Ay nako! It has been almost 2 years since my last post!
Yesterday, I attended an amazing launch event for Artisan Made Philippines. Overnight my cup runneth over with the sense of Pinay Pride. And just in time!
One of the biggest things that has been weighing down on my mind, heart and soul has been my struggle to teach my kids Tagalog and cultivate their Filipino identity. Yes, I speak to them exclusively in Tagalog, but I know my version of Tagalog is not enough. I myself need some immersion crash course in order to discuss more complex thoughts and feelings with them.
Thanks to Artisan Made, I came away from last week feeling connected to a vibrant Filipino-American community. I’m feeling happier. It’s the kind of feeling you might experience when you spend a whole day with cool cousins. Mind you, I only knew Kristine Surla, the founder of Artisan Made when I walked in the door, but everyone felt familiar as they shared their stories of being Filipino or Filipino-American. It didn’t matter that we were from all different parts of the Philippines or different parts of the US.
It’s a huge understatement to say that I was thrilled and inspired. The day wasn’t about fleeting fashion trends. It was about Filipinos and Filipinas making a difference in other people’s lives.
Moved by the work that the non-profit, Gawad Kalinga, is doing to end poverty and hunger in the Philippines.
Lost my mind shopping for beautiful pieces by Anthill – a social and cultural enterprise in the Philippines working to preserve local weaves through contemporary design to sustain livelihood and tradition. Each piece had a story about the specific weaves and the weaver or craftsperson who created it.
Witnessed the inventive and improvisational culinary skills of The New York Times-featured Filipina chef, Yana Gilbuena. I inhaled the 5-course kamayan meal after admiring her artful presentation. I also learned that you can peel ginger with a regular spoon! It’s work, but it means that you don’t waste any of the ginger! Genius.
