Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gilda's gift of time

The pose that says, "You want my picture? Hala, hmmmph!" She looks like she's about to dance the itik-itik.

When the subject of Gilda Cordero Fernando, writer and serious painter (no matter how she pooh-poohs the seriousness with which she applies herself to painting), comes up, sculptor Julie Lluch and I are one in agreeing on this. One of her best gifts (rare to find in other persons, no matter how especially endowed by God with gifts of creativity) is her ability to focus her being on you, beam at you as though you were the most important person seated across or beside her. That feeling she gives you enables you to feel that you are special and that the work you do is sincerely appreciated. Simply put, you emerge from her presence assured that what you are, what you say, what you do are all important.

She never gets on a high moral horse and imposes anything on you that she knows you can't and won't do. And I don't know if she's even aware of this: that she has saved and healed many lives, that she has enabled (yes, I will repeat the word "enable" again and again) artists and writers to realize their gifts and the lessons of their life experiences so they can flower and fully realize their potentials; of course, not in the same magnitude and breadth that she has done and continues to do.

Whenever I enter her home, a living gallery, via a lush garden now tended by her daughter-in-law Lilli Ann after Gilda's husband died, I'm reminded that it was she who tapped young architect Leandro Locsin when he was a newbie and was just building the circular Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice in the Diliman campus, to build her home in the '50s.

When I look at the Elmer Borlongan murals in her hallway and bedroom, I remember how the painter was also wet behind the ears when she commissioned him to do those ceiling-to-floor paintings. What other encouragement does one need when Gilda has, like I wrote, beamed her blessings on you?
Yesterday we met and I said after I saw her version of Mebuyan, "Gilds, ang galeng mo talaga gumawa ng mga dede." Her pert answer, as she points to her chest: "Expert ako dyan kasi wala ako."

Her forthcoming show's title, "Same Difference: Ganon pa din ang Diperensya," has her self-abnegating, laconic kind of humor, the kind that says hindi seryosohan ito but it (whatever she does) is actually serious.

And one can almost visualize her shrugging her shoulders to say, "It's more or less the same old stuff. Walang masyadong diperensya." Meaning, the paintings are all new, even the 1997 piece has never been exhibited, but the style carries over what she had already started with (and with such flair and fearlessness): the distortions of the human faces, the witty titles (like little short stories or flash fiction, as it's called these days), the references to sinaunang Filipino beliefs/folklore on the creation of the world and our own myths about strong women (Darna, Mebuyan the goddess with many breasts, etc.).
With Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo

She went to Silverlens yesterday afternoon and, upon her invite, I tagged along to watch her tie up loose ends, price her paintings, interact with the galleries' Isa Lorenzo, Rachel Rillo, the Santos sisters Isabel and Carina (grandchildren of Mauro Malang Santos who is more or less her contemporary) and co-exhibitor Ryan Villamael whose work will occupy a smaller corner alcove independent of the space that Gilda's works will occupy. It's always a lovely sight to watch Gilda the Great Hugger interact with young artists and coax them out of their hesitation (that look of being intimidated because they're face to face with the maker of GCF Books, their classroom and library references in art school).
With the next generation of artists from the Soler Santos family whose group show with their father is still up until Tuesday next week. When Carina and Isabel were introduced to Gilda, she said, "Ang lolo niyo ang kilala ko!"

Gilda looks thrilled that Ryan Villamael, who's having a simultaneous solo exhibit with her at Silverlens, is "very guwapo," and there again is that warm embrace she gives openly.

Well, I need to apologize for this photographic documentation of that afternoon (it's the kind of apology Gilda makes when she mocks at her finished work). Her works are already under glass so I had to position myself in such a way that I didn't include the glare of the pin lights or my reflection in the pictures. At times I just focused on details of the works like the folded pieces of old terno and similar clothing materials pasted on the dresses of the female figures that added more texture to what could have been a flat work.

Mabuhay ka, Gilda! You will always be Ka Universe to me.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Gilda's exhibition opens July 10, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Silverlens Galleries, 2F YMC Bldg. 2, 2320 Don Chino Roces Ave. extension, Makati City. The show will run until Aug. 9.
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