Immigrant Experience Paintings by Pacita Abad
Immigrant Experience Paintings by Pacita Abad
Cover: L.A. Liberty (detail), 1992 (94 x 58 in) Acrylic, cotton yarn, plastic buttons, mirrors, gold thread, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas
Introduction Woman of Color Immigrant Experience American Dream Paintings Artist Profile
Leaving Home Pacita Abad’s “Immigrant Experience” series of mixed media trapunto paintings is a very personal one. It is based on her life’s journey across the globe, her friends’ experiences, and stories of people she encountered along the way. In particular, her paintings are dedicated to uncelebrated "People of Color” from Asia, Africa and Latin America, of which Pacita was a proud member. For all intents and purposes, this series began when she left her native Batanes, the small cluster of islands adjacent to Taiwan in the northernmost part of the Philippines. Pacita later moved with her family to study in Manila, but after graduating from the University of the Philippines and starting law school she became actively involved in political protest. More specifically, in 1968 Pacita became a vocal opponent of the dictatorial regime of President Ferdinand Marcos, whose goons terrorized Batanes to steal the Congressional election from her father. It became even more personally dangerous when Marcos thugs issued threats against her after Pacita led a student demonstration to the presidential palace. A few evenings later her family house was strafed with machine gunfire in the middle of the night. Forced to leave her homeland a few months later because of the increasing political violence, Pacita truly became an immigrant the moment she tearfully
Pacita (left) meeting Ferdinand Marcos following protest march to palace.
left her family, friends and country, and boarded the plane to fly to San Francisco. Few people really want to leave their families, loved ones and country of birth, yet like Pacita, many are forced to leave mainly for economic and educational reasons, but also increasingly due to displacement because of war, political and religious oppression, tribal or racial conflict and oppressing poverty.
Asian American Roots
When she came to the United States in 1970 Pacita was alone, her first time venturing outside the Philippines. Like thousands before her, when she landed in San Francisco she lived with a distant relative from her island and had very little money. She took the first job that was available and became a seamstress and a part-time typist. Soon she began to meet other Filipinos who left the country because of the increasing persecution under the martial
law regime of the Marcos government. She also began to meet other immigrants of color - Vietnamese, Laotian and Central American - who were facing similar circumstances. Every one of them had their own reasons for leaving home, and long tales to tell, though most kept their stories and their visa situation to themselves. Pacita experienced a number of cultural shocks during her early months in America, but most surprising was the loss of half her name when she applied for a Social Security card. When asked for her full name, she said, “Maria Paula Pacita Rosaria Barsana Abad”. The lady behind the counter brusquely said, "This is America, Lady, and you only get to have three names - first, middle and last - so just tell me which ones you want to keep." She lost yet another name a year later when she married painter George Kleiman and became known as Pat Kleiman until they divorced a few years later. Given her political career path, Pacita’s plan was to finish her law degree and become an immigration and human rights lawyer. Since she couldn’t start law school right away, in order to maintain her visa she studied Asian History in the interim and ended up writing her thesis on “Aguinaldo and the American Colonization of the Philippines.” Most importantly, she took courses on Asians in America that opened her eyes to the racism and struggles that Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Indians and many other nationalities historically faced trying to enter, work and assimilate in America. Quite frankly, Pacita was shocked to read about the Asian-American immigrant reality of constant struggle, racial harassment, and legalized government discrimination. This certainly wasn’t the American “All men are created equal” story that she had been taught in her Philippine history books. Pacita was even more astounded when she found out that the Founding Fathers originally only gave full U.S. citizenship rights to white males. African American men were only included in 1870, but Asians were purposely left out, as they were considered “Yellow”, not “White” or “Black”. Racial discrimination against
Asians was then forcefully passed into law by Congress in the late 19th century. It was only through her studies that Pacita really learned to appreciate how difficult it was to achieve equality in America, especially for Asians and other people of color. Chinese were barred from becoming citizens by the Chinese Exclusion Act, and informal restrictions were put on Japanese immigration in the 1880-90s. The 1917 Immigration Act passed by Congress made Filipinos and Japanese elligible for naturalization, but deliberately created an “Asiatic Barred Zone”, excluding people from all the countries located between Turkey and Fiji. She found that in reality the expansion of U.S. citizenship rights was a slow process, as women only received full citizenship rights in 1920, Native Americans in 1924, and other Asians only after World War II. Nevertheless, despite being citizens, Americans of Japanese decent were still unrightfully interned in remote military camps during 1942-45. It was only a few years before Pacita’s arrival in America, that President Lyndon Johnson pushed the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which finally reversed the country’s long-standing, systematic exclusionary and restrictive policies against Asians. After that a new wave of people of color began to arrive in the United States from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Living in San Francisco in the early 1970s Pacita continued to be strongly antiMarcos and martial law, especially when her brother and sister-in-law were detained in jail, and a number of her former university classmates were tortured and killed. The Marcos government’s dictatorial plundering of the Philippines spurred Pacita to become more involved in a wide range of Philippine and Asian-American political and community activities in the Bay Area, including supporting the United Farm Growers strikes started by Filipino grape pickers. As a result, she began to meet a new group of Asians and Asian-Americans and develop a much better understanding of their political issues and challenges.
America was in the midst of major political and social changes at that time, and the Bay Area was at the center of most activity - Vietnam War, student protests in Berkeley, Black Panthers and the civil rights movement in Oakland, farm workers struggle in the Salinas Valley, Gay and Lesbian equal rights fight in San Francisco, never mind the hippie culture of drugs, sex and rock 'n roll in her Haight Asbury neighborhood. Those years in San Francisco dramatically altered Pacitaâ€™s world view. It also gave her a completely new perspective on life, politics and culture in America that changed her forever.
After living in San Francisco for a few years Pacita eventually received a full scholarship to attend Boalt Law School at Berkeley. However, she had already decided to move in a new direction, leave San Francisco and become a painter. She began by studying at The Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and The Art Students League in New York in mid 1970s. However, she found it difficult to identify with the popular western artistic styles. It was only when she was introduced to the social realism work of painters like Alice Neel and Ben Shahn, whose paintings during the Depression reflected an activist spirit and social justice beliefs, that she saw an artistic path forward. Thus, over the next eight years Pacita focused on painting the people and landscapes in the far-flung places that she lived, such as Bangladesh, Sudan, South Sudan, Dominican Republic, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. What was even better was that she was able to break away from the confines of the studio and paint people in city streets, remote villages, rural markets and refugee camps. Although it was often physically challenging, it was extremely rewarding as she met and heard the stories of the people of color she painted across the globe. In her journeys Pacita witnessed the tremendous devastation caused by wars and domestic conflict in Asia, Africa and the Central America. She
encountered firsthand the global consequences of political oppression, economic corruption, migrant labor and displaced refugees. During her work abroad Pacita saw Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, Ethiopians and Eritreans escaping to Sudan, Ugandans in South Sudan running from Idi Aminâ€™s regime of terror, Tibetans seeking sanctuary in Nepal, Afghans in Pakistan fleeing from war, and Haitians living in deplorable conditions cutting sugar cane in the Dominican Republic. The plight of so many displaced and desperate people throughout the world had a major impact on both Pacita and her art. Watching and waiting (detail), 1979 (35 x 50 in) Oil on canvas All of this crystalized on the Thai border in 1979-80, when she saw the ragged Cambodian refugees who were escaping from the Khmer Rouge and Pol Potâ€™s murderous regime. This moved Pacita to paint her powerful portraits
telling the stories of brutalized and destitute refugees desparate to find shelter. Another issue that hit her was the pervasive violence and sexual exploitation of women that she encountered in country after country, whether it be Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Bhuddist or Animist. In particular, she noted that armed conflicts and military bases especially the associated “Rest and Recuperation destinations” created another problem, the organized sex entertainment business. She saw this first-hand in the hundreds of sex bars located outside of U.S. military bases in Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea. This prompted Pacita to create another set of social realism paintings.
