THE ARTIST, clad in a tapestry depicting numerous tales of abuse, sets fire on the long train of her skirt in front of the UST Main Building. Appeared contented, she puts out the fire and collects the ashes in a palayok. She then starts a dramatic procession to the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences, while her captivated audience follows—welcome to Soft Dreams and Bed Stories.

A brainchild of former Philippine Art Educators’ Association president Alma “Urduja” Quinto, the exhibit was first shown in Cuba’s Biennial in Havana and eventually gained international success. Featuring attractive tapestries and cuddly soft sculptures, Quinto releases the inner child inherent to everyone. But probably what makes these pieces special is the advocacy behind them.

Contrasting elements

From tales of abuse and neglect from various non-governmental organizations, Quinto transformed these nightmares into works of art. Using foam, cloth, a trusty needle, and various symbolisms, the painful stories became colorful and almost celebratory.

But not all of her works are about tragic stories. Quinto celebrated the importance of women and the optimistic dreams of children. She derived several Filipino mythological characters, playing them to look adorable to her audience. A manananggal with a human torso attached to her tongue did not look scary at all. Her oddly colored animals were quite adorable, too. A red horse and a pig with prints were instant crowd favorites. Quinto seemed to be very fond of the Filipino priestess and healer “babaylan”, and created a futon-like piece in their honor.

Deemed unreserved by several conservative visitors, the artist was not surprised at all. Tales of rape and physical abuse are either usually considered crazy or vulgar, and not what one would expects in a traditional exhibit. Though UST is a very conservative community, Quinto received a go signal from the administration to exhibit her works because they believe it is time for the Thomasian community to “mature.”

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Wholly, her colorful works are a joy to almost everyone. Adding to their fun, Quinto allowed everyone to hug, take pictures of, and play with her works, deviating from the stiff and boring traditional exhibits. The children who visited also had fun rearranging the pieces to stimulate their imagination.

Form does not always define purpose, as Quinto proves in her exhibit. And the first impression would not always be the last. Florian C. Garcia

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