- Keana A. Labra
An Interview With Filipino Artist, Amanda Pascual, From Northern California
Amanda Pascual is a recent graduate of Sacramento State University. Through her love of painting and printmaking, she wishes to represent her Filipino American culture through her idea of home. She wants the diverse Asian American population to be better represented in the art scene. She is also the current Art Editor for both Chopsticks Alley Pinoy and our sister organization, Chopsticks Alley Art.
Like most Filipino Americans, her decision to become an artist was not immediate. She recalls, “I grew up constantly drawing and doing crafts. In community college, I changed my major several times from Animation to Chemistry then Biology and ended up in Graphic Design. I transferred to Sac State where I took a printmaking class taught by Mark Emerson where I realized that the emotional connection you get from physical work and the process of art making is what I really loved about art. I wanted to get my hands dirty and move my whole body in order to create. My classmates welcomed me to the Art side and I feel like that was the best decision I made.”
There are different methods of spurring creativity, and it is definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” process. For Amanda, she explains how she comes up with her ideas, “I start jotting down ideas and drawing out thumbnails in a sketchbook. I carry a sketchbook everywhere because you never know when something is going to inspire you. From those initial ideas, I will use my love for cups as example, I start asking myself questions and create brain maps in my sketchbook. What is it about cups do I like? How does it do the thing that I like? What kind of world does it live in? How do I want it to interact with its environment? What mood do I want this cup to be in? And I would continue asking questions as I created the piece.”
By having her sketchbook with her, she is able to sketch any revelation that may occur at any time. Beyond the external environment, people-watching, and in Amanda’s case, cups, there are particular artists who leave a lasting impression on us. Amanda ponders her artistic influences, “Wayne Thiebaud is a huge influence. His color usage and designerly compositions especially in his dessert series is something that I am drawn to. Matisse has been a huge influence lately with his usage of pattern and the way he paints his interior scenes. Alfonso Ossorio’s energetic compositions created in his assemblages are something that I strive for as well.”
Like Andy Warhol is to Campbell Noodle Soup and DaVinci is to Mona Lisa, some artists want to have their particular style and flair associated with their art. For Amanda, she wants people to associate her with “cups! I’m sort of kidding. From the subtle color shifts of my paintings to the fun graphic images of my prints, I want people to be able to feel a sense of familiarity and home with my work. Although a lot of my imagery comes from my Filipino American culture, I hope that others would be able to feel a sense of comfort and nostalgia as well. But I paint a lot of coffee cups since that is the source of my comfort (and reminds me of my grandmas).”Amanda reflects on her bond with her grandma, or lola in Tagalog, and her relationship mirrors a major Filipino value: family. This kinship extends beyond blood relatives; “aunties” and “uncles” can be long-time family friends or even strangers. These familial titles herald a sign of respect.
There are artists who work within their ethnic community, and it’s intriguing to hear an artist’s perspective on this kind of “alliance.” When asked if she is still “discovering” new things about herself and the Filipino community, she responds, “any body of work is a continual exploration of yourself. I recently discovered that my love of dance and that sense of movement is something that I incorporate in all of my work.Through my work I have found out a lot about the meaning behind imagery that was so common to me such as the giant wooden fork and spoon. I discovered that in the particular ones that my grandparents own, the seated figures carved on the handle are actually bulul or deities that were used in rituals and ceremonies as guardians over the rice harvests of the Ifugao people in Luzon. The rituals consisted of covering the deity in pigs blood. My original attachment to the form is from my discovery of what an anxious person I can be but this new discovery made me love the bulul figure even more!”
There can be a disconnect between Filipino culture and young Filipino Americans, especially between those who were born and raised in the U.S. with little to no experience with the Philippines. With current social movements and the much needed call for representation of ethnically diverse communities, we asked Amanda how her work empower’s today’s Filipino youth.
She replies honestly, “I am still new to the art scene, but I hope to inspire Filipino youth to continue to make art; but, more importantly to embrace where you came from. I had a hard time connecting to Filipino culture growing up because I felt like everyone within the community expected me to be a certain way that I was not. I didn’t speak the language, my home didn’t have TFC on all of the time, and I didn’t consider the Philippines to be “home” since my whole life was spent in California. However, being Filipino was a part of my identity in other ways. My love of music and dance, my love of elaborate wood carving and natural textures, my love of textiles and tropical nature, and most importantly my love of my home and family who has always been there for me. Through embracing my origins and my culture, I also embrace part of my identity as well.”
As a recent graduate, we were curious as to the status of her work. In regards to any new projects, Amanda declares, “my work is dedicated to collaborating with other artists. We are coming up with a “coloring book” that we will share with each other our interpretations of each other’s pages. I have been experimenting with watercolor and I am excited to mix my style and content with other artists.”
Amanda stays true to her artist’s creed of collaboration. When asked of any upcoming events she’d like the Filipino community to be aware of, she suggests, “Kenneth’s class sounds super fun, and I want to attend so everyone should attend. Here is a link to his Eventbrite page. Tickets are $15 apiece. Kenneth Tan Ronquillo is an artist who incorporates his lola’s, or grandma’s, work with his own as an ongoing collaboration. One can find out more on his website."
In regards to Amanda’s outreach to the Filipino community and if she has yet seen any kind of impact, she comments, “since I’m just starting, I hope that in the future my art would inspire others to make art and learn more about their culture. I also want to collaborate with more artists and hopefully one day be able to help promote Filipino American art in my community.”
Much like other Asian cultures, Filipinos fall into the habit of encouraging “profitable” careers onto their children, such as becoming a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer. Since we are often not supported in the pursuit of a professional career outside of STEM, we asked Amanda’s stance on art education. To which, she contemplates, “whether you decide to follow STEM or not, art education is still very important in not only boosting our creative thinking but also in broadening our world view. Art goes hand in hand with science through the chemical processes of methods such as lithography, with psychology in which analysis about people can be drawn about the artist through their subject and materials or how people react to the art, and of course politics and history are huge studies that can be drawn from art (my favorite being the abstract expressionist because of the emotional forms painted in reaction to World War II). I really encourage artists to be artists but also for others to study art and art making as well.”
We conclude our interview with Amanda by asking her word of advice to new, upcoming Filipino artists breaking into the scene. Assuredly, she offers, “stay in contact with people who are great influences and will help give you critiques that will really help you grow as an artist (not just those who will tell you what you want to hear). Surround yourself with people within the art scene and outside of it to really expand upon your opportunities. Also, just keep making art!”
Please look forward to future works and articles by Amanda. We’re glad to have her as the head editor of our Arts department. She is currently doing outreach for an upcoming Chopsticks Alley Art event, the Salt-Stained Exhibit. Her work will be on exhibit at San Jose City Hall's this November 2018.
Please feel free to reach out to her if you are interested in participating in a spoken word showcase. See more of her work here. https://www.facebook.com/thelumpypillow/
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Keana A. Labra - Milpitas, CA Contributor
With her background in English Literature, Keana would like to learn more about Filipino literature and history to bring an understanding and awareness to the culture. As a Filipino American, she is interested in further researching the impact of the feminist movement and how it affects Filipino tradition. She would also like to uplift the Filipino Americans who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. She hopes to encourage fellow Filipino Americans to participate and immerse themselves in the Filipino culture. Her hobbies include watching anime and reading manga.
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