Manila’s fashion show, 1982 (35 x 71 in) Oil on canvas
Resmy of Rangpur
Ali the camel merchant
Love on the rocks
Immigrant Experience Because of her work abroad, when she returned to Washington, D.C. in 1986 Pacita was much more aware that, in addition to the historic AfricanAmerican 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, Indian-owned motels, Afghan rug merchants, Libyan locksmiths, Nigerian and Pakistani taxi drivers, along with construction workers from Guatemala, Honduras and Peru. Wherever she went 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 â€œUnited Nationsâ€?, with kids in class representing numerous developing countries. One teacher she met 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 hasssles, both as an Asian-American 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. Pacita also knew the realities of long waits in U.S. 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 you back on the next plane.
Pacita certainly had more than her share of unpleasant immigration encounters. In 1984 she had the terrifying experience of being unjustly accused as an illegal resident immigrant when her international flight landed in Hawaii. She was handcuffed by U.S. Immigration officials in front of a plane full of passengers, and guarded by a marshall on the flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Upon landing she and another Asian woman were then brought to a unknown guarded apartment somewhere in Oakland at 2 am 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. She also had a previous frightening experience in France in 1975, when she was caught by gendarmes in a round-up along with 30 unfortunate Senegalese, Malian, Algerian and Moroccan migrants. She was then herded into a police van and kept in a Paris jail overnight, all because she was a dark skinned foreigner who couldn’t produce her passport, which ironically was being held at the U.S. Embassy for a visa renewal. Yes, Pacita felt that she definitely had something to say about immigration issues, and hoped that her paintings might be able to give people a better understanding of the complexities of the global immigration experience.
“I have always believed that an artist has a special obligation to remind society of its social responsibility.” Quite logically, Pacita started the research for her “Immigrant Experience” series by going to New York to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It was a wonderful experience and a poignant reminder of the struggles millions of people had in trying to immigrate to America during the 20th century. While she was moved by personal stories that she read, Pacita was struck by the fact that almost all of these immigrants were from western, eastern and southern Europe.
There was no information about immigrants from Asian, African and Latin American countries. In other words, nothing about people of color. Of course, she thought, those immigrants entered the U.S. through different gateways in the country’s west, southeast and southwest. She then wondered how come there were no national museums telling of their struggles, and no stories celebrating their arrival. When she looked around the country, the only place she could find was the Immigration Station on Angel Island, located next to the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, in San Francisco Bay. Pacita discovered that it was commonly known as “The Guardian of the Western Gate”, and between 1910 and 1940 more than one million Asian immigrants were detained and processed. The immigrants were mainly Chinese, Japanese, along with Koreans and Indians, but upon arrival men and women were segregated. They were then interrogated and held, many for long periods. Approximtely 80% of these Asian immigrants were eventually allowed to enter the U.S., but for Indians the chances were only 50%.
Pacita was struck by its contrasts with Ellis Island. The Asian immigrant detention period and approval rate at Angel Island differed sharply from the fast processing at Ellis Island, where more than 12 million European immigrants were processed with a 98% approval rate between 1893 and 1954. Moreover, while Ellis Island was designated as a National Monument and a $150-milion museum was opened in 1990, whereas the Angel Island Immigration Center was just part of a state park. It was only in 1997 that it was designated as a National Monument. When she researched more, Pacita found that besides their countries of origin, the main difference between Ellis and Angel Islands was that the latter facility was actually established as a detention center. It was designed to keep what the U.S. government considered culturally unsuitable Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian low-skilled labor out of the U.S. This was consistent with the rabidly anti-Asian racist sentiment of white Americans living on Pacific coast, as well as many politicians in Washington around the turn of the 20th century. “The admission of Oriental immigrants who can not be amalgamated with our people has been made the subject either of prohibitory clauses in our treaties and statutes or of strict administrative regulations secured by diplomatic negotiations. I sincerely hope that we may continue to minimize the evils likely to arise from such immigration …” President William Howard Taft1 Innaugural Address, March 4, 1909
Despite Taft’s strong anti-Asian sentiment, Pacita was surprised to find that Filipinos were actually treated better than the Chinese and Japanese immigrants. This was because after a bitter U.S. military conquest to subjugate the country the Philippines became an American colony in 1898. 1 William Howard Taft oversaw US rule in the Philippines for 13 years, four as governor
general and nine as secretary of war and, later, as the 27th president of the United States.
Once they were declared colonial subjects the Filipinos began to receive preferential immigration treatment as America’s “Little Brown Brothers”. However, that certainly didn’t mean Filipino immigrants were immune from racial and economic discrimination once they arrived in America. To address the blatantly unequal American experience and celebration of immigrants arriving on the Atlantic and Pacific shores, Pacita decided to call her first immigration painting L.A. Liberty. She dedicated this painting to honor all the Asian and Latin American immigrants who had entered America through its southwestern and western borders. Pacita wanted someone who had Chinese, Malay and Spanish heritage to depict a brown-skinned L.A. Liberty, so she asked one of her Filipino-Chinese friends to model for this painting. Moreover, although she used the Statue of Liberty motif, Pacita purposely blocked out the torch’s flame to show that Liberty’s light certainly didn’t shine as bright for the people of color, as it did for the caucasian immigrants coming across the Atlantic Ocean. As she continued with the “Immigrant Experience” series, Pacita decided that whenever possible she would have her friends and acquaintances as models, as it would give the paintings both a more personal touch and greater authenticity. Thus, many of her immigration paintings tell the life stories of friends and other people that she met during her travels. A number of other artworks in her Immigrant series were constructed by cutting up, collaging and repainting some of her earlier social realism paintings that she did of people in Bangladesh, Sudan, Dominican Republic, Cambodia and the Philippines, in order to tell their stories. Ironcally, Pacita’s personal immigration story continued while she was working on these paintings. After holding student and permanent residence status in the U.S. for 24 years she decide to become an American citizen. In 1994 Pacita was proudly sworn in at the base of the Washington Monument with 20 other new Americans from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“…when you go to the American Embassy in any country, there is always a long line to get a visa— everyone wants to go to the United States! It made me think, what is it about this country that attracts so many different people? From my own experience, there is nothing like freedom. You might have everything else, but you cannot buy freedom. Everyone I talk to says the same thing.” Like for many immigrants, it was a very difficult, wrenching decision for Pacita to finally change her nationality and give up her Philippine passport, as although the America allowed dual nationality, at the time the Philippines did not. Fortunately for Pacita a few years later the Philippine government decided to revise its policy and permit dual citizenship. Pacita was among the first in line to get her Philippine passport back.
