Coco, Filipino-American Artist, Reflects on a Growing Filipino Presence in the Art World
Coco is a recent art graduate from Laguna College of Art + Design and has a passion for telling stories through her colorfully, whimsical art style that may be viewed on her online portfolio. As a Filipino-American, she paved her way into the art scene and continues to grow every day through her wonderful style. Drawing since a young age, Coco took art more seriously around the 4th grade and pulls inspiration from her childhood, whether it's celebrating it or depicting growth from it. She finds the idea of childhood to be complex, as it can highlight the idea of viewing the world as fun and whimsical, yet bittersweet and complex.
Retracing the roots of one’s culture seems to be a strenuous journey that many take as a way to discover their family’s distant past; therefore, traveling is a huge part of this trek and offers exclusive experiences that can’t be exactly recreated while at home. Coco, being Filipino, has traveled to the Philippines, the home of her culture and shares a few cents on her experience, “Being able to actually experience my family's culture firsthand was a lot more immersive than hearing stories or consuming media about the Philippines. There's only so much you can learn from second-hand experiences. Since every person is different, there might be details that might not be relevant to you, but it might resonate with another person,” she reminisced. She hopes to return soon once more to experience the beauty and wonder of the Philippines.
Growing up Filipino is a rewarding experience, especially with such a deep, and rich culture that contains so much color and plentiful history. Yet on some occasions, we Filipinos find that despite these tiny differences, there is a particular way in how others may treat us. Coco has experienced these treatments before and said, “while being a person of color is already an experience in itself, there are also more dysphoric and discriminatory experiences within a single culture, such as colorism, for example. Within the Asian community, people are still discriminated against because their skin tone is darker. There's kind of an unspoken hierarchy within people of color, and it's just very saddening and dysphoric, to still feel like a minority amongst other people of color”. Personally, I have never experienced these types of prejudices, partially due to living in a heavily Asian populated city and the color of my skin. However, this does not dismiss the times this has happened to others. The world is not perfect, unfortunately. Coping with moments like this is important, and for Coco, her coping comes in the form of artwork, “art helps me solidify my thoughts, express them, and if I share them, it helps to connect with other people as well”.
In terms of career choices, stigma does poke at the Filipino culture, especially towards the medical field. My mother and father would tend to point to the idea of being a nurse or doctor, but never something within the art field, at least from my own experience. Parents tend to gravitate to the idea of their children having a settled amount of money with a secure job, which isn’t exclusive to just Filipinos. However, for Coco, her heart was set on something that would always be with her despite these stigmas: “Initially I was struggling to choose a major when I started to pursue higher education. I ended up going to art school because I felt like art was so ingrained in me - if I chose a different path, would I regret not pursuing art? I personally didn't want to think about what-ifs and decided to take a risk with art school”. Art has always been a passion for her, as it has been for me as a child. As I reflect on our childhood, I realize there was never a form of representation for Filipino artists for us growing up. People like Coco are pushing to change this in terms of what she wants to do later down the line, “As for future goals, I really want to create artistic content for kids and teens, whether it's through animation or illustration. If I can make something that would've helped me when I was ten, fifteen, or eighteen years old, I'll be happy”. These changes are definitely taking place now, as more Filipino artists are beginning to pursue what their heart tells them. I’ve personally met a few, and I asked Coco if she met other Filipino artists as well, “I have! It's always nice to connect with other Filipino-American artists. From my initial impression, I felt like there weren't a lot of us, but that's actually not true - there's a lot of talent out there,” and there really is! If you ever attend a convention, walk down the artist alley. You’re bound for finding a handful of fellow Filipinos showcasing their own work on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Tumblr, and it’s almost electrifying seeing your fellow Pinoys and Pinays out there.
For those who are also Filipino artists and trying to figure themselves out, you’re not alone. There are numerous individuals who are also like you, searching for answers on what to do in life, or even question themselves on what path you should take.
Here’s some advice from the talented Coco herself: “Don't feel obligated to talk about your culture - while it is a common theme for POC creators, don't feel pressured to do so if it makes you uncomfortable. I started to incorporate more aspects of my background in my work because it helps me self-reflect and also frees my thoughts, in a sense. Find what liberates you and more importantly, find what you enjoy and incorporate that in your art. The answer is different for everyone.”
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Kristalyne Rullamas - San Jose, CA Contributor
Kristalyne is currently a Communication Studies student at San Jose State University who also has a fond interest in art. With her spare time she enjoys drawing, ice skating and watching various cat videos. Utilizing her artistic skills and the power of words, Kristalyne hopes to spread the love of her culture and represent Filipino Americans, as well as the Asian American population.