NEAR ART. There is a church, a hospital, grocery and wet market, a resort famous for its nine-waves pool, a mall called SM City San Mateo in our neighborhood but there are no art gallery or art museum. The nearest we could go to see artworks is at Vargas Museum in UP or Pinto Gallery in hilly Antipolo. So whenever I feel the craving to see art in its traditional and timeless beauty, I run to the home studio of the modernist master Lydia Velasco in Marikina.
When going to Tita Lydia, we cross the bridge that connects our barangay to her’s. Below the bridge is the historic Nangka River where a bloody battle between Andres Bonifacio’s men and the Spanish forces took place in August 31, 1896.
HOME OF THE ART ICON. Religious, serene, motherly that’s the vibe when entering the home studio of the art icon.
Surrounding Tita Lydia’s unfinished artworks is a lush floral and fruit garden with several grottoes where the modernist master spends time praying and painting, and entertaining her followers, family, and friends.
Filipiniana is all-over the house. Vintage stained-glass, filigreed transoms, and colorful machuca tiles were used at the main entrance. The stairs leading to second floor studio and living quarters were made of salvaged wood and capiz window panels from an ancestral house.
THE WOMEN OF LYDIA VELASCO. In the several occasions we visited Tita Lydia, we always find her working on several commissioned pieces. She is known in the art circle for her women figures. Slender, serpentine, sophisticated women forms is how art critics describe Tita Lydia’s art.
Tita Lydia adds texture to her canvas by pasting fabric with interesting design patterns to her female forms and blending her collage with yellow, green and red tones.
AMBASSADOR CHAIRS. A tour of Tita Lydia’s home studio begins in the garden then to the second floor studio where there is a display of the artist’s old works bearing the signature Lydia Cruz or Lydia Velasco-Cruz. While seated on a pair of ambassador chairs from her ancestor’s home in Navotas, Tita Lydia told us stories of her life as a young girl selling fish in Navotas market where the old trading tradition known as bulong-bulungan system is still being practiced to this day.
She majored at advertising in UST and worked for various advertising agencies before becoming a full time artist. It was one of her artistic directors, Mauro Malang Santos, who suggested to drop her married name Cruz when signing her paintings for the purpose of easy recall. Tita Lydia signs her coveted canvases today with Velasco.
CANDLE VENDOR. When I Googled paintings by Tita Lydia, I found one of her early works called Candle vendor. This painting interests me because it recalls the ritual of burning or melting of candles as offerings in exchange for heaven’s blessings or divine intervention for someone’s desires. In our recent visit, Tita Lydia puts her signature on an updated version of the Candle vendor.
EPILOGUE. I am thankful today because whenever someone ask me Oh! Who are the people in your neighborhood? I can sing about the artist Lydia Velasco.
-8 September 2015 | Nativity of the Virgin Mary