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SWIMMING WITH SHARKS Underwater Paintings by Pacita Abad



Assaulting The Deep Sea Underwater Adventures Underwater Wilderness Artist Profile

Cover: My fear of night diving (detail), 1982 (130 x 170 in) Oil, acrylic, mirrors, plastic buttons, rhinestones on stitched and padded canvas Opposite: Puerto Galera I (detail), 1983 (99 x 102 in) Acrylic, yarn, buttons on stitched and padded canvas



ASSAULTING THE DEEP SEA Text by Mark Scala, Chief Curator, excerpted from exhibition catalogue “Pacita Abad: Assaulting the Deep Sea” at the Art Museum of Western Virginia (October 21 – December 31, 1994) One of Western art's most appealing myths is of the artist as aesthetic geographer, capturing sights that others may only visit vicariously through the agency of his skilled brush. Paul Gauguin in Tahiti, Paul Klee in Tunis, and Georgia O'Keeffe in the New Mexican desert traded the comfort of the known for the stimulation of the exotic, employing the purest hues to recreate the intensity of their sensual experiences. Today, institutions like the National Geographic Society have assumed the role of documenting exotica, employing skilled photographers to show us locations we would never otherwise see. But if the truest face of a culture is to be found in its aesthetic expression, such mediated, modern-day journalism cannot capture the essence of each place visited. Photographs depict surfaces, they don't recreate the indescribable aesthetic sensation one feels upon encountering the unfamiliar. Pacita Abad's monumental homage to third world cultures and the undersea ecosystem make her more kin to the aesthetic explorer of yesterday than the documentarist of today. Unlike her Western predecessors, however, the colorful world of the native "other" offers to Abad less an escape from the known than an entree into a world family, of which she feels very much a part. An inveterate traveler, Abad is as happy to be in southeast Asia or north Africa as in the Washington, DC neighborhood in which she now resides. This expansive uniculturalism is reflected in Abad's history and style.


Classes at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC and The Art Students League in New York from the mid to late 1970’s, combined with Abad's extensive travel and thirst for stimulation, yielded an almost immediate maturity of style. Today, her aesthetic wellsprings are the places she has visited, whether Mexico, Cambodia, Bangladesh, or Papua New Guinea. "When I travel," says the artist, ". . . I prefer going to third world countries. Give me Haiti over Paris anytime." Such countries, she points out, "are beautiful - they're real. The moment you step out of the plane, there's something peculiar you can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. That's the kind of pulse I want my works to have." Paradoxically, it is the western method of trapunto that lends spice to Abad's meditations on non-western culture. Trapunto comes from the Italian trapungere, meaning to sew and stuff. Abad paints (either using oil or acrylic) on canvas and then adds elements of collage. This top layer creates dense fields of color, patterns and folk imagery. To this she adds a backing cloth and stuffing materials like kapok and cotton batting. The two layers are joined with running stitches. The surfaces are enlivened by embroidery and the application of buttons, batik cloth, mirrors, cowrie shells, and other found objects. Abad takes seriously her role of recreating cultural experiences through her trapunto paintings. Often including such images as Masai masks from Africa and the Wayang puppets of Indonesia, her paintings evoke ancient traditions and rituals. She does not merely recapitulate national icons, but seeks a deeper human connection to those with whom she comes into contact during her travels. Abad has painted the Cambodian refugees in Thailand, interviewed Vietnamese seeking to escape to America, and visited Sudanese taking desperate flight from civil war. Out of these exposures came Abad's singular series, "The American Dream," which will be shown at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) from November 17th, 1994 to February 12th, 1995. Begun in 1980 and ongoing, this solo exhibition at NMWA movingly illustrates the tragedies, hopes, and triumphs of Asian, African, and Hispanic immigrants to the United States. Oppressed and fearful but never beaten, Abad's refugees are profoundly human, embodying the life force that sustains people even through the worst.