Pacita (left) being sworn-in as a U.S. citizen along with many other immigrants.
WOMAN OF COLOR
By Faith Ringgold Taken from Fresh Talks Daring Gazes by Elaine H. Kim, Margo Machida and Sharon Mizota, University of California Press
PACITA ABAD IS ALL ABOUT COLOR-IN HER PERSONALITY, IN HER APPEARANCE, AND in her enthusiasms. Color is something no one can miss seeing, both in her work and her person. She has stated, "Color plays an important role in my life. It is not only on my palette, but also in my clothes, my jewelry, my home, and even in the food that I eat."' I first saw Abad's colorful paintings in Art to Art, a video about Asian American women artists. I came away from that video smiling, with two immediate impressions: what a shame that I had not seen before more of this exciting Asian American women's art, and how delightful to be able to meet Pacita Abad through her art. Yet I continue as always to be disturbed by the fact that it is so difficult for women to get the exposure they need to have their work become known and appreciated. Widely traveled, Abad creates her work from the point of view of an international woman of color. Those of us who have also traveled extensively know that creative women of color are working all over the world and are Filipina: A racial identity crisis, 1990 (98 x 63 in) Acrylic, handwoven cloth, dyed yarn, beads, gold thread on stitched and padded canvas Photo: Rick Reinhard
not merely "minority" figures within the narrow confines of the Western art world. Who knows how contemporary art will be seen in years to come, once women and artists of color gain equal opportunity to address their cultural concerns through art? That day, thank heavens, is definitely coming, so let's all of us get ready. In the meantime, artists like Abad have found a way to work around the problem, and we viewers are lucky to have an opportunity to experience her very "user-friendly" art. One likes both to have it around and to be around it—not just because of its contents, ma-terials, and messages, but because it is an amalgam of multicultural issues and expressions, all done in rich and vivid colors. I am moved by Abad's "trapunto" paintings of masked faces. The stuffed canvases are sewn with beads and buttons and glass and all kinds of things. They are deliciously multi-layered and adorned, sometimes taking up an entire wall. Abad's home, which is furnished and decorated wall to wall with her lavishly colorful art, is a feast for the eyes of all who visit her. The huge 1990 trapuntoed canvas titled The Filipina: A Racial Identity Crisis— Liwayway Etnica and Isabel Lopez deeply captures my fancy. It speaks of the strength, poise, and beauty of two women of different colors who could be seen as a single woman, or as a rep-resentation of women across or within cultural boundaries, all within the complicated fab-ric of womanhood. Abad herself has said in relation to this painting, "Racism has a lot to do with women . . . in the Philippines. . . . Social status [has to do with] being fair [and wearing] embroidered cloth that is very European-influenced. . . . The irony is . . . after four hundred years of independence, we still don't know who we are. . . . I'm dark, I come from the province, from the island, from the village. . . . ‘Liwayway’ means a flower; the root meaning is like freedom. . . . It is deeply Tagalog. It means you are from the village."' Over the years, I too have thought about how to create portraits of two women, and so I find it fascinating to encounter another woman who has the same interests and to see how she goes about dealing with this important
subject. Abad's work is full of life and joy. At the same time, it reveals the haunting presence of her own individual self. The more one sees of Pacita Abad's art, the more one wants to see. * * *
The Filipina: A Racial Identity Crisis
Taken from Fresh Talks Daring Gazes by Elaine H. Kim, Margo Machida and Sharon Mizota, University of California Press
In The Filipina: A Racial Identity Crisis, Abad depicts a schism in Filipina identity created by colonialism. Divided starkly in half, the canvas compares two women representative of two different Filipina identities, the colonial and the indigenous. By placing these positions side by side. Abad reveals a tension inherent in Filipina identity that points to the very heart of the identificatory process itself. In a colonial society, where does one look for role models? And to which tradition does one belong? The values of the colonizer are most often enforced and emulated over those of the native population. but Abad effectively neutralizes this im-balance by giving Isabel and Liwayway equal space on the canvas. Abad also signals her affinity for the values of Liwayway throughout the piece by employing materials, colors, and patterns that derive more from indigenous artistic traditions than from European art history. It is also interesting to note that while Liwayway Etnica gazes confidently out at the viewer, Isabel Lopez is looking anxiously at Liwayway. * * *
IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE Article from the Sunday INQUIRER Magazine, July 16, 1995, "Pacita Abad: If Her Friends Could See Her Nowâ€?
The first time she landed in the States, in 1970, visual artist Pacita Abad was like the thousands of immigrants before her: alone and broke. Saving what little money she had Pacita stayed with distant relatives in San Francisco and took the first job available that of a seamstress. At the same time, Pacita worked as a part-time typist and found herself in the midst of other immigrants from Vietnam, China and Mexico who were facing similar circumstances. Twenty years later, the artist would recall these encounters and her personal sojourn in a strange country in a series of paintings called the Immigrant Experience. The paintings depict the struggles, hopes and realities of people of color --- the Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans, whom the artist met over the years when she lived and painted in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and other third world countries. People, Pacita soon found out, will abandon their roots and cultural ties in search of a better life, or in some cases, because of sociopolitical pressures. Ethiopians escape to Sudan. Haitians go to work in the plantations of the Dominican Republic, Filipinos sell their domestic labors to Asian and Middle East households. Such observations eventually found their way into canvas in such paintings as If My Friends Could See Me Now, Mixed Marriages, Contemplating Flor, and Torments of a Filipino Overseas Worker.
