IN AN art world dominated by males, it is always refreshing to see women artists stepping up with their art-making and challenging the men in the latter’s own turf.

Held at the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences last July 8 to 12, the ”Flame of Asia” exhibit showcased the works of Asian women artists from Korea, Nepal, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

“The goal of the exhibition is to link all the Asian artists together,” said Jocelyn Calubayan, the Philippine commissioner for this year’s edition of the exhibit. “We also wanted to check the state of the female artists from our neighboring countries, and hopefully get some tips from them that could help our female artists here.”

The works ranged from pencil-on-paper to oil-on-acrylic or canvas, from realism to surrealism and expressionism. The art styles varied from the representational to the non-representational.

3-D pieces also highlighted the exhibit, including a sculpture made out of folded paper and two suspended dolls representing the wet and dry seasons of the Philippines.

A curious sculpture was of a woman wearing a dirty white dress, etched with menu items one could find in a carinderia and trimmed with beautiful laces on the edges. “Freda” strikingly depicted a woman forced to work after she and her family had been abandoned by her husband.

“This piece was meant to show the extra mile women are willing to go through to provide for their families,” Alma Quinto, the sculptor, said. She added that the beautiful laces are symbolic for the fact that no matter how ugly reality is, “women have the power to transform it into something beautiful, especially for their children.”

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An advocate of women’s rights, Quinto said that the exhibit was a good step in helping female artists develop their “voice” in a male-dominated art scene.

“Sometimes, women are represented incorrectly by men in their artworks,” Quinto said. “I hope more women step up and join the art scene, so that we will have representations of women on how they see themselves.”

The exhibit afforded for the viewer a visual contemplation and interpretation of the condition of women today.

One painting showed a clash of the colors yellow and blue, forming the silhouette of a woman submerged in water with her face distorted by the movement of the waves.

Also notable were the works from the other Asian countries, particularly those from Korea, Japan and Thailand. A common element seen in the Korean artworks was the presence of a flower depicted in different artistic styles, perhaps a sign of female artists wanting traditional art to be given a modern makeover.

Indeed, the artworks served as a peek into the psyche of the female artist.

“When I look at their paintings, it feels as if a part of (the artists’) life transposes into the canvas,” UST CFAD teacher Winnie Rose Reyes said. “I get a clue on how they view life, their beliefs and even their world view.”

Reyes is the creator of the two dolls representing the two seasons in the country: the monsoon and summer. Other Thomasians who took part in the exhibit were CFAD associate professor Ma. Rhoda Recto and alumnae Michelle Pauline Lim, Brenda Praico, Anna de Leon and Margaret Rose Rodriguez.

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Overall, the exhibit disabused from the viewer’s mind the image of the Asian female artist taking a passive role in the art scene.

“This is one way of informing the world that women can exhibit,” Calubayan said. “They can do artwork that is at par with males.” Emil Karlo A. Dela Cruz

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