Lion fish: Master of camouflage, 1983 (71 x 110 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, rick rack ribbons on stitched and padded canvas


While simpler in concept, Abad's series "Assaulting the Deep Sea" strives to be more denizen than tourist in the deep sea. An accomplished scuba diver, she has spent many hours off Sumilong Island and in the Apo Reef. Her aquatic forays, magical in themselves, hold a special meaning to Abad. As a child, she nearly drowned while swimming at Batanes. To overcome her fear of water as an adult, she took swimming lessons for three years at the YMCA, then eventually braved the ocean while on a trip to Thailand. "After I took my first plunge," says Abad, "the rest was pure obsession. It is such a peaceful environment down there that one feels like an infidel intruding into a sacred place." As Abad's fear was diminished, her paintings resonated with the thrill of obstacles overcome, childhood wonder restored. The earliest work in the exhibition is the most pivotal in this metamorphosis. In My Fear of Night Diving (1985), Abad's darkest imaginings of deep-sea horrors are brought to the fore. A terrifying great blue shark looms gape-mouthed and razor-toothed over a writhing giant octopus, circled by a swarm of evil-looking viperfish, stonefish and moray eels. The palette is somber gray, dark, alleviated only by the visceral pink of the octopus. If to the land-bound this seems a realistic assessment of what lurks beneath the surface, one senses in Abad a spine-tingling epiphany, as if confronting the worst opened her eyes to the sublime possibilities of the ocean, reeling terror to unimaginable beauty. From this point of departure came the wondrous evocations of a world which few will have the opportunity to visit. Paintings such as The Far Side of Apo Reef (1989) and Anilao at its Best (1987) show sections of coral, sun-saturated sea, and schools of brightly-hued tropical fish seeming to weave forward and back, provoking the sense of spatial dislocation one feels underwater. Abad's dazzling color relationships and invented patterns contribute to this spatial ambiguity, as whole sections appear to swell and shrink within the paintings' shallow fields. The illusion of undersea motion is further heightened by the physical rippling of the canvas itself, making it seem as if one is looking through the moving surface of water, refracting the reefscape to and fro.


In "Assaulting the Deep Sea", Abad shares her pleasure and excitement about the vibrant rhythms of undersea life. The eight trapunto paintings in this exhibition, created between 1985 and 1989, depict the stunningly beautiful coral reefs off the Philippine islands. Alive with the fluorescent colors and dynamic rhythms of the tropical sea, the giant canvases, some approaching twelve feet in length, overwhelm the viewer's perceptual field. "Take a plunge!" says Abad. "I hope you enjoy diving!"





UNDERWATER ADVENTURES

"Welcome to my Philippine underwater paradise! We are a country of over 7,000 islands surrounded by crystal blue water and noted for our beautiful beaches and deep sea diving. Take a Plunge and I hope you enjoy diving !”

This is how Pacita Abad opened her painting exhibition, "Assaulting the Deep Sea”, in 1986. This catalogue is an artist’s fish story, but of course Pacita was not the only artist to have a fish exhibition. The biggest fish story goes to Damien Hirst, who sold a 14-foot stuffed shark that he bought from Australia and mounted in a glass case in England, where it was reported to sell for $12 million in 2004. Pacita’s fish story takes a very different route, as she actually went swimming with sharks and hundreds of other marine species, while making over 80 dives off the Philippine islands of Bohol, Mindoro and Palawan’s Tubbataha Reef and many other exotic dive spots throughout the country. Pacita's diving adventures inspired her to create more than 30 colorful deep sea paintings between 1985 and 1990, which she called “Underwater Wilderness” and “Assaulting the Deep Sea”. Many of these artworks are very large trapunto paintings reaching more than eight feet high. Pacita then went on to hold four exhibitions showcasing these paintings from 1986 t0 1994, one in Manila at the Ayala Museum, and three in the U.S. at the Philippine Center in New York, the Art Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke, VA, and the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Opposite Photo: Courtesy of Wig Tysmans