"When I started going to refugee camps in Thailand, I was just helping out," recalls this artist from Batanes. "Then I started working on portraits of the children and over time, I built up a series of portraits of the Cambodian refugees. I asked the refugees what they carried when they crossed the border. One was carrying a dying uncle, another a sewing machine, another one a grandfather and yet another a rooster. There were pots, pans and many babies. Most of, these refugees were, fearful not because of the animals they might encounter in the jungle, but of the bullets corning from the Khmer Rouge behind them." Pacita's painting, Flight to Freedom depicts the Cambodians frantic escape across the border to Thailand. Some paintings from the series, The Village Where I Came From, Korean Shopkeepers, and Haitians Waiting at Guantanamo Bay, reflect the migrant's feeling of separateness and dislocation. A few other works celebrate the success that many immigrants have achieved in their new countries. The multi-layered migrant's experience works well with the artists trapunto paintings, which use a 14th century decorative technique of blending different materials using stitching, collage, silkscreen, tie-dye and embroidery. The medium offers Pacita the opportunity to create collaged, three-dimensional images that she cannot achieve in the flat two-dimensional world of painting. Notes an art critic â€œTrapunto allows Pacita to fashion forceful and poignant political and social statements that would otherwise lack weight if confined to a flat, framed canvas. Trapunto also inspires a sense of freedom among its practitioners, observes the artist who has held several art workshops on the form. It was interesting to watch how the male students worked on their pieces. What fascinated me about the male artists was that they brought things like the bark of trees, typewriter ribbons and cassette tape. The women used regular lace, thread, yarns and fabric. And politics played an important part in Pacitaâ€™s paintings and life: her father was a cabinet minister, and her mother a former governor and congresswoman. Her brother, Florencio Abad, was once detained during the
Marcos era and was later elected congressman under the Aquino administration. To be as forceful as possible it would seem that Pacita's pieces are best created in large sizes. "Size is important to me and I like working on large paintings. I think big and I believe in art in public places," says this 46-year-old artist unabashedly. Her paintings, done between 1984 and 1995, range in size from 4.5 x 9.75 to 10 x 10 feet, so big that there's no missing her message. Pacita's paintings from her Immigrant Experience and Oriental Abstraction series are on exhibit until July 1 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
AMERICAN DREAM Pacita first exhibited ten of her large Immigrant Experience paintings at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. in November 1994. The exhibition was titled the American Dream and was part of the NMWA’s Artists and Community initiative. Following this show, her paintings then moved to the Virginia Beach Center for the Arts in 1996. Pacita also showed a number of Immigrant Experience paintings at her exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in Manila in July 1995.
“Weaving together her memories of visits to developing countries........with immigrants’ first impressions of their new homeland, Abad captures the range of emotions that pervades the immigration experience. Her energized, highly colored works celebrate the cultural diversity that is the strength and beauty of America.” Women in the Arts, Fall, 1994
ARTISTS + COMMUNITY PACITA ABAD
NOVEMBER 17, 1994 - FEBRUARY 12, 1995 The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. JANUARY 14 - MARCH 3, 1996 Virginia Beach Center for the Arts, Virginia Beach, Virginia Pacita Abad is the third artist to be featured in Artists + Community, an exhibition, education and community outreach program of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). Artists + Community brings together regional artists and members of the local community via exhibitions and education programs designed to benefit a diverse cross-section of groups and individuals. Through Artists + Community, NMWA is working to establish a network that links artists as mentors with a variety of residents in the Washington metropolitan area. This program strives to reconnect contemporary art with people and encourages the creative process as a positive influence in our lives. Artists + Community: Pacita Abad is made possible through the generous support of the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the Philippine Arts, Letters and Media in Washington, D.C. The program has been funded in part by grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Pacita Abad's American Dream series was made possible in part through a Visual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1989-90), Individual Fellowship Awards from the D.C. Commission on the Arts (1989-90 and 1991-92) and a Resident Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (1991). The artist wishes to thank her assistant, Flor Jabal, as well as the students and teachers from James F Oyster Bilingual, A. Kiger Savoy, and Strong Thomson Elementary Schools in Washington, D.C., and the Mabuhay Group, Inc., in Oxon Hill, Maryland, for their participation in her workshops.
AN INTERVIEW WITH PACITA ABAD The following is excerpted from a conversation between artist Pacita Abad and curator Angela Adams, which took place in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 1994. AA: Let's talk about your trapunto technique, how you developed it and what it consists of. PA: Trapunto painting is what I call my work-the term comes from the Italian trapungere, meaning "to embroider." I paint, using either oil or acrylic, on canvas and then collage. This top layer carries the design. To this I add a backing cloth and stuff polyester filling in between. The two layers are then joined with running stitches. The initial concept was inspired by a friend of mine, Barbara Newman, a doll maker who made life-size dolls. I was interested in the concept because I saw how it could add dimension to my paintings. Later, I began adding materials that I had picked up and techniques that I had learned in my travels. I have been inspired by looking at such traditional forms as the mola from Panama, huipil from Guatemala and Mexico, kalaga from Burma*, embroidery from Afghanistan, tie-dye from Africa, and by the use of mirrors in India and shells in the Philippines and throughout the South Pacific. The technique that I have developed has very few constraints-it allows me to be spontaneous and innovative. I can incorporate many media and processes, including painting, stitching, collage, silkscreen, tie-dye and embroidery into a single work. AA: You obviously invented this without any concern for how it would be classified. In many ways your method of trapunto painting can be seen as part of a larger movement within contemporary art that combines a concern for materials and "the handmade"-qualities we associate with fine craft-with the more conceptual aspects of fine art. It's a tactile, inviting and familiar form. _________________________________ * Mola are reverse applique on layered fabrics made by Cuna Indian women in Central America and worn as part of o blouse. Huipil, also worn in Central America, are traditional woven and/or embroidered blouses. Kalaga from Burma are embroidered wall hangings, often encrusted with gemstones, which usually depict stories from the life of the Buddha.
Front and back of a trapunto painting
PA: I have always been hard to classify, and my work is an extension of me. People are always trying to put things in neat little boxes. My work does not fit in any of those. I have never been a traditionalistâ€”I am not concerned about where I fit in and do not fit in. I believe that as long as my work is original and has a strong artistic quality, it will be appreciated. AA: Yes. Our mutual friend and colleague, Paula Owen, recently quoted to me a line from Toni Morrison that goes something like, "definitions are for the definers not the defined." Let's turn to the content of your work. How did your American Dream series come about? PA: Like my technique, the concept of the American Dream series has developed over the past twenty years, beginning when I first came to the United States in 1970. I was alone, and this was my first time outside the Philippines. Like others before me, when I landed in San Francisco, I lived with a distant relative and had very little money. I took the first job that was available and became a seamstress, and at the same time worked as a part-time typist. During this time, I met many other immigrants who were facing similar circumstances. They had come to America for a variety of economic and socio-political reasons. A number of my Filipino friends had left the country because of persecution by the Marcos government. Similar incidents had occurred to my Vietnamese and Laotian friends. When I was living abroad, I couldn't help but notice that migration is an issue all over the world. What is most noticeable is that, when you go to the American Embassy in any country, there is always a long line to get a visaâ€”everyone wants to go to the United States! It made me think, what is it about this country that attracts so many different people? From my own experience, there is nothing like freedom. You might have everything else, but you cannot buy freedom. Everyone I talk to says the same thing. AA: So you began painting about the immigration experience you had lived and the experiences of others that you had observed.
