[Note: Once again, I am honored and humbled to have received an invitation to the exhibit of the works of Ms. Sandra Torrijos, my favorite painting mentor. (Thank you, Sands! The invitation means a lot to me as a friend and a former student who learned a lot from you.)]
FIREWORKS: April 10 to May 15, 2015 in Cocina Juan
There is fire in every one of us. Our inner fire is that source of strength where every thing becomes possible. When I asked Sandra the reason behind the title, she told me this:
“Fireworks because art, life, is passion. It is my way of igniting my love for colors and textures and the human form particularly women expressions. I really worked intensely on these pieces to make positive the cycle of changes that are happening in my life now. Kailangan (It’s necessary that), despite everything, we have to look at the positive side of life, God wants us to be happy. And a big part of that is to be creative.”
I can only agree. Her art works are sending us messages of hope and empowerment. Take for instance the sculpture titled, Siga (sorry, there is no direct English translation but it is how Filipinos call a neighborhood tough guy]. The word siga is not normally used to describe women so this somehow applauds the power of women to protect themselves and make their own choices despite societal prejudices. It also reminds us of our own power to survive and fight against adversities, whether as a man or woman. Indeed, Sandra’s works are testaments to how arts and creativity bring so much joys; they are forms of communion with God, the source of life, colors, and arts.
As many people close to Sandra may already know, she has been shuttling between home in the Philippines and Germany. For half of the year, she lives in Germany where she is nurtured “in a place conducive to long meditations, with a small library and a lovely European tiger cat, a small garden to marvel at God’s daily miracles, and a loving companion.” I was curious as to her thoughts about this dual-country residency so I asked her, “What are your most important lessons /insights as you reside in these two equally beautiful but diverse countries/cultures?” What she said is something that many of our overseas Filipinos (and all of us who travel) can truly relate with:
“Well, it is not easy to be living in two cultures. It is like being on a pendulum. What is important is you know who you are, and you know your life mission. All these will then be your fulcrum or center so you can keep your balance and be a productive member of the community.”
In the show are 20 paintings and 4 wood sculptures. Sandra said that the sculptures were like an “afterthought”. Sandra thinks that “they gave a nice contrast to the paintings. Moreover, not many people have seen my recent sculptures.” I, myself, had not seen much of Sandra’s sculptural works so it was such a pleasurable and inspiring afternoon for me even if it was a very quick visit in between my day’s errands. (I was sad to have missed the Opening Night but I ensured I will be among the first to see her works even before the show opened that evening!) I enjoyed looking at the Tres Marias for it reminded me of my best girl friends who are continuously infusing my life with woman’s instinct (ok, Rose A., you know this is about a private joke among the four of us as we did the road trip in Malaysia!), laughters, wisdom, faith, and wonderful friendships and companionship.
Sandra is a nature-lover and this shows in her works. There is a painting titled, Mango Tree, and this is based on the beautiful tree in Sandra’s garden. Sandra speaks fondly of it, knowing that she may not be able to see it again as they are now selling their family house in Quezon City. When she said, “The painting serves as a remembrance,” there was a little ache in my heart because I know what it means to miss someone or something that is really special to us; something that is connected to us as human beings. I am sure that Sandra was thinking of all those years she sat or played under the tree or enjoyed its luscious fruits when she said that.
Sandra invites us to value our heritage. The painting, Damayan, speaks of our culture that encourages community support. Sandra said “it is how we are, women and men, too. I think it is embedded in our culture especially our NGO culture.” It is something that we need to embrace more these days especially as we grapple with societal, environmental, and political challenges. Damayan reminds us that we are all connected as brothers and sisters; that the weave of life binds us all so that one’s kind and loving gesture ultimately redounds to ripples of happiness around him.
As many of Sandra’s friends and followers will know, she has been working a lot for women’s rights and empowerment and all of us I will agree that our world is in a better state because of women like her: generous with their time and talents, always ready to raise the bar higher for women and their dreams. Sandra salutes women who lead and through the painting, Madam, she celebrates “the big woman who can be everything. She is the boss.” Of course, we will all have different interpretations–after all, true art does not dictate–so I will leave it up to you to read her thoughts and listen to her message.
The painting, Sayaw and the sculpture, Ako, carry important messages, too. In sayaw, Sandra somehow reminds us to dance with joy, to lift our spirits and simply dance in full abandon! In Ako, she may be telling us to value our own worth, to believe in our good self.
Meanwhile, the painting, Soul friends, seems a sweet testimony of how friendships have touched Sandra’s life. Her approach in her art inspires us to be more grateful of the big and small things in our lives. We are reminded to say “thank you” to the friends who continue to stand by our side, rain or shine. I have been touched by kindness today and the past weeks (R.A., this post and the painting below also carry my BIG thank you message to you!). I am humbled by the kindness around me and I will forever love, share, and give back because I, too, have been showered with magic, with wonderful friends and earth-angels, with divine interventions, and with the most powerful love in the person of my husband!
I have not been much into painting lately although a few months back, I did try to squeeze in some painting time in my schedule. I am glad that I received the invitation because it reminded me to start practicing again. More than that, it was a perfect gift at this phase in my life. Hubby and I had established a social enterprise last year (and currently setting up another another start-up) so it has been quite challenging and exciting, like a roller-coaster ride. Looking at beautiful art creations has a sort of calming and uplifting effect and so my gratitude comes from that deepest part where love resides. Thank you so much, Sandra! Your art makes us feel divinity while allowing us to embrace our humanity.
Once again, you have opened up your doors and invited us to another soulful journey.
Cocina Juan is located in 100 Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village Quezon City.
This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)