Batanes Pacita’s roots are in Batanes, a remote archipelago of small islands at the northern tip of Luzon in the Philippines. Throughout her 58-year life, no matter where she lived or how far she traveled, she remained grounded in her Batanes roots. On a map the islands fan out like a school of fish swimming towards the shores of Taiwan, which are only 190 miles away. Bound by the South China Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, only three of the ten islands are populated. The main island of Batan covers 14 square miles and had less than 5,000 inhabitants on October 5, 1946, when Pacita was born in the post office that was part of her family’s stone cottage in Basco, the provincial capital. Pacita was the fifth of 13 children and growing up in Batanes, her childhood was filled with simple pleasures since the isolated, undeveloped islands were populated by subsistence farmers and fisherman. Running water became available in 1955, and electricity only came to the island in 1987. The seas were very rough and the islands were so remote that when Pacita was growing up supplies from Manila arrived by boat only once a year. What her family lacked in modern conveniences was compensated by the parents ensuring that the children had a strong family upbringing and access to a good education. The Ivatan men and boys stayed busy in the fields and their small fishing boats, while the women and girls tended to the domestic chores. Local girls learned to sew at an early age out of necessity as Ivatan families, especially those with many children, lived on very limited budgets. Pacita’s mother Aurora was a dedicated housewife who made sure that Pacita and her older sister Rency learned how to cook and sew. Aurora also made all of the family’s clothes and crocheted curtains, bedspreads and tablecloths for their


Ivana, 1982 (35 x 49 inches) Oil on canvas


home. Old and torn clothes were never given away and used for a long time. Pacita and Rency used to dismantle old shirts or pants and practice putting them back together for their younger siblings. They only got new clothes on very special occasions. Much later in life, as an artist Pacita would incorporate her sewing and quilting skills in her paintings. However, although they lived on an island girls were not encouraged to swim. So Pacita’s eldest brother decided that she should learn and brought her out on his boat when she was seven. He threw her into the water and told her to swim. She frantically bobbed in the water and her brother finally had to save her. That was the last time she put her toes in the sea, as she developed a strong phobia that was to remain for many years. In late 1970’s Pacita’s husband Jack tried to gradually coax her into the water, first in the pool and later in the ocean in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Both times she panicked and they almost drowned. Fortunately, friends were nearby to help them. He reluctantly gave up his quest to teach her how to swim, as she still remained traumatized by her childhood experience.


Photo credit: Tam Urao


America After Pacita entered the Corcoran School of the Art in Washington, she began to appreciate nature to a much greater extent than ever before, as she began to sketch flowers, trees and the water. One day on a school assignment she went to see the aquariums in the basement of the Department of Commerce and was fascinated by the movements of the colorful fish. She came home inspired and went directly to her studio and started her first painting of fish, Philippine Aquarium, with bright fluorescent colors. Not long after that Pacita went with Jack and a large group to a friend’s beach house on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. One night after dinner everyone decided to go for a midnight dip and raced down to the beach to swim out to the raft. Pacita only made it to the shoreline and then came to an abrupt halt. The others, realizing that she wasn’t going to swim, shouted, “Pacita that’s okay! You can watch our bags!” That perceived humiliation finally triggered her to become determined to learn how to swim. As soon as they were back in Washington, she enrolled in swimming classes at the YWCA. Two years later and after hundreds of fitful laps in the pool, she could swim, even though she still was not confident in the ocean.


Philippine aquarium, 1977 (35 x 40 inches) Acrylic on board


Thailand A few years later when they were living in Thailand, Jack decided to take up scuba diving and Pacita reluctantly agreed to go to the introductory session of the British Sub-Aqua Club. When everyone jumped in the pool to take the 200 meter swimming test, Jack was surprised that she jumped in too, and even passed her qualifying swimming test. Pacita got out of the pool beaming and for the next few months religiously attended class and finally received her diving qualification card.

"Diving is easy and so much fun. If you take diving lessons twice a week after six weeks, you'd be surprised at how easy it is. You start with lessons in the pool to gain confidence and then go on to endurance tests in the open ocean with all your equipment: fins, masks, compressor tanks. Don't worry, the equipment is not that heavy in the water.� Despite her bravado, Pacita usually made sure that she went diving with the Dive Master, just in case something unexpected happened 100 feet below the surface.


The dive master, 1985 (50 x 35 inches) Oil, painted leather collaged on paper glued on board


Philippines Once Pacita started scuba diving among the corals and fish off of Thailand and later the Philippines, her appreciation of colors was brought to another level. She was mesmerized by how beautiful the underwater world was with the unique shapes and bright colors of the corals, the amazing array of brightly colored fish, sea shells and a host of other exotic marine creatures.

“I always see the world through color, although my vision, perspective and paintings are constantly influenced by new ideas and changing environments.”