PA: Yes, but the theme began to crystallize when Mel Watkin invited me to participate in a show on immigration that she organized four years ago for the Ellipse Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia. During the past two decades the United States has become an increasingly multi-ethnic society, with a fabric of nationalities that combines many threads of all sizes and colors. The continuing increase in legal and illegal immigration has caused great concern, and many Americans question whether immigration should continue, and whether it is possible to balance order, community and unity within the rapidly changing ethnic landscape. It was because of these issues that I decided to do something to give people a better understanding of the immigration experience. This led to my first trip to Ellis Island in 1991. During that visit I couldn't help but be moved by the powerful starkness of the huge reception area, the photos, the letters and all the other memorabilia. I was surprised to see that, in spite of efforts to include all nationalities, there was very little about the immigration story of Asians, Latin Americans and Africans. This is because most of them came to America via a route that didn't go by the Statue of Liberty. Moreover, most Asians and Latinos came at a later period than European immigrants. Nevertheless, their experience was just as important and needs to be understood. This is how my painting called L.A. Liberty came about. AA: How many paintings are in The American Dream series now? PA: Twelve. Ten are in this show, and two are in an exhibition organized by the Asia Society in New York called Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art. The show will be traveling around the United States for the next two years. AA: You currently are living in Indonesia. I am curious as to how living there and being back in the Pacific Rim has influenced your work. PA: A friend of mine, Chai Khambhu, told me a year ago that my colors were losing intensity. Right then and there, I knew it was time to get back to my Asian roots. I have observed over the past twenty years that weather and cultural surroundings have a major impact on one's
outlook. This is also the case in painting. Being back in Asia, I can't help but be impressed by the vibrancy and vitality that I see there. This is noticeable in the bustling population, booming businesses and explosion of contemporary art. However, what I am most attracted to is the richness of Asian cultural traditions. Living in Indonesia, I once again have become deeply involved in painting the wayang kulit (flat puppets made of buffalo skin), one of Indonesia's classic art forms. I first began painting wayang as early as 1983. I have always liked how the wayang are used for social statements (in the Javanese community they are used for teaching morals), and I am also attracted to their bright colors. So, now I am working on a series of paintings on the wayang. AA: One of the things that I find exciting in your work is that it documents the learning that has taken place in your own life through your travels. When you go to a new place you seem to immerse yourself in the culture and learn all you can. This comes out not only as new work, but also as a record of your experiences. That is also probably why you are such a good workshop leader. It is a situation where you communicate the enthusiasm you yourself have for new experiences and learning. PA: I have always believed that an artist has a social responsibility to give something back to the community. I have given an increasing number of workshops over the past two years in the Mid-Atlantic regionâ€”at the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for the Philippine Arts, Letters and Media, a program in Maryland working with Alzheimer's patients and in various rural communities throughout Virginia. I always find something new, fresh and spontaneous with the workshop participants, especially from people who have not been widely exposed to art. AA: The thing that is really great about the way you do workshops is that, even when you are working with kids, you introduce them to the very techniques that you yourself use. You teach them your unique method
of combining painting and sewing that you call trapunto. You teach them to search their own environment for materials and incorporate these into their work. You also share your enthusiasm for non-Western art forms, such as masks. You bring to your workshops all the special things that inspire you to make your work as an adult. That means that, even though you are working with children, you do not compromise in the quality of what you offer them. PA: Art is for everyone; I never believe it is elitist. The trapunto painting workshop inspires a sense of freedom among its participants. Although I have given workshops to people of different ages, professions and genders, I enjoy working with the kids the most. They are experimental with materials and use whatever is available. They are the most inquisitive and the least inhibited. They get me back to the basics. I think it is very important for students and teachers to have visiting artists in their schools. I chose the theme of mask-making for workshops at Oyster, Thomson, Savoy and Mabuhay because it is a topic that kids can relate to. Mask-making is something interculturalâ€”a natural art form. Masks tell you about yourselfâ€”where you come from, and who you are. I think children and adults alike are fascinated by that. ABOUT THE CURATOR Angela Adams, NMWA adjunct curator, developed Artists + Community for the museum in 1991 and has produced three exhibitions in the series to date. Adams has worked as an independent curator and currently serves as gallery director at the Ellipse Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia.
As part of the NMWA’s American Dream exhibition curated by Angela Adams, Pacita gave trapunto painting workshops to middle school students at four schools – Oyster Bilingual School, Mabuhay Filipino School, Savoy School and Thomson School - located in the greater Washington, DC area. At these workshops she decided to teach the children to create masks, because she had found that masks were universal among the world’s cultures. In addition Pacita had created and installed a large public art work, Masks from Six Continents, in Washington DC’s main subway station.
Photographs of artwork by Jason Horowitz and Paul Toned Design by David Griffin All works are from Pacita Abad's The American Dream series and are on loan from the artist. Dimensions are listed with height before width.
ABOUT THE ARTIST Born in the Philippines, Pacita Abad holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, and a Master of Arts degree from the University of San Francisco, California. She studied painting at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and The Art Students League in New York. Abad has been awarded numerous grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship (1989), Grant-in-Aid awards from the D.C. Commission on the Arts (1988, 1989 and 1991) and the New York State Council on the Arts (1989). Widely recognized for her creative vision, she has been the recipient of artist-in-residence fellowships from Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic; the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Sweet Briar, Virginia; Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia; Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking, Rutgers, New Jersey; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and Pyramid Atlantic, Riverdale, Maryland. In 1990 she won a public art competition sponsored by the MetroArt program to install a mural at the Metro Center subway station in Washington, D.C. Abad's work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the National Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia; the Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong; the Museum of Philippine Art, Manila; Bhirasri Museum of Modern Art, Bangkok, Thailand; Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic; the Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia; and the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, among others. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including: Beyond the Border: Art by Recent Immigrants, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art, a traveling exhibition organized by the Asia Society, New York; Olympiad of Art (in conjunction with the 24th Olympics), National Museum of Modern Art, Seoul, Korea; 2nd Asian Art Show, Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; La Bienal de la Habana, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba; Art for Africa, a traveling exhibition to museums in Oslo, Cologne, Algiers, London and Rome; and UNESCO: 40 Years, 40 Countries, 40 Artists, a traveling exhibition to fifteen museums around the world.
The â€œImmigrant Experienceâ€? paintings of Pacita Abad presented on the following pages tell the universal stories of fleeing refugees, economic migrants and legal and illegal immigrants that the artist encountered across the world.
Background Over the past 50 years many countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America have been torn apart by war, revolution, violence and economic instability. Everyone has heard of the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Nicaragua; and political turmoil, domestic unrest and criminal violence in the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Rwanda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras, among others. What the Western world mainly sees in the press are when refugees rush over the borders trying to save their families from the killings, rapes, torture, starvation and countless other human indignities. What the world rarely considers are that the wars, bombings and arm sales are often initiated and abetted by Western governments. Not many people are concerned about the ongoing and pervasive brutal repression unleashed by corrupt leaders and ruthless rebels that cause these tragedies to occur in too many places around the world. It is only when a large number of people fleeing from these horrible situations begin to try to cross international borders, and resettle in western countries that people realize it is a major global humanitarian, political, economic and social issue. This is what Pacita learned in 1979 when hundreds of thousands Cambodian citizens swarmed across the Thai border escaping the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. This experience triggered her to become involved with refugee and migrant issues, and ultimately lead to her paintings in the â€œImmigrant Experienceâ€? series.
