Sining ni Eliseo Art Silva

  1. Pwedeng ilarawan po ninyo ang kasalukuyang trabaho ninyo? Can you please describe your present work?  

Ako ay isang pintor sa perspektibo ng mga banyaga.  Ngunit kung iaayon ko ito sa pananaw ng ating mga ninuno, na naniniwalang nahahati sa apat na haligi/poste ang ating lipunan: Maharlika (Royalty), Babaylan (Spiritual leaders/Healers), Bayani (Warriors), at Panday (Artisans) maituturing na ako’y isang panday. Mas naaangkop na sabihing ako’y isang Panday, dahil sa aking palagay ang aking mga likhang-sining ay siyang nagsisilbing sandata sa ating pakikidigma at pakikibaka para sa ating lipunan.

I am a painter in the foreigner’s perspective. But if I would base it on the perspective of our ancestors, who believe that our society is divided on four pillars: the Royalty, the Spiritual leaders/Healers, the Warriors, and the Artisans, I would be considered as an artisan. It would be appropriate to call me an Artisan because in my opinion, art is the one that serves as our weapon on waging a war as well as our struggle for our society.

  1. Paano n’yo po napili ang larangang ito? How did you choose this line of work?

Tadhana ang nag-udyok sa akin na tahakin ang ganitong landas.  Naniniwala ako na ako’y sumibol sa ating daigdig upang lumikha ng mga gawang-sining upang pasiklabin ang imahinasyon, at maihubog natin ang ating mundo– ayon sa ating mga pinapangarap.

Destiny led me to take a journey into this path. I believe that I was put forth in our world to create art that would spark the imagination and shape our world based on our hopes and dreams.

  1. Anu-ano hong trabaho ang napasukan ninyo bago kayo naging alagad ng sining?  What other jobs did you have prior to becoming an artist?

Kahit na kumikita na ako sa aking mga obra mula noong ako’y 11-17 taong gulang pa lamang sa pamamagitan ng pagbebenta sa mahigit na dalawampung mga paintings, lumilikha na ng mga mural para sa Chinese Restaurant sa Parañaque noong ako’y 14 pa lamang at noong ako’y 15 kinomisyon ako ng Letran College na lumikha ng mural para sa kanilang Alumni Office; tulad na rin ng ibang mga bagong dating sa Estados Unidos (lumipat kami mula sa Pilipinas noong ako ay 17 taong gulang noong 1989) kinailangang magkaroon ng maaasahang pagkakakitaan upang makatulong sa mga magulang.  Ang una kong pinasok ay dalawang taong pagtatrabaho sa Carls JR, pagkatapos ay isang taon sa UA Cinemas.  Noong ako’y nasa Riverside Community College, nakakuha ako ng trabaho bilang Graphic Artist at Illustrator ng Kolehiyo habang nagsa-sideline bilang background artist ng isang supplier ng backdrop murals para sa mga photographers. Noong ako’y natanggap sa Otis College sa Los Angeles, nakakuha ako ng internship mula sa Getty Arts Institute na nagtalaga sa akin sa SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) upang maging community organizer at apprentice ni Judy Baca- na tanyag na muralista sa buong America.  Ang pagkakataon na naranasan ko sa SPARC ang syang naging daan sa kasalukuyan kong landas na tinatahak.

I started earning a living from my work ever since I was only 11-17 years old by selling more than twenty paintings. I was already creating murals for a Chinese Restaurant in Paranaque when I was only 14, and when I was 15, Letran College commissioned me to create a mural for their Alumni Office; just like other new immigrants in the United States (we immigrated from the Philippines when I was 17 years old in 1989), I needed a stable source of income to help out my parents. I worked at Carls, Jr. for two years, and then one year at UA Cinemas. When I was at Riverside Community College, I got a job as a Graphic Artist and Illustrator of the college while sidelining as a background artist for a supplier of backdrop murals for the photographers. When I was accepted to Otis College in Los Angeles, I got an internship from the Getty Arts Institute, which assigned me to SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) to become a community organizer and the apprentice of Judy Baca – a distinguished muralist in the United States. The experience that I had in SPARC became the bridge to the current path that I am pursuing.