Pacita’s Philippine Sub-aqua Club T-shirt design


Pacita was overwhelmed by her new environment and exclaimed, "After I took my first plunge, the rest was pure obsession. I was attracted and thrilled going underwater. I began to fall in love with scuba diving. The objects you see underwater are beautiful. There are so many types of coral in fluorescent colors, so many fish in all shapes and sizes, everything is magical below the surface. It is like you are in fantasy land. It is such a peaceful environment down there that one feels like an infidel intruding into somewhere sacred. Every time I dive, I feel like saying, ‘Excuse me, but here I come again!’” Pacita continued to explore new diving adventures with her diving buddies in the Philippine Sub-Aqua Club and decided to document her dives on canvas and cloth to depict the colorful beauty of the underwater world. Her paintings were influenced and inspired by her diving adventures throughout the islands of the Philippines. In fact, most of the paintings were titled after dive locations that she frequented: Anilao, Apo Reef, Sombrero Island, Hundred Islands, Puerto Galera, Sepoc Wall and others. At first Pacita was puzzled about how to depict the beauty of the underwater world so that non-divers could appreciate its immensity, color and diversity. She knew that her paintings had to be big to give people a sense of what it was like to jump into the deep water. Pacita was adamant that the surfaces of her paintings could not be flat, as she wanted to show the fantastic range, movement and textures beneath the surface. She developed an artistic technique of creating a three-dimensional aspect to her painting that she called trapunto, which allowed her to achieve all of these goals. Pacita’s trapunto is a high relief worked through two layers or cloth. The top layer, which carries the painted design, is laid over another layer, usually muslin, and the two are then joined with running stitches. These stitches are used to define specific areas and delineate the design. Stuffing is then used between the two layers to give it a three-dimensional effect. A variety of materials are used for this purpose: kapok, cotton, woolen yarn or cloth. Pacita was dazzled by the potential of her new underwater series.



Shallow Garden of Apo Reef (front and back), 1986 (132 x 137 in) Oil, acrylic, mirrors, plastic buttons, cotton yarn, rhinestones on stitched and padded canvas


"Afterwards I would stand back and look at my trapunto painting and tell myself, 'Wow, imagine, I can paint it and stuff it and sew it.’ This technique turned my painting around 180 degrees! I delineate all the lines in the painting and every stitch is done by hand, I don't like the look of machine stitching. Besides, sewing is so therapeutic and meditative."

Pacita’s trapunto works are, in fact, three-dimensional. Not only painted, but padded, sewn and often festooned with sequins, beads, cowrie shells, colorful buttons, broken mirror and pieces of glass. She also used swatches of precious hand woven textiles, pieces of fabric, buttons, shells and much more. The list of possibilities is endless, as she continued to collect these items from her travels around the globe. The final result of Pacita’s underwater trapuntos are not only an oasis of color, but also a myriad of painstaking detail. Pacita said that it was something special that Rency and their mother could help with the sewing of her large paintings.

“Working on big canvas has many advantages. It’s more free and expressive. The works can also be hung in buildings to be seen by the public." As excited as she was about her diving and painting experiences resulting in her “Underwater Wilderness” series, Pacita was always wistful that the people on the island she came from, Batanes, never had a chance to explore the underwater life of their surrounding seas. Although there were numerous fishermen, there was no scuba diving facility. Thus when she and Jack were leaving the Philippines they donated all of their diving equipment to the fledgling Dive Batanes Club. Now when people visit Batanes they can easily arrange to go scuba diving, something Pacita always wished that she could have done on her native island.


Barracuda (detail), 1996 – Top: trapunto painting, Below: oil on canvas



UNDERWATER WILDERNESS Pacita’s 1986 “Underwater Wilderness” installation exhibition at the Ayala Museum was a unique experience for the hundreds of Manila viewers who attended. One writer said, "Pacita believes that life should be fun, but she does take her art seriously, even if she employs offbeat methods, like even holding her underwater exhibition wearing her bikini diving outfit while using a spear gun.” Pacita designed her installation so that people could experience the excitement of being in the deep sea. She used sand, shells and mirrors to recreate the ocean floor, dressed up the ceiling with moving, tie dyed colored cheese cloth to simulate the movement of the water, as well as stuffed dyed cloth to make soft sculptures of giant squid and octopus. One viewer commented that, “The first thing that you notice when you enter the gallery is the sand on your feet. The entrance already smells like the sea, with beach sand on the steps and a fishing net ready to catch you as you walk through the door. The second thing you notice is that you don’t know what to notice when you finally step into the exhibit area. The whole gallery is covered with artwork - nets on the ceiling, nets and broken glass and other sea stuff on the floor, tapestries, or more precisely trapuntos on every wall, plus some paintings conventionally mounted, plus some stand-up art pieces, not to mention hanging squids. Hang on, you are in the inner world of Pacita Abad and you are thrust right into the middle of a sea of art."