Flight to freedom (detail), 1980 (84 x 180 in) Acrylic, oil on canvas
Pacita was living in the Philippines when the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos came into power and later imposed martial law, jailing, torturing and executing thousands of citizens. One opponent who dared to speak out and come back from exile to face Marcos was Ninoy Aquino. On arrival he was summarily gunned down in cold blood as he was being escorted off the plane by government troops. Not surprisingly, due to the extensive arrests, detention and torture of all opponents, as well as the deteriorating economy during the Marcos years, thousand of Filipinos emigrated overseas to escape military persecution, political plundering and economic stagnation. Death of Ninoy, 1983 (92 x 50 in)
Oil on canvas
Throughout her travels Pacita constantly encountered poor people from depressed rural areas making their way to the big cities in search of work and a better life for their families. Often it was one member of the family, typically father, son or daughter, but sometimes it is the entire family who make the trek to the urban areas. The life they find there is usually bleak and generally they end up as squatters living in shanty towns and forced to do anything they can to survive.
The village where I came from, 1991 (96 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas
Tarhata was a woman who migrated to Manila from her native Zamboanga in the southern Philippines. With no job, she stayed with others from her province and lived in a small wooden shack with no running water or electricity. Without a husband or brother to protect her, she became an easy prey for the local men and soon became pregnant. Tarhata sa Cortada, 1983 (85 x 55 in) Acrylic, oil, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas
In cities throughout the world, many migrant women end up forced into jobs working in sex industry bars and massage parlors. It is oppressive work, but the working conditions and pay are even worse in poorer countries. The women typically work in these jobs in order to send money back for their familes in the province to buy food, pay off debts or care for parents and relatives. It is usual for women to sacrifice themselves to pay the school fees of their younger siblings so that they may have better job opportunities. The common pipe dream is the hope to meet a foreigner in the bar who will marry them and take them away to another country. Unfortunately, this doesnâ€™t happen very often. Girls in Ermita, 1983 (105 x 53 in)
Acrylic on stitched and padded muslin
The Philippine economy, like many other countries, is riddled with corruption, which is most noticeable at the lower police and bureaucratic ranks, but most insidious at the business, military and high government levels. It makes it impossible for poor workers to get a break in such a rigged system. To escape poverty and the lack of jobs in their native countries, often the best opportunity for workers from developing countries is to get a job overseas. Countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Mexico, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Egypt are some of the largest suppliers of low cost contract labor to higher income destinations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other developed countries around the globe. In the Philippines they are called Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs). It is estimated that over 10 million Filipinos have worked abroad and they now remit over US$25 billion every year to the Philippine economy. Globally the country ranks third after India ($60 billion) and China ($50 billion) and just ahead of Mexico ($23 billion) and Nigeria ($22 billion). Philippine economy, 1985 (52 x 75 in) Acrylic on stitched and padded muslin
Work migration continues to increase around the world, especially among women, and Pacita saw this firsthand as she constantly met Philippine OFWs in places as far-flung as Papua New Guinea, Yemen and Belize. The men typically work as seamen, construction workers, engineers and accountants, while the women are predominantly domestic household workers, nurses, retail sales staff and night club entertainers. The OFWsâ€™ living conditions vary from basic to primitive. These workers are often subject to discrimination, cheating, abuse and sometimes forced labor and bodily harm, by unscrupulous employers, recruitment agencies and government officials. Hong Kong is the biggest destination for female OFWs, especially for domestic workers, as they can make much more than their Philippine monthly wages. Over the past twenty years there has been an annual average of 150,000 Philippine OFWs working in cramped Hong Kong spaces as domestic helpers. Sunday is usually their day off and rain or shine these workers flock to the center of Hong Kong, to meet friends and share food, entertainment and stories. It infuriated Pacita to see the thousands of Filipinas with no proper place to congregate, except on the sidewalks, subway entrances and few parks available. It maddened her even more that President Marcos, who initiated the international export of OFWs to support his corrupt economy, didnâ€™t even have the decency to build a single community center for the Filipinas working in Hong Kong, who dutifully sent money back home. Instead the dictator, his family and corrupt cronies bought buildings in New York, London, Geneva and other places around the world to hide and enjoy their stolen money.
Filipinas in Hong Kong, 1995 (106 x 118 in) Acrylic on stitched and padded canvas
Pacita found that most OFWs, despite frequent discrimination, were happy working in their chosen foreign country, especially when they could work or socialize with their fellow countrymen. They saved money to send home to educate their siblings, purchase land or a small house for their families, and buy televisions, computers and sporting goods as presents when they returned home. But she also heard enough stories about OFWs who had horrible experiences and sometimes had their passports taken away, were locked in their employers residences with no day off, were not allowed to call home, were fined for small mistakes, were shouted at, beaten, trafficked and sexually abused. Life can be very miserable for some of these OFWs, and after hearing one of these horror stories, Pacita painted this canvas. Torments of a Filipino overseas worker, 1995 (125 x 125 in) Acrylic, oil on stitched and padded canvas
In 1995, while Pacita was living in Indonesia, a Philippine OFW named Flor Contemplacion working in Singapore was convicted of strangling another Philippine domestic worker, and drowning the child of her Chinese employer. There was no witness to the crime but Flor was connected to the murders and in police custody she confessed. The conviction was swift, but after an outcry by OFWs and emotional demonstrations in the Philippines, President Fidel Ramos made a personal plea to the Singapore Government for clemency, which was rejected, and Flor was hanged. Her death provoked a national crisis in the Philippines and Flor was declared a national hero. Her coffin was met at the airport by the President and a large crowd believing that she was innocent, or at least deserved pardon. Florâ€™s death was not in vain, as it became a rallying point for improving OFW services and working conditions, as well as reducing the mistreatment of Philippine OFWs. Contemplating Flor, 1995 (68 x 72 in) Acrylic, painted cloth stitched on padded canvas
In the early 1990s Pacita went to visit a friend in San Diego who worked at the U.S. Consular Office in Tijuana, Mexico. Over the following few days she learned both of the frustrations of Immigration Border Patrol officials, and the plight of desperate undocumented migrants. They were coming mainly from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, escaping poverty, political repression and gang violence. She was also surprised to learn that a number of illegal Asian immigrants, particularly Chinese, also used this dangerous route to enter America. Pacita was heartbroken when she heard the common stories of poor people who had been cheated, raped and in some cases left to die as they tried to cross the desert. She was shocked when she heard that over 20,000 people, including many children, were caught and detained in jail each month trying to illegally cross the the southern border of the U.S. This was the origin of her painting Caught at the Border. Caught at the border, 1991 (98 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil, mirrors, sequins on stitched and padded canvas
Pacita was an artist in residence at Altos de Chavon in the early 1980s, and traveled extensively throughout the Spanish speaking Dominican Republic, and Creole/French Haiti on the other half of the divided island. During those months she became aware of political and social issues affecting both countries and especially the deep seeded racial discrimination against Haitians migrant workers. While in Haiti she had seen the dictatorial political rule, bureaucratic corruption and abject poverty that many Haitians faced. She also traveled to poverty stricken Gonaives, which was the jumping off point for thousands of Haitian â€œboat peopleâ€?, trying to migrate to the U.S., 200 miles away cross the Caribbean Sea. When yet another military coup ousted President Aristide in 1991 a wave of political and economic migrants started fleeing to Florida, but most were stopped at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard. Over 30,000 refugees were then redirected to the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to be screened and processed for possible admission to America. Those considered political refugees were then allowed to enter America, while those considered economic refugees were forcibly sent back to Haiti. A major problem arose when it was discovered that 267 refugees approved for admission to the U.S. had tested positive for HIV/AIDS, and under U.S. law were denied entry. Haiti refused to take them back, so these refugees were held in segregated Guantanamo camp for over a year. Desperate, they went on a hunger strike which caused American students to hold a protest, and political and legal pressure finally allowed the refugees to be admitted to the U.S.