4.  Paano po ninyo ilalarawan ang inyong likhang-sining? How would you describe your art? Sa kaibuturan ng aking mga likha ay ang pananalig na maitawid sa nagmamasid ang makiisa at makipag-buklod ng taimtim sa mensahe at diwa ng mga inililitaw kong mga pigura at mga kuwento. Ang hadlang ng ating pagiging salikmata sa lipunang Amerikano, mula sa akademya hanggang sa Hollywood ang syang pangunahing sagabal upang makamit ang hangaring ito. Ngunit sa kabila ng lahat, ang pagtanong ng aking mga obra ang sya na ring nagiging sigasig at galugod nito.  Sapagkat ang sining kailanma’y hindi nagbibigay ng kasagutan; sa halip, sila’y naghahangad lamang na ang lilitaw na mga imahe at mensahe ay hindi tuwiran at ipinapahiwatig lamang.

At the core of my art is the faith that it would reach the observer to become one and bond deeply to the message and meaning of the figures and stories that I am uncovering.  The impediment of our invisibility from academia to Hollywood is the leading obstacle that is keeping us from achieving this purpose. But despite everything, asking about my work becomes the energy and backbone for it. Because art never provides the answer; instead, they only aspire that the images and messages that will appear are not forthright and only suggestive.

  1. Sino ang nakapagbigay-inspirasyon sa inyo para sundan ang sining o trabahong ito? Who inspired you or influenced you to pursue art or this line of work?

Sa aking pagkabata namulat na ako sa kabuhayang ito nang ako’y pnagbigyan ng aking magulang na magkaroon ng pribadong guro na kilala sa aming lugar:  si Maestro Roger San Miguel. Naging kapana-panabik sa akin na matutuhan ang kanyang buhay bilang pintor. Doon ako nakaranas sa tunay na buhay na maari palang magtaguyod ng pamilya mula sa pagpipinta lamang.  Ito’y naganap noong ako’y 11 taon pa lamang.

Ever since I was young, I was exposed to this line of work when my parents let me have a private instruction from an expert in our area: Maestro Roger San Miguel. It was exhilarating to learn about his life as a painter. That was when I realized that it was possible to provide for a family just by painting. This happened when I was just 11 years old.

  1. Paano po ninyo napapanatili ang pagiging Pilipino dito sa Estados Unidos? How do you maintain your “Filipino-ness” here in the United States?

Kahit na dalawampu t limang taon na kaming naninirahan sa Estados Unidos kailanma’y hindi ko ninais na maging mamamayan ng Amerika at itinatangi ko pa rin ang aking Filipino citizenship.  Sa katunayan, balak ko na ring bumalik sa Pilipinas noong 1995, pagkatapos na matanggap ko ang aking BFA sa Otis.  Ngunit, pagkatapos sumikat at lumitaw ang kahalagahan ng Gintong Kasaysayan mural ng Filipinotown, pansamantala ko munang tinabi ang aking planong bumalik.  Nakita ko ang Amerika ay larangan din sa ating pakikibaka; at dahil sa aking nasimulan– ano man ang makakaya kong isibol sa Amerika ay siyang magsisilbing hakbang upang tuluyan na akong makabalik sa ating bayan. Sa simula, ang aking pangarap magpakabuti at umasenso upang maibaon ko ito pagbalik sa lupang tinubuan ang siyang sumustento sa aking unang kalahiti na pananatili sa Amerika.  Pagkatopos ng una kong pang-publikong larawan ng Pilipino-Amerikano, ang naghubog ng aking pagka-Pilipino ay ang aking imahinasyon pa rin:  ang mangarap na sa pamamagitan ng mga likhang sining ay matanggap at maunawaan na ng mga banyaga sa bayang ito– ang kasaysayan at halaga ng mga Pilipino sa Amerika.