Puerto Galera III, 1986 (119 x 87 in) Acrylic, oil, buttons, mirrors, cotton cloth on stitched and padded canvas


Puerto Galera II, 1983 (98 x 100 in) Acrylic, buttons, rhinestones, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas


The big blue fish, 1991 (30 x 43 in) Acrylic on pulp paper


The far side of Apo Island, 1989 (118 x 79 in) Oil, acrylic, gold thread, plastic buttons, lace, sequins on stitched and padded canvas


Pulang Buli off Batangas, 1986 (94 x 72 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, cotton yarn on stitched and padded canvas


Stone fish surrounded by coral, 1984 (94 x 72 in) Acrylic on canvas


Orange star fish, 1986 (98 x 79 in) Acrylic, satin, buttons, yarn, mirrors on stitched and padded canvas


Sapsap, 1986 (46 x 32 in) Acrylic, shells, buttons, woolen yarn, mirrors on stitched and padded canvas



Maya-maya, 1983 (33 x 24 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, cotton yarn on stitched and padded canvas


Underwater paradise, 1987 (69 x 98 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, sequins on stitched and padded canvas


Yellow angel (detail), 1983 (32 x 35 in) Acrylic, ribbons, mirrors stitched on canvas


Collage of fish paintings (detail), Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, sequins, cotton yarn on stitched and padded canvas



Anilao at its best (front and back), 1986 (116 x 125 in) Oil, acrylic, mirrors, plastic buttons and rhinestones on stitched and padded canvas


Puerto Galera V (detail), 1988 (79 x 148 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, sequins on stitched and padded canvas


Jungle under the sea, 1986 (84 x 108 in) Acrylic and glitter on canvas


Hungry squid, 1986 (115 x 84 in) Soft sculpture, painted cloth stuffed with cotton


Sombrero island, 1985 (94 x 72 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons on stitched and padded canvas


Corals (detail), 1985 (56 x 79 in) Acrylic, buttons, mirrors on stitched and padded canvas


Puerto Galera IV, 1986 (79 x 102 in) Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, sequins on stitched and padded canvas


Hundred islands (detail), 1989 (94 x 72 in) Oil, acrylic, glitter, gold thread, buttons, lace, sequins on stitched and padded canvas


Collage of fish paintings (detail), Acrylic, mirrors, buttons, sequins, cotton yarn on stitched and padded canvas



ARTIST PROFILE The internationally known Philippine-American painter Pacita Abad (1946-2004) was born on Batanes, a small island in the South China Sea. Her 32-year painting career began when she had to leave the Philippines in 1969 due to her student political activism against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, and traveled to the United States to study law. However, a few years after receiving a Master of Arts degree in Asian History from the University of San Francisco she switched careers to dedicate her life to art. She then studied painting at the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC and The Art Students League in New York City. Since that time Pacita never stopped being a gypsy artist and painted the globe while working on six different continents and traveling to more than 50 countries. During her career Pacita created over 5,000 artworks and her paintings were exhibited in more than 200 museums and galleries around the world. Pacita’s travels significantly impacted her life and artistic style and were the inspiration for many of the ideas, techniques and materials that she incorporated in her paintings. Her journeys were also a tremendous cross-cultural 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. Opposite Photo: Courtesy of Michael Liew