Haitians waiting at Guantanamo Bay, 1994 (94 x 69 in) Oil, painted cloth, buttons and beads on stitched and padded canvas
Pacita called her first immigration painting L.A. Liberty, and this was prompted by what she considered was the very unequal honoring of European immigrants arriving over the Atlantic Ocean, compared to those coming from Asia, Africa and Latin America. While European immigrants had the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York Harbor, the people of color who came to the country through other gateways were barely acknowledged at all. Pacita decided to fix that and asked one of her Filipino-Chinese friends Miriam, to model for this painting, as she wanted someone who had Chinese, Malay and Spanish heritage to depict a brownskinned L.A. Liberty. She wanted this painting to honor all the Asian and Latin American immigrants who had entered America through the Southwest and West. Pacita emphasized the rich patchwork of Liberty’s robe to show that the fabric of America is contributed from many cultures. Moreover, although she used the Statue of Liberty motif, Pacita purposely blocked out the torch’s flame to show that Liberty’s light certainly didn’t shine as bright for people of color. L.A. Liberty, 1992 (94 x 58 in) Acrylic, cotton yarn, plastic buttons, mirrors, gold thread, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas
At Ellis Island Pacita read a saying by an Italian immigrant that resonated with her,
“I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: first, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.” Pacita knew that although a number of immigrants thrived in America through a lot of hard work, some help and a bit of luck, most people had to work one or two menial jobs with long hours and low pay just to stay afloat. The lack of language fluency, education and employment skills, often condemned the immigrant to an endless cycle of low paying jobs such as day labor, health care assistants, waiters, dishwashers, maintenance workers, nannies and house cleaners as Pacita depicts in her painting. I thought the streets were paved with gold, 1991 (94 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil, wood bristle, painted canvas, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas
Many immigrants become entrepreneurial out of necessity, as most mainstream jobs are out of reach. That is why when you walk around immigrant neighborhoods there is always constant activity revolving around numerous small shops and little eating places. Dry cleaners, mobile telephone kiosks, seamstress shops, beauty parlors, nail salons, convenience stores, cash checking and remittance stores and so many others catering to the needs of the local neighborhood. It is the small family-owned ethnic restaurants that are the most noticeable, however, as they are always busy and the smell of exotic spices float out the door. Over the last 50 years these restaurants have had a major impact on Americaâ€™s food tastes. Now most everyone enjoys dishes like tacos and enchiladas, spicy noodles, satay, rice, doner kebab, sushi, pho, pita bread, pork buns and so many other delicious foods thanks to the immigrants coming from around the world. The woman in this painting was named Hadiatou and she was from West Africa. She came to the U.S. as a student in New York, but when she ran out of money quit school and moved to Washington as an illegal immigrant. To make ends meet she opened a small eatery where she and another friend cooked spicey kebabs that were very popular. For five years things went very well until one day she broke off with her boyfriend who had beaten her. Three days later there was a knock on her apartment door and four immigration officials entered, handcuffed her and requested that she sign an agreement to leave the country. A week later she was on a plane back to Africa. Her ex-boyfriend had turned her in to the authorities.
From doro wat to sushi and chicken wings and things, 1991 (94 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil, painted canvas, plastic buttons, beads on stitched and padded canvas
Many immigrants have a difficult time adjusting to their new life in America, especially the older people. No matter what country you came from, life in the U.S. is very different and it can be intimidating. Language, food, socialization, public transportation, dress, music and so much more needs to be learned by newcomers to the country. The young people tend to adapt fairly quickly to things like dress, music and food, but often face challenges in school and meeting friends outside their own group. Pacita wanted to try to capture this common immigrant dilemma, but was not sure how to depict it. Then one day she saw a young woman coming out of a store in the Adams Morgan district of Washington, DC, wearing a sarong skirt, along with a Chicago Bulls' basketball shirt with Michael Jordanâ€™s number and a New York Yankees baseball cap. You have to blend in, before you stand out (detail), 1995 (116 x 117 in) Oil, painted cloth, sequins, buttons on stitched and padded canvas
James "Pop Pop" and Soonai Oh owned and ran the Gold Corner Market in Washington, D.C., a neighborhood convenience store where Pacita regularly stopped for milk and eggs. Gradually she became friendly with the hardworking Korean couple, and they were especially proud when Pacita told them that she was to join the Olympiad of Art in Seoul, as part of the 1988 Olympic Games. The Oh’s opened their store every day at 7 am and Soonai told her that they had to close at 7 pm because she had to get home and make dinner for the family, and that bad things could happen in the area after dark. Their son Bobby would always work at the store on weekends, and Pacita was excited to hear one day that he was accepted to Stanford University. Soon Pop Pop proudly wore a red Stanford baseball cap at the store. A few years later when Pacita came back for a visit, she jokingly asked why Pop Pop wasn't wearing his Stanford cap. Soonai burst into tears and said that Bobby had died in a car accident in California. The Oh’s were crushed, and their dreams for a successful life for Bobby in America were shattered. After running the store for over 30 years, it was reported in the newspaper that on the Fourth of July 2014, the elderly couple were robbed and beaten as they were closing their store at 4 pm. The two robbers took $3,000, and hit Pop Pop on the head as they fled. The police came minutes later and the Oh’s were taken to the hospital, where Pop Pop died a few days later from his injury. Two years after the attack, the murderers were still at large, and the store is now operated by an Ethiopian immigrant family. Korean shopkeepers, 1993 (96 x 57 in) Acrylic, oil, plastic buttons, sequins, beads, yarn, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas
Many immigrants, especially those with an education, have constructed successful lives in America for themselves and their families. This was true of one of Pacitaâ€™s friends Than Lo, who immigrated from Vietnam in the 1970s, met and married an immigrant from Laos, Puongpun, while studying for their graduate degrees. This allowed them to get good jobs, purchase a house in the suburbs and educate their two children. The American Dream. But while they were successful in America, their relatives had a much more difficult time when the war was over. Most of Than Loâ€™s brothers and sisters were sent to harsh Vietnamese communist reeducation camps and lived in primitive conditions. Finally when they were allowed back to the city in 1979, with the help of a lot of money they arranged for the whole family to try to escape by a small boat to a refugee camp in Malaysia. By sheer luck they were able to reach safety after drifting without an engine for days without food or water, and barely avoiding being attacked by rapacious pirates. They were among the fortunate refugees and when they eventually arrived in America two years later, they were happily reunited with Than Lo and Puongpun. If my friends could see me now, 1991 (94 x 68 in) Acrylic, painted canvas, gold yarn on stitched and padded canvas
