for Globe Quest guest, in conjunction to the "Circles in My Mind" exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila


2004 2003 2002 2001

"Paper Pulp and Print" Workshop for Singapore Airlines guest, in conjunction to the "Circles in My Mind" exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila "Make-A-Wish Workshop" with Klein, a 9-year old PhilippineSingaporean boy who suffers from cancer “Collage Painting” Workshop, Tanglin Trust School, Singapore “Finns in Singapore Trapunto Painting” Workshop, Singapore “Contemporary Trends of Philippine Art Overseas”, talk given to docents at Singapore Art Museum “Trapunto Painting” Workshop, given to Scandinavian community in Singapore ”Trapunto painting”, Asian Civilization Museum Singapore “Collage Painting” Workshop, Tanglin Trust School, Singapore “Collage Painting” Workshop, Singapore Art Museum “Asian Contemporary Art”, Artist Talk, Singapore Art Museum “The Philippines: Prospects in Business and the Arts”, sponsored by Philippine Cultural Society at Hilton Hotel, Singapore “Trapunto Painting” Workshops given to members of Singapore Art Museum, Tanglin Trust students, talk and slide presentation given to American Club members in Singapore “The 9/11 Phoenix Project”, a collaborative Trapunto Workshop at the Southwest School of Arts and Crafts that created a three muralinstallation with local artists from San Antonio, Texas


2000 1999 1998 1996 1995 1994

1993

"Wayang Influences on Art”, lecture given to Indonesian Heritage Society, Jakarta, Indonesia Trapunto Painting workshops at the Tanglin Trust School, Singapore; Metropolitan Museum of Manila Artist Talk, Singapore Art Museum and LaSalle College of Art, Singapore Artist Talk, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Trapunto Painting Workshop, University of the Philippines and Metropolitan Museum of Manila Trapunto Painting Workshop, National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta Trapunto Painting Workshop, Metropolitan Museum of Manila and British School in Jakarta, Indonesia "Artist + Community”, trapunto painting workshop given to schools in Maryland and Washington, DC (Savoy Elementary School, Thompson Elementary School, Oyster Bilingual School, Mabuhay Group) sponsored by the National Museum for Women in the Arts "Exploring America's Cultures: Asian American Art & Culture”, Columbia University Teacher's College, New York, NY "Cultural Identity: Evaluating Otherness”, Crafts and Ethics Symposium, Sawtooth Center for Visual Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina Textile Museum mask-making workshop for Oyster Bilingual Elementary School students, Washington, DC


1993

1992 1991 1991 1989

"Light in the Labyrinth”, painting workshop with patients with Alzheimer's to sharpen their remaining abilities, help maintain mind and motor skills and encourage independence, work with the Meridian Healthcare's FOCUS program “Potomac Craftsmen”, lecture on trapunto paintings, Washington, D.C Asian-American Pacific Heritage Council Conference, "Impact of Arts, Culture and Media on the Politics and Economics of Asian Pacific”, panel, Arlington, Virginia Philippine Arts, Letters and Media, Washington, DC trapunto painting workshop Pyramid Atlantic, "Asian Festival”, mural workshop for Asian children University of the Philippines, Trapunto Painting Workshop University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Art To Wear workshop Textile Museum, Washington, DC "Celebration of Textiles”, workshop George Washington University, Dimock Gallery in relation to the show, "Temples of Gold, Crowns of Silver”, lecture Art In Public Places, MetroArt II, Washington DC, Artist Talk MetroArt in Washington, Washington, DC, Artist Talk Imagination Celebration-Kennedy Center Mural Workshop New York State Council on the Arts, Lincoln Community Center, New York, NY, Trapunto Painting Workshop for Amauan members


1988 1986

1979

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, taught two, three-month courses on trapunto painting Lectures given to students at schools and universities: Boston University; University of Massachusetts; College of Arts, Sudan; Dhaka College of Fine Arts in Bangladesh; public schools and colleges in Metropolitan Manila Lectures given to museums and other organizations: Shilpakala Academy of Fine Arts, Bangladesh; Bhirasri Museum of Modern Art, Thailand; Museum of Philippine Art; Cultural Center of the Philippines; Ayala Museum; World Affairs Council of Northern California; Jaycees and Rotary Clubs in the Philippines; and various women's organizations

AWARDS, GRANTS / FELLOWSHIPS Pacita received many awards, fellowships and artist residencies during her career • ALIWW “Parangal” Ateneo University, Manila, Philippines • GENOME Institute of Singapore, Singapore, artist-in-residence, 2004 • Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre, Marnay, France, artist-in-residence, 2003 • Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore, artist-in-residence, Visiting Artists Program, 2003 • Southwest School of Art and Craft, San Antonio, Texas, artist-in-residence, 2001 • Montclair State University, New Jersey, artist-in-residence, 2001 • Lindshammar, Sweden, Glass painting, Indra technique, artist-in-residence, 2001 • PAMANA NG PILIPINO Award for outstanding achievement in the arts, given by the President of the Philippines, Manila, 2000


• "Filipina Firsts”, a compendium of 100 Filipino women who have broken ground in their fields of endeavor organized by the Philippine American Foundation in Manila and Washington, DC, 1998 • Likha Award marking the Centennial of Philippine Independence, given in recognition of outstanding achievement, 1998 • Excellence 2000 Awards for the Arts, given by U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, 1995 • Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Artist Workshop Program, 1993-94 • OPUS B, a production company in Maryland creating collaborations between elders, inner-city youth and artists, artist-in-resident, 1993 • Virginia Center for Creative Arts, artist-in-resident, 1992, 1994, 1996 • Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking, artist-in-residence, 1991, 1992 and 1993 • Gwendolyn Caffritz Award, Pyramid Atlantic, artist-in-residence, 1991 and 1992 • MetroArt II Award, mural installed at Metro Center, Washington, DC 199095 • National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Arts Fellowship, 1989-90 • DC Commission on the Arts, GIA Grant, 1988-89, 1989-90, 1991-92 • New York State Council on the Arts, Visiting Artist Program, 1988-89 • TOYM Award for the Most Outstanding Young Artist in the Philippines, 1984 • Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic, artist-in-residence, 1982


WORK IN MUSEUM COLLECTIONS • Ayala Museum of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines • Bhirasri Museum of Modern Art, Bangkok, Thailand • Bronx Museum of the Art, Bronx, New York • Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines • Eugenio Lopez Museum, Manila, Philippines • Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan • Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey • Jordan National Gallery of Fine Art, Amman, Jordan • Lopez Memorial Museum, Manila, Philippines • Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Philippines • Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic • Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba • Museum and Art Gallery in the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia • Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, Massachusetts • National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia • National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C. • National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. • National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea • National Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka • National Art Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh • National Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia • Singapore Art Museum, Singapore • Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan





Fundaciรณn Pacita, Batanes, Philippines