Even if we have been living in the United States for twenty-five years, I never desired to become a United States citizen, and I still cherish my Filipino citizenship. In fact, I had planned to come back to the Philippines in 1995 after I received my BFA at Otis. But after the Gintong Kasaysayan mural of Filipinotown became famous and its significance manifested, I temporarily postponed my plans to go back. I saw that the United States is also a battlefield for our struggle; and because of what I started – whatever I can begin in the United States would serve as a step so I would finally be able to return to our country. In the beginning, my dream was to work hard and become prosperous so I can take it back to my native country, which supported me financially on the first half of my living in America. After my first public Filipino American view, my imagination still shaped my Filipino-ness: to dream that though artwork the foreign would accept and understand in this country – the history and the significance of Filipinos in America.

  1. Paano po ninyo nababalanse ang inyong oras sa pamilya o personal na buhay at trabaho?How do you balance your time with family or personal life and work?

Mahirap talaga ang pagbalanse. Mas mahirap ito sa mga alagad ng sining na lumikha ng mga obra na ang tema ay Pilipino- dahil wala pang demand sa ganitong mga gawain.  Ang solusyon ay kalahati ng taon ay mamalagi sa Pinas at pakinabangan ang demand sa ating mga trabaho, at doon na rin palaguin ang capital na kinikita sa Amerika. Sa ngayon, ‘yan ay plano pa lamang.  Sa ngayon, mahirap talaga ang pagbalanse, dahil kailangan talagang napapalibutan ako ng mga taong naniniwala at nauunawann ang landas na aking tinatahak.  Dahil sa ating mga pinag-aralan na hinubog ng kolonyal na gobyernong Amerikano sa ating bansa- na tinuldukan ang ating pagka-Pilipino sa pamamagitan ng pagturo sa atin ng banyagang salita mula sa Grade 1… hindi natin nakasanayan na kailangang magkaugnay ang komersyo at kultura upang maging ganap ang ating pagyabong at pag-unlad.  Dahil sa tinuldukan ang ating Kultura sa edukasyon, komersyo at ang pagyaman ng materyal lamang at natutunan nating maging hangarin upang umunlad ang ating kabuhayan.

It is truly difficult to balance. It is much harder than other artists who create art pieces with a Filipino theme – because at the time, there was no demand for this type of work. The solution is to live in the Philippines for about half a year and benefit on the demand of our work, and additionally, invest on the capital earned in the United States.   For now, that’s the plan. It is really difficult to balance because I need to be surrounded with people who believe and understand the path that I am taking. Because of what we were taught about how the American government shaped our country – that they ended our being Filipino by teaching us their language starting in the 1st Grade… we are not used to integrating commerce and culture to ensure the social and economic success of our country. Because they ended our cultural education, we are left with commerce and material production that we assume are the only ways we can help our livelihood. 

  1. Saan po kayo kumukuha ng inspirasyon para sa inyong sining? Where do you find inspiration for your art? 

Sa aking palagay ang kasaysayan ay sinusulat sa perspektibo ng ilang mga historyador na may sari-sariling mga hangaring pansarili.  Maraming panli-linlang ang nakabaon sa mga saysay ng ating kasaysayan, kayat nararapat na magbasa ng maraming perspektibo upang maipinta ang BIG PICTURE at makarating ka sa iyong sariling opinyon kung ano talaga ang nangyari. Mahalaga ang kasaysayan dahil saligan ang ating wastong pagbuklod sa kaisipan at diwa ng ating mga ninuno upang tuluyang maitawid ng ating henerasyon ang mga pangarap at adhikaing kanilang pinagbuwisan ng pawis at buhay.

In my opinion, historians whose perspectives are driven by their own self-interests write history. There are numerous deceptions buried in the passages of our history so it is imperative that we read history from different perspectives so we can paint the BIG PICTURE and then you can arrive to your own opinion of what really transpired. History is important because it is the proper combination of our ancestors’ mind and spirit that became the foundation for our generation to carry our dreams and desires into the future to which our ancestors gave their blood and sweat for us to achieve.