Not surprisingly, as a socially concerned artist Pacita’s early socio-political paintings were of urban poor, displaced people, political violence, refugees and immigrants in countries where she worked such as Bangladesh, Sudan, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States. After her early social realism paintings, Pacita rejected the painterly emphasis on surface flatness, and sought ways to expand her painted canvases to go beyond the boundaries 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” and 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 was inspired to create very large and colorful trapunto painting series depicting colorful corals, mollusks and fish based on her deep-sea scuba diving experiences throughout the Philippines. Inspired by nature’s beauty she simultaneously worked on a extensive series of flora and fauna paintings from the Australian Outback and Asia’s tropical gardens. Throughout her career her work was characterized by color, constant change and experimentation. Her most comprehensive and extensive body of work, which she focused on during the second half of her career are vibrantly colorful abstract, mixed-media painted textile collages and assemblages inspired by her stays in Indonesia, Singapore, India and Yemen. Many are very large canvases, but also a number of small collages on a range of surfaces, as she continuously explored new mediums, techniques and materials including prints, paper, bark cloth, glass ceramic, steel and other mediums. Pacita also created a number of noteworthy public art installations such as her six-piece Masks from Six Continents in the main Washington, DC Metro Station; batik canvas collage titled Celebration and Joy installed at the Singapore Expo; large hand-stitched Zamboanga wedding tent adorned with native textiles


called 100 Years Of Freedom: from Batanes to Jolo to celebrate the Philippine Centennial; and just before she died the 55-meter long Singapore Art Bridge which she covered with over 2,000 colorful circles while undergoing treatment for cancer. Pacita's paintings were featured in solo exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong; Museum of Philippine Art and the Metropolitan Museum in Manila; Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art, Bangkok, Thailand; Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic; Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke; National Center of Afro-American 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 and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, among others. Pacita’s paintings are now held in museum, public, corporate and private art collections in over 70 countries, and are regularly included in auctions by international auction houses. Among the museums that have collected Pacita’s paintings are: the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan, Singapore Art Museum in Singapore, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, National Museum of the Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Museum Nasional of Indonesia, Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, Bronx Museum in New York and Zimmerli Art Museum in New Jersey.


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


2004 2003 2002 2001 2000

“Pacita’s Painted Bridge”, Robertson Quay, Singapore (catalogue) “Circles in My Mind”, AndrewShire Gallery, Los Angeles, California (catalogue) “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)


1999 1998 1996 1995 1994

“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) “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)


1994 1993 1992 1991 1989 1988 1986 1985 1984 1982

“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) "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


1981 1980

“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

1979 “Recent Paintings of the Sudan”, curated by Abdullah Shibrain Exhibition Hall, Khartoum, Sudan 1978 “Paintings of Bangladesh”, Dhaka, Bangladesh 1977 “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 2004 2003 2002 2001

"Crossings: Philippine Works from the Singapore Art Museum ", Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines “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) “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 "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)


2001 2000 1999

“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

"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


1999 1998 1997

"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 “8th International Biennal Print and Drawing Exhibit”, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (catalogue) “Book Art IV”, Luz Gallery, Makati, Philippines


1996

”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

1995

“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 “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

1993

“Beyond the Border: Art by Recent Immigrants”, curated by Betti Sue Hertz, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (catalogue)


1993

“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

1992

“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

”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)


1990 1988

“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)

1986

“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)

1984

“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 "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 Philippine-Singaporean boy who suffers from cancer


2003 2002 2001 2000

“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 mural-installation with local artists from San Antonio, Texas "Wayang Influences on Art”, lecture given to Indonesian Heritage Society, Jakarta, Indonesia


1999 1998 1996 1995 1994

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

1993

Textile Museum mask-making workshop for Oyster Bilingual Elementary School students, Washington, DC


1993 1992 1991 1991 1989

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


1988 1986 1979

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

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


• "Filipina Firsts”, a compendium of 100 Filipino women who have broken ground in their fields of endeavor organized by the Philippine American Foundation in Manila and Washington, DC, 1998 • Likha Award marking the Centennial of Philippine Independence, given in recognition of outstanding achievement, 1998 • Excellence 2000 Awards for the Arts, given by U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, 1995 • Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Artist Workshop Program, 1993-94 • OPUS B, a production company in Maryland creating collaborations between elders, inner-city youth and artists, artist-in-resident, 1993 • Virginia Center for Creative Arts, artist-in-resident, 1992, 1994, 1996 • Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking, artist-in-residence, 1991, 1992 and 1993 • Gwendolyn Caffritz Award, Pyramid Atlantic, artist-in-residence, 1991 and 1992 • MetroArt II Award, mural installed at Metro Center, Washington, DC 1990-95 • 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, DC • National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC • 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