*This article was first featured in Issue 9 of Cake & Whiskey Magazine. Words by Glenn Martinez and photos by Jesse Abad.
ART 19B. It was rush hour on a humid, tropical evening in urban Quezon City. Inside Art19B, an art gallery set at the heart of Cubao’s bohemian district, the air was cool. Bentwood chairs in one corner reminded me of vacations spent on the beach and the white brick walls with colorful drawings took me back to childhood. Gallery owner Carina Guevara-Galang shared the stories of the pieces in her collection with me, each one reflective of our Philippine life and culture.
One of my biggest idols in life was my lola Carmen Guevara, Carina reminisced. We would go to [art] exhibits and I would accompany her, and we would meet the most fascinating characters. She had a home which even then at a young age I already know was very special. I loved going there and being surrounded by beautiful things that obviously meant so much to her, not because they were expensive but because they’re part and parcel of who she was.
ON COLLECTING ‘BEAUTIFUL THINGS.’ With Carina’s early exposure to art, mingled with her own artistic talents at a young age, her own house eventually filled with paintings from floor to ceiling.
But collecting ‘beautiful things’ was not cheap: I need to unload some so I could afford the hobby, which gets expensive. Carina said. Friends would buy off me, and I would use the money to buy even more. So it really made sense to eventually open a gallery.
A COMMITMENT BIGGER THAN MARRIAGE. Carina is a chef by profession. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and came home to the Philippines to open several restaurants. Nowadays, her most refreshing times away from the restaurants, that Carina calls a commitment bigger than marriage, is when she’s on a trip to scout for art throughout Filipino villages.
When we are out [on our trips], the monotony of city living is broken. Manila’s traffic and crime can be very heavy and negative so when, in the middle of shanties, I meet an artist and amidst the poverty there is this incredible talent, it’s like a beacon of light. I love meeting them, learning of their process and quirks. The pieces become personal.
HISTORIANS OF THE PHILIPPINES. From conception, art is charged with emotion and memory, which is layered by the emotions and memories brought to the piece by a viewer. They are creative pieces borne out from the artist’s dreams and frustrations. And for Carina, Art 19B gives voice to those artists in her own backyard.
They are our voice, they are our historians, They will tell our story long after we are gone and they will tell the truth. Artists visualize our dreams, our fears, our terrors, our aspirations. They make physical what we cannot explain, what we cannot understand. They plant those seeds.
EPILOGUE. For those like me, who walk through the doors of Art 19B, Carina shares her passion not only for art, but for people.
I am a gallery owner but you have no idea how many times I’ve played therapist to my clients and artists. I guess the vibe of the place relaxes them enough to tell me very personal things about their live. So once we started talking, their lives mix with the art, and out conversation can last until 3 am.
-18 October 2015
Feast day of St. Luke, Patron saint of painters