A review of MissBehaving, a two-woman exhibit by Con Cabrera and Bunch Garcia at the Lunduyan Gallery, 88 Kamuning Road, Quezon City from October 4-22, 2008.
BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA CULTURE
According to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a Jungian psychoanalyst and a cantadora (teller of stories), there’s a wild seed inside each and every woman. Despite the bastardization of the sacred nooks of femininity, the “wild” side of the “wolf woman,” has remained—although in need of some unearthing and polishing—in every girl, no matter where they come from and what culture that she has.
In MissBehaving, a joint exhibit, up and coming artists Con Cabrera and Bunch Garcia, prove that the wolf woman is still in the fight for her recognition.
The yearning to be free, to win and own a niche in this male-dominated world, and to fight for the betterment of their lives and their young, which are the holders of the future, is still like a burning fire—bright, warm, beautiful and consummating. This Cabrera and Garcia depict in their works.
Each frame, each picture that hangs in the 30m x 30m Lunduyan Art Gallery along Kamuning Road is a reflection of the rebelling psyche of these two women.
Their rebellion is more than the usual “rebellion” in the name of “freedom” of copulation: it is ideological. It is a total departure from the stereotypical feminism wherein the only freedom of the woman—as most of the ultra-feminists suggest—is exploring the body and freeing the mind from inhibition regarding sex.
Some will fight the thought, saying that it is just part and parcel of the entire feminist agenda, but the formation or molding of a “masculine” woman, the author thinks, is not the solution to the problems that women are facing: it only adds to the cuts and bruises to the female’s soul.
Their works show, in different ways, that they are convinced of the righteousness of the emancipation of women – which was articulated by the Russian revolutionaries.
I. Women who are at war
There are no holds barred with Cabrera as she introduces with pride works of art that look at the revolutionary armed struggle in a positive light.
Her Kompo (Human Chain, oil in canvas) shows a young, pretty woman in a Spanish terno, with an M16 armalite rifle at her back, leaning and beaming at the audience.
In the Red Flags (We Shan’t Fall Off in Vigor, oil in canvas), the journey from a conservative point-of-view of how the woman should act in a society like the Philippines to the “other side” (Narrative of the Red Traveler), and her admiration for female warriors of Philippine revolutionary struggles: Gabriela Silang of Ilocos, Ma. Lorena Barros of the dark era of Marcos’ martial rule, and the much-heralded martyred human rights worker of the Southern Tagalog region, Eden Marcellana, show where she lies in the political spectrum.
In an interview, the 27 year-old, frail-looking yet courageous artist said that the paintings hanging on the wall are attempts at portraying the woman in the struggle for her and her country’s emancipation against the “plagues” wrought by the decaying capitalist system, which strip the woman of her dignity and personality.
The author cannot help but recall some of the Jungian analyst’s words about the “silencing of women” or the suffocation of the “wildness” of the woman, and her fight for her rights as a person and as a human:
To turn the other cheek, that is, to remain silent in the face of injustice or mistreatment,
has to be weighed very carefully. It is one thing to use passive resistance as a political tool
as Gandhi taught masses of people to do, but it’s quite another matter when women are
encouraged or forced to be silent in order to survive an impossible situation of corrupt or
unjust power in the family, community, or world… There are times when it becomes
imperative to release a rage that shakes the skies…
Truly, the women that Cabrera has in mind are not the silent ones but those who are releasing rage that shakes the earth.
II. The (un)boxed and the (un)stereotypical women of Garcia
Although sex and sexuality are not the entirety of the woman’s quest for freedom as a person and as a human, these must not be disregarded for they are part of the nature of human beings.
That is why the gazer must not consider Garcia’s Before Symposium 1-0 a weed in a well-maintained garden but a part of its beauty.
Using the images of Audrey Hepburn (the wild woman in While Having Breakfast, I wonder…), Marilyn Monroe (the abandoned and the sensual woman in her Acute Barbiturate Poisoning), and Imelda Romualdez Marcos (a vanity in vain, Snubbed by the Beatles), Garcia showed the status of different kinds of women in Western societies, as well as societies like ours, those abandoned and who are longing for completeness, those misunderstood, and those driven to narcissism.
“Why [use the images of] Imelda, Audrey and Marilyn? Because in one way or another, they were ‘misbehaving’, as the society wants to suggest,” the 20-year-old Garcia told this writer in a brief interview.
The following quote fits what Garcia’s works want to convey to her audience:
The body is like the earth. It is a land unto itself. It is as vulnerable to overbuilding, being
carved into parcels, cut off, over-mined, and shorn of its power as any landscape. The
wilder woman will not be easily swayed by redevelopment schemes. For her, the questions
are not how to form but how to feel. The breast in all shapes has the function of feeling
and feeding. Does it feed? It is a good breast.
The hips, they are wide for a reason, inside them is a satiny ivory cradle for new life. A woman’s hips are outriggers for the body above and below; they are portals, they are lush cushion, the handholds for love, a place for children to hide behind. The legs, they are meant to take us, sometimes to propel us; they are the pulleys that help us to lift, they are the anillo, the ring for encircling a lover. They cannot do this or that. They are what they are…
The semiotic of black and white in a painting doesn’t pertain only to the dark side of the soul, to the struggles between good and evil, but also to the continuous search for one’s illumination.
The paintings of Garcia may be seen as the transmutation of the “unreal self” into the “real self”. Current society’s transformation of females into “males” is an attempt to conceal the real strength of the daughters of Eve: their power to conceive and perceive, to find nourishment (like the wolf woman, Estés’ La Loba) amid drought and inadequacy, and their power to transform the land from a barren field into a field teeming with nourishment. And the black and white paintings of Garcia are true to themselves in their message that the woman indeed nowadays need illumination.
III. it’s good to misbehave sometimes
The two young artists, the author must say, are succesful in their attempt to show their audience the good side of today’s women: wild, thinking, and determined to untangle themselves from the knots of slavery which have been brought by the current societal system.
Capitalism indeed desecrated the pureness of women’s psyche and being, by bringing them into a lowly state: always under the shadow of the “macho man”; impoverished, thus forced to commodify herself in order to feed her young; completely alienated due to their poverty and programmed ignorance of their role in society, and vice versa.
So it’s just right to commend the two young artists, for their successful attempt at showing the “misbehavior” of truly behaved women in the canvases hanging from the walls of the Lunduyan Art Gallery. Because of their work, the message has been sent to both men and women of the world: it is good to defy the norms if the norms are abnormal. (Bulatlat)
Krupskaya, Nadezhda K., Preface to The Emancipation of Women (From Writings of V.I. Lenin), online edition, accessed October 11, 2008.
Estés, Clarissa Pinkola, “Righteous Rage,” Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 360 Estés p. 210