Done in acrylic on handwoven cloth and embellished with dyed yarn, beads, and gold thread, Pacita Abad's large-scale trapunto is entitled "The Filipina: a Racial Identity Crisis." It focuses on two women, the austere Maria Isabel Lopez who is mestiza and the earthy Liwayway Etnika who is kayumangqi. Together they represent the opposing racial strains that make the modern day Filipina unique and confused about who she is behind the skin color.
---------------------------------- My work has always been influenced by my travels, primitive art and the social and political impact of the places I have been. Living and painting in different parts of Asia including Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia has been very rewarding because of my exposure to their culture, people and their art. My work reflects the spirit in each place I visit and tries to incorporate local materials like tie-dye, batik, shells, beads and hand-woven yarn to illustrate an image.
I have observed over the past twenty years that weather and cultural surroundings have a major impact on my painting. I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1986 and stayed for eight years. I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia in 1993 and I still remember vividly what one friend told me when I was living in the U.S.: he said that my colors were losing intensity, and right then and there I knew it was time to get back to my Asian roots. Being back in Asia, I can't help but be impressed by the vibrancy and vitality that I see here. This is noticeable in the bustling population, booming businesses and the explosion of contemporary art.
Although I have lived and worked all over the world, I still feel like there are essential aspects of my work that is Filipino and Asian. In the last fifteen years I have developed this unusual technique I call Trapunto Painting. What exactly is trapunto? It is a high relief worked through two layers and on the surface to give the work a puffed-out or three-dimensional effect. Trapunto Painting is a form of canvas collage incorporating sewing, embroidery, tie-dying, assembling and /or painting on padded canvas. Many Filipinos have been known for the painting and needlepoint, and a combination of these skills produces a good trapunto painting.
My subject matter has included socio-political paintings criticizing the Marcos administration and the social situation in the Philippines. The closest affiliation I would have with regards to this is in the painting I call The Filipina, A Racial Identity Crisis. This focuses on two women, the fair-skinned Maria Isabel very much influenced by Spaniards and the brown-complexioned Liwayway Etnika who comes from the original Malay tribes scattered in the villages all over the country. They represent the opposing racial strains that make the modern-day Filipina confused who she is behind the color of her skin. As you may have guessed I lean more towards the tribal Filipina and that may explain why I am so interested in remote, exotic and distant places like Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Indonesia.