Sa susunod na pahayag na sinulat sa wikang Ingles ay sa pamamagitan ng isang halimbawa ng paglinlang sa atin ng mga mananakop; maliliwanagan ang inspirasyon sa aking pagiging alagad ng sining:

“The Americans took 6 months to defeat Spain and 42 months or seven times longer to defeat the Filipinos, and the Philippine-American War cost them 6 times more casualties. This is the measure of the strength of Filipino Nationalism and the Filipino Nation that President Emilio Aguinaldo forged during the greatest period of our history.  And this is why the Americans cannot quite forgive him.  This is why they deliberately deprived him of his proper place in our history, even spreading the canard that he was responsible for the death of Bonifacio and Antonio Luna …  a canard that was revived by Aguinaldo’s political opponents when he foolishly ran for the Presidency of the Commonwealth. Aguinaldo did not even bother to learn English, he urged Filipinos to stop fighting America’s war with Japan, and denounced the book written in his name by the CIA, entitled “A Second Look At America” which attempted to make a little brown brother out of the Father of our Country.” –- Hilarion Henares, Jr.

“When the day comes that our motherland becomes a First World Nation- a country which our ancestors dreamt, fought and died for.  That fateful day will come when we would have rid of all our colonial baggage and dispelled with all the invaders’ poison. Black propaganda and historical narrative from a colonial perspective is the poison that cast the liberator of the Philippines from Spain in a devious light, targeting the nation’s Greatest Generation as unfit for self-determination and self-government. A grateful nation will finally turn its loving eyes towards its first and youngest president with indebtedness and appreciation for having valiantly defended and proudly proclaimed to the whole world: the sovereign Republic of the Philippines!” – Eliseo Art Silva.

  1. Kung kayo ay mabibigyan ng pagkakataon na bumalik ng Pilipinas, babalik po ba kayo? If you were given a chance to return to the Philippines, would you go back? 

Nabanggit ko sa simula pa lang na wala talaga akong hangarin na mamalagi sa Estados Unidos, at balak ko nang umuwi noong 1995 pa lamang.  Dahil sa may mga proyekto pang naghihintay na maisakatupran tulad ng Gateway to Historic Filipinown, na extension pa rin ng naunang Gateway sa Temple at Silverlake na dinesenyo ko na rin.  Sa taong ito ay plano kong umuwi ng Nobyembre hanggang Abril ng 2016 upang simulan ang mga hakbang upang maisakatuparan ang aking pangarap na magkaroon ng karera sa ating bansa.

I mentioned earlier that I have no intentions to settle in the United States, and I already planned to come back home ever since 1995. Because there were projects that were waiting to be realized such as the Gateway to Historic Filipino Town, which is the extension of the first Gateway at Temple and Silverlake that I designed. This year I plan to go home on November up until April of 2016 to begin the first steps to realize my dream to have a career in our country. 

  1. Anong mga pagsubok ang kinaharap ninyo sa pagsunod sa sining na ito? Paano n’yo ito napangibabawan?  Nakaramdam ba kayo ng diskriminasyon dahil sa inyong etnisidad? What difficulties did you encounter in pursuit of your art? How did you overcome it? Did you ever feel discrimination because of your ethnicity?

