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“Mga Bulong ng Babaylan” (Whispers of the Shaman)

Posted On 2013 Sep 08
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A solo art exhibit by Filipino American artist Eliseo Art Silva as part of the LA Downtown Artwalk

Eliseo Art Works

Eliseo Art Works

Los Angeles, CA - Papi’s Gallery (109 E. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA) in Downtown LA will host the city’s first solo exhibition of the work of Filipino American artist Eliseo Art Silva. On view from September 1 through October 31, 2013 with the opening reception on September 12 at 6pmMga Bulong ng Babaylan: Whispers of the Shaman, will present some 30 works, including his murals, such as Secrets of History: The Carlos Bulosan Memorial (1999), Seattle, WA; as well as provide a context for understanding these particular major public installations and their powerful imagery within the broader arc of the artist’s career.

The exhibition is also being organized to celebrate Filipino American History Month, held annually every October. This year’s theme is “Hands that Built America” and is particularly significant because the centennial birth anniversary of an important Filipino American figure, Larry Dulay Itliong, catalyst and leader of the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, falls on October 25, 2013. The exhibition is dedicated to the legacy of Larry Dulay Itliong along with the 1,500 Filipino American farm workers that marched from Delano to Sacramento to fight for social justice and a better life for the American worker. Silva’s mural, Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy (1995), located at the heart of LA’s Historic Filipinotown is the nation’s first memorial honoring the Filipino American Farm Workers of the watershed movement of California’s labor history: the 1965 Delano Grape Boycott.

Bulong ng Babaylan: Whisper s of the Shaman will explore painting as a manifestation of the magic and power of a babaylan, a Visayan word similar in meaning to the Native American word, shaman. During the era of the Ancient Kingdoms of the Philippines (900 AD-1571), babaylan guided the spiritual and ritualistic lives of the people in the barangay/community. Babaylan were mostly women who provided healing, wisdom, and vision through their prayers, chants, myths, and personal narratives of the region. When the Spanish conquered the Philippines in 1571, these babaylan lost their place of privilege alongside the ‘datu’ or king and the ‘panday’ or blacksmith, the master-artist of an ancient Filipino society. Along with that the communities lost much of their oral and written traditions. Bulong is a Tagalog word meaning ‘ to whisper’, it is also the term sometimes used to describe a babaylan ‘prayer’. As often was the case when congregants whisper babaylan prayers through the confessional box, the friars who then were listening to their “sins” made that what was private and personal, then politically accessible to abuse and oppression by the colonizers.

Born in 1972 in Manila, Philippines, Eliseo Art Silva moved with his family to the United States in 1989. He was educated at Riverside Community College, Otis College of Art and Design where he obtained his B.F.A. and Maryland Institute College of Art’s Hoffberger School of Painting under the auspices of Grace Hartigan and Dominique Nahas where he received his M.F.A.

Silva attended the Philippine High School for the Arts where he received the Most Outstanding Visual Artist award, attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and currently resides in Philadelphia, PA and Corona, CA. Silva received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, an Independence Foundation Fellowship, an Award of Design Excellence from the City of Los Angeles, among many other awards. His work was featured by the Smithsonian twice, held seven solo exhibitions, and has exhibited at the CUE Art Foundation, NY.

The exhibition curator is Nelson “Datu” Anderson and CINEMAGAGO, (Pilbuen Aranas, Eliseo Silva, Ray Zipagan, James Castillo, Jose Vasquez, Richard Ocampo, Sherry Salonga ) a multicultural “ Artists, Filmaker” collective based in Los Angeles, that evolved from the Dada/absurdist inspired art gang known as Grupo de Gago. As part of the show, Nelson’s documentary “Whispers of the Ancestors”, a film about Filipino Tribal tatoos will be shown at the gallery.

In 1993, Grupo de Gago members Manuel Ocampo, Nelson Datu A., Pilbuen Aranas, Eliseo Silva, Richard “Dictum” Ocampo, Freddy Agriam , Rachell Reyes,& Winston Emano  created a twelve-foot banner to announce the annual Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture, entitled “Ugat Pilipino: Filipino Roots”. The work, which includes a dog roasting on a spit labeled “This is America” with a swastika for a handle, a monkey, a rosary, a Star of David, and the festival sponsors’ names, was hung in the Los Angeles City Hall rotunda near several other paintings and sculptures, some of which depict images of female genitalia. Three days following the opening of the exhibit, city cultural affairs head Adolfo Nodal began receiving complaints from building employees claiming the banner was racist, promoted stereotypes of Filipinos as dog-eaters and monkeys, and displayed unnecessary cruelty to animals. Nodal had the banner removed, claiming it was not artwork but rather an informational sign promoting an event.

The incident at city hall not only stirred up quite a controversy, it made local, national and international news. Twenty years later, Nelson Datu Anderson, PilbuenAranas, Eliseo Silva, and Richard Dictum Ocompo, founding members of Grupo de Gago are now part of a collective working in primarily, as the name of the group suggests,the cinematic medium. Nelson Datu Anderson and PilbuenAranas have been collaborators and partners since their early days with Grupo de Gago, forming their own company, ROK FILMS, a film, television and entertainment company.

Datu and Silva will discuss the works on Thursday, September 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the gallery. The event is free of charge, valet parking available, and seating is available on a first-come, first-seated basis.

INVITE Whisper Shaman-8-12 (1)

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