During Pacita's 30-year artistic career, she gave more than a hundred formal and informal courses, workshops and art lessons to students around the globe in schools, museums and in her studio. Pacita's specialty was to teach trapunto painting, mixed media collage and wearable art. Children loved her workshops and years later, many former students of her workshop still display the artwork that they did in her classes. As part of the Artist and Community outreach program associated with her exhibition at the NMWA in 1994, Pacita gave a series of trapunto painting workshops to four schools in the greater Washington, D.C. area. While doing her school visits she was always happy to see that there were so many excited faces of new immigrants and kids of color, eager to learn. In some cases the immigrant children made up a majority of the class, which added to the richness of cultural diversity, but also placed additional social and academic challenges on the teachers. New kids in class, 1994 (86 x 69 in) Acrylic, oil, cloth, sequins, buttons, beads on stitched and padded canvas
Life in America created a lot of anxiety for many immigrants who were unsure about how to adapt to their new environment. This was true for everyone, but each age group faced its own expectations and challenges on how to be an American. For 15 year-old Mali, born in the U.S. to parents from Southeast Asia, cultural conflicts were an almost everyday event. In the morning the family was used to eating spicy noodles for breakfast, but her friends in school who ate cereal laughed at her. When she told her parents that she wanted to eat cereal in the morning, they scolded her for being ashamed of their Asian heritage. Although her parents dressed conservatively, Mali wanted to keep up with her American classmates and wear make-up and branded clothes. The one thing that both Mali and her parents agreed upon was that she should study hard and get accepted at a top university, which she did. Her proud parents and relatives attended her graduation from Georgetown University, and now Mali is a successful banker and she regularly serves her children noodles for breakfast. How Mali lost her accent, 1991 (94 x 68 in) Acrylic, oil on stitched and padded canvas
Pacita always enjoyed seeing the way different immigrants dressed in America. The men, she noted, tended to dress more conservatively in a western style, probably because they had to operate in a more structured U.S. work environment. Many of the women, however, dressed with a more ethnic flair, though not always of their own heritage. She loved it when she saw Asians wearing African bags or hats, Africans in Indonesian batik pants and shirts, and Latin Americans with Indian or Chinese scarves. She would smile and say America is truly a global "melting potâ€?.
Cross-cultural dressing, 1993 (96 x 136 in) Oil, cloth, plastic buttons on stitched and padded canvas
Pacita also could not help but notice the large number of mixed marriages that were occurring among her friends and acquaintances. It was wonderful to see, but not always easy for people with varying skin tones from different countries and cultures, family backgrounds and religions to make a marriage last. The combinations and permutations were wide ranging, and it was always interesting to see caucasians trying to smile while eating spicy foods, and the newcomers trying to enjoy turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving without their usual chili. Two of Pacitaâ€™s closest friends, Mike and Jeeva, modeled for her mixed-marriage painting. He was from a small family in Canada, and she was from a large, international family clan in Sri Lanka. He was Protestant and she was Hindu, but they fell in love soon after they met. When Mike proposed, Jeeva deferred and said that he would have to get permission from her father and older brother before she could agree. Mike was a bit baffled, but went through the family background check in Sri Lanka, and as a condition of approval agreed to be married in a Hindu temple in southern India. Weddings are always memorable, but for Mike it was also an amazing religious and cross-cultural experience that he and Jeeva shared with his only brother from Toronto and over eighty family members from Jeevaâ€™s side. 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
Over the last 30 years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Asian American professionals working in the U.S. banking and finance sector. It is incredible because before that there were very few. The change has come about mainly because of the jump in Asian American MBA graduates from countries such as India, Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia. It has also occurred because Asia now plays such a large and important part of the global economy that Asian language and cultural skills are now in greater demand. It is partly related to the fact that many Asian cultures are very entrepreneurial. In the 1980s, two of Pacita’s Philippine friends, Lilia and Leo, were among the first global financial pioneers to establish emerging markets investment funds for American investors. They asked Pacita to do a painting to decorate their new office in Beijing, and Pacita decided to name it Masters of the Universe inspired by the movie ‘Wall Street”. Unfortunately, the painting was lost during its shipment to China. Masters of the universe, 1992 (96 x 57 in)
Acrylic on stitched and padded canvas
After her return from Thailand to to the U.S. in 1980, Pacita maintained contact with many Cambodian refugees who had been resettled in communities around Boston, and tried to assist them with a variety of household matters. She was not surprised to see how difficult it was for many of the unskilled Cambodians to adjust to their new life in America. The more enterprising, shared living accommodations and often worked two, low level jobs to provide for their extended families. The small number of educated refugees adjusted much better, and were able to encourage their children to finish school. What the Cambodians missed most was the sense of community they had had in Asia, and before long they often moved to other cities in order to live among their former countrymen. Through the Cambodian American network Pacita was introduced to Sichan Siv, who told his harrowing story about escaping from the Khmer Rougeâ€™s killing fields, making his way to the refugee camps in Thailand, and finally to America. Years later they met again when he was working at the White House in Washington, D.C., and she painted her last â€œImmigrant Experienceâ€? painting, Sichan between two worlds: From Angkor Wat to the White House. Sichan between two worlds: From Angkor Wat to the White House, 1994 (93 x 58 in) Oil, buttons, beads 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, D.C. 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. Pacitaâ€™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 Pacitaâ€™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 U.S. 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, D.C. 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, D.C.; 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. Pacitaâ€™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 Pacitaâ€™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, D.C. 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
“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
“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)
“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
"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
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
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 Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh • National Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia • Singapore Art Museum, Singapore • Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan
Fundaciรณn Pacita, Batanes
This monograph chronicles Pacita Abad's personal immigrant experience and her painting series "The American Dream".