Sa aking karanasan pa lang sa Otis naranasan ko na ang diskriminasyon.  Tuwing inilalarawan ko ang aking pagka-Pilipino parating sinasabihan ako na hindi yan maiintindihan ng publiko hanggang hindi mo piliin ang mga Maid at Houseboy na magtaguyod sa iyong pagka-Pilipino sa sining.  Sa kanilang palagay, walang kasaysayan ang mga Pilipino-Amerikano sa bansang ito at kundi dahil sa WW2-malamang wala talagang ideya ang mga Kano kung ano ang identity ng mga Pilipino sa Amerika. Kadugtong nito, sa aking pagsusuri…dalawa pa lamang Pilipino ang kasama sa Permanent Collection ng LACMA (LA County Museum of Art)- si Alfonso Ossorio at si Manuel Ocampo. Sila’y kasali sa koleksyon hindi dahil sa sila’y lumilikha ng obra na may temang Pilipino- kundi dahil sa kanilang kontribusyon bilang mga indibidwal na alagad ng sining. Hindi katulad ng ibang lahi tulad ng mga Latino, na may demand ang kanilang sining na kinikilalang Latin Art.  Sinasabi nga madalas sa akin na *….you are just doing Mexican Art.” Dahil sa walang demand, hindi nagkakaroon ng value ang mga obrang may temang Pilipino-Amerikano.  Kaya mahirap magbenta ng mga oleo sa kanbas sa tunay nilang halaga na kadalasan ay higit sa lima o sampung libo- pataas. Sa ngayon, ang pagkakaroon ng dalawa hanggang limang kontrata para sa mga mural ang nagbabayad ng aking mga bills sa buong taon.  Maswerte kung maraming sideline- tulad ng mga painting sessions or private workshops, mga pribadong komisyon ng portrait, mga grants at kadalasan may mga pumapasok din na royalty ang mga nakaraan kong mga likha. Ang solusyon nga dito ay magkaroon ng konteksto ang ating Sining Pilipino sa pamamagitan ng pag-udyok sa mga Museo at may-kaya na mag-invest sa mga obra na gawa ng mga Pilipino at Pilipino-Amerikano.

In my experience at Otis, I already experienced discrimination. Whenever I describe my Filipino-ness, I always get told that the public would not understand my work until I choose the Maids and Houseboys that established Filipino-ness in art. According to them, Filipino-Americans do not have a history in this country and without the Second World War, Americans would have no clue about the identity of Filipinos in the United States.  Additionally, I noticed that there are only two Filipinos involved in the Permanent Collection of LACMA (LA County Museum of Art) – Alfonso Ossorio and Manuel Ocampo. They are included in the collection not because they created art pieces that have a Filipino theme, rather it is because of their contribution as individuals who make exceptional artworks.  This is unlike other ethnicities such as Latinos, whose arts have demands known as Latin Art. I was always told, “…you are just doing Mexican Art.” Because there is no demand, there is no value to art that has Filipino-American themes. This is the reason why it is difficult to sell oil canvases with their original value that are usually priced at five or ten thousand dollars or more.  For now, having two to five contracts for murals pays my bills for the whole year. I would be lucky if there are other sidelines like painting sessions or private workshops, private commission of portrait, and grants; typically royalties are coming in from my previous work. The solution to this is to have a context for our Filipino American Art by pushing Museums and wealthy Filipino-Americans to donate or invest on the paintings and other masterpieces that Filipinos and Filipino Americans made. 

  1. Ano ang inyong pang-araw-araw na gawain? What’s your daily grind like?

Kapag walang malaking Kontrata para sa publikong mural ako’y nag-aasikaso ng mga mala-laking proyeto na may mahabang proseso upang maipatupad.  Nagpipinta sa istudyo upang paghandaan ang susunod na mga eksibiyon.  Sumusulat sa social media upang mapanatili ang aking kakayahang maging konektado sa publiko. Pinaghahandaan ang malaking pagbalalik sa Pilipinas sa Nobyembre ng taong ito, ngunit ako’y babalik din mula Mayo hanggang Oktubre ng susunod na taon (2016).

If there is no big contract for a public mural I am preoccupied with bigger, long-term projects. I paint in the studio to prepare for the upcoming exhibition. I write in the social media to maintain my connection with the public.  I am preparing for my big comeback in the Philippines on November this year but I will also come back from May to October of the following year (2016).

12. Ano pong mga award, parangal o pagkilala ang natanggap na ninyo para sa sining ninyo?  What awards, honor or recognition have you received for your art?

