Tuesday, July 12, 2016

160. Notes on Celeste Lecaroz's Portraits: #1. The Face

NVM Gonzalez used to talk a lot about how the diachronic and synchronic characteristics of language could be the key to finding an endless resource of inspiration. The diachronic is the historical and mythological dimension of words whereas the synchronic is the declarative words of the here and now. It was NVM's  "trade secret" that allowed him to write as much as he could, the mind and writing hand hopping from the historical and mythical to the here and now and soon he accumulated a treasure throve of authentic Filipino literature that made NVM a National Artist. In visual art, if one were to look for the same spring of inspiration, the human face is probably one of the most fertile grounds to mine. In the human face, one not only finds a story of a generation, a race, or the entire humanity, but also a representation of a specific person with a particular historicity, color, and uniqueness. Thus, the human face has the history and mythology and the here and now, the perfect cross between the diachronic and synchronic. Yet, the peculiar thing about the face is that it means nothing unless it refers to a specific face of a person. An artist may draw a face, and with a mastery of the anatomy, achieve perfect symmetries on the eyes, nose, and lips; but, it could hardly be relevant to any one, except probably to the student of medicine studying the human species. To work and make the subject teem with meaning, the face as a subject of an artwork, must be the face of someone -- perhaps a great man like the Pope; a hero of a war, like Antonio Luna; a comic artist, like Dolphy; a beautiful soul, like St. Theresa of Calcutta; a sports icon, like Kevin Garnett; or someone close to home, like your mother. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

147. Pres. Duterte, Pope Francis, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son

"Pu__ ___ __ Pope," oh my, I can't even write it. In November 2015, then just a mere prospect of a presidential candidate Duterte uttered the equivalent of the "F" word to the head of the Catholic Church. If this were the middle ages that would have spurred a crusade. But the cursing and iconoclast-thinking candidate out to make a point that decent is overrated -- and incompetent -- would not be denied his freedom of speech. He would speak his mind, curse the traffic and  the pope who caused it, condemned to hell if he had to, but no moral code was going to make him blip what his mouth wanted to say about the hellish traffic that Pope Francis caused when he visited the Republic in January 2015. Pope Francis seemed unmindful of the raucous. And  I could imagine the humble Pope even offering an apology for the incident had he been informed about it until -- bowed by the pressure of his handlers who were probably led by what could be imagined as septuagenarian members of the Catholic Women's League -- candidate Duterte wrote an apology to the Vatican and to the Catholic Bishop of Bacolod, and vowing to donate a thousand pesos to Caritas Davao for every curse word he said as an act of contrition.  The Vatican accepted the apology and said, "The Holy Father offers the assurance of prayers for you, as he invokes upon you the divine blessings of wisdom and peace."  That was April 2016, and the matter was settled once and for all by an overwhelming vote of the Catholic and non-Catholic majority in favor of candidate Duterte in the May 2016 elections.

("Bago" by Celeste Lecaroz, acrylic on canvas, 4 feet by 4 feet)

Still, I wonder if the Pope's prayers for candidate Duterte had a  hand in the elections -- after all candidate Duterte was the only one who had the benefit of papal prayers among the presidential candidates in spite of being depicted by the other candidates as a foul-mouthed murderous man. If so, it gave a hint of how that goody-goody brother of the prodigal son felt after the rich father gave the son a feast despite living a reckless life -- a parable regularly read in Catholic churches that sidelights an earthly phenomenon in which nice guys finish last and the bad boys have all the fun.

("Viva Il Papa" by Celeste Lecaroz, acrylic on canvas, 4 feet by 4 feet)

Nonetheless, if and when Pope Francis meets Pres. Duterte, it wouldn't be just them meeting, but the Vatican and this Republic, the nation states that they represent, no cursing or crusades expected. Wouldn't that be nice? But nice, like decency, is overrated. For ultimately, as in the parable, we find out that the key to  most everything is discarding our Manichean world view about being nice, decent, or of good behavior for it simply misses the point.