Noong nakaraang taon lamang, isa ako sa dalawang alumni ng Colegio de San Juan De Letran BATCH 1989 ang pinarangalan ng Most Distinguished Alumni Award sa Silver Anniversary Jubilee Reunion ng aming BATCH.  Sa pagkakataon na rin na iyon naramdaman ko na panahon na upang bumalik at maranasan ang mamuhay muli sa ating bayang sinilangan. Bukod pa dyan nakatanggap ako ng Independence Foundation Fellowship, na may halagang 10k at may layunin na pagyamanin ang kaalaman at karanasan ng alagad ng sining sa pamamagitan ng isang Travelling Fellowship.  Ang parangal na ito ay nagbigay daan upang mapag-aralan ko ang mga UNESCO World Heritage Sites ng mga bansang Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand at Pilipinas, nang sa gayon ay maisabuhay ko muli ang mga kaharian at kulturang kinamulatan ng ating mga ninuno bago pa man nakarating si Magellan sa ating kapuluan. Bukod pa sa nabanggit ko na ay pinarangalan din ang Gintong Kasaysayan mural ng Los Angeles ng Most Outstanding Design in Public Art Award mula sa DCA (Department of Cultural Affairs); tinanghal ng dalawang beses sa dalawang eksibisyon na inikot sa buong Amerika ng Smithsonian Institute, ang pambansang Museo ng Amerika. Marami pang parangal akong natanggap, at ito’y maaring malaman sa aking website: ​http://eliseoar5.wix.com/eliseoartsilva.

Just last year, I was one of the two alumni of Colegio de San Juan De Letran BATCH 1989, who was awarded the Most Distinguished Alumni Award in the Silver Anniversary Jubille Reunion of our BATCH. In that moment, I also felt that it was time for me to go back and experience living in the country I was born. Other than that, I also received the Independence Foundation Fellowship worth 10k that aims to foster the knowledge and experience of an artist with a Travelling Fellowship. This award gave way to my research on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of these countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, so that I could give life to the kingdoms and culture that opened the eyes of our ancestors even before the arrival of Magellan in our islands.  Other than the ones I have already mentioned, I was also awarded as Most Outstanding Design in Public Art Award from DCA (Department of Cultural Affairs) for my Gintong Kasaysayan mural in Los Angeles. The Smithsonian Institute, the national Museum of the United States, exhibited it twice in two exhibitions all over the United States.   There are more awards that I received and you can learn about them in my website:​http://eliseoar5.wix.com/eliseoartsilva.

13. Ano pong maipapayo ninyo sa mga kabataang nagnanais na maging alagad ng sining paris ninyo? What advice can you give to the youth who desire to be an artist like you?

Sa aking palagay, mahalaga na magkaroon ng paraan na ang bawat kabataan ay bigyan ng pantay na halaga ang komersyo at kultura sa kanilang pagkatao. Kung sa kanilang paglalakbay tungo sa pag-asenso at pagtatagumpay sa buhay ay naihanay nila ang kanilang landas na tinatahak alinman sa apat na haligi ng ating lipunan (ayon sa ating mga ninuno): ang Maharlika, ang Panday, ang Bayani at ang Babaylan- tanggapin nila ang kanilang naitutgmang tadhana ng buong-buo at walang pag-aalinlangan; sapagkat bawat isa sa atin ay may dahilan at alituntuning itinakda ni Bathala. Kung ang landas ng mga alagad ng sining (Panday) ang siyang naging tadhana; sikapin na isapuso at ipagbuklod ang sarili sa kasaysayan at pamana ng ating lahi, upang maitawid nang maayos ang mga pangarap na siyang naghubog ng ating pagka-Pilipino- na siya ring patuloy na huhubog sa susunod na salinlahi- sa loob at sa labas man ng ating pagka-Pilipino.

In my opinion, it is important for the youth to find a way to give equal importance to the value of commerce and culture on shaping their identity.  Through their journey towards riches and success in their lives they should be able to alignthe path they chose to any of the four pillars of society (according to our ancestors): the Royalty, the Artisan, the Warrior, and the Spiritual leader/Healer – accept their matching destiny wholeheartedly and without hesitation because each one of us has a purpose and an order that God gave us. If the path of the Artisans is your destiny, diligently engrave it in your heart and form a bond with the history and heritage of our race to rightfully carry the dreams that shaped our culture, which in turn continuously shapes the subsequent generations inside and even outside our Filipino-ness.#

Mag-iwan ng Tugon

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Baguhin )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Baguhin )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Baguhin )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Baguhin )

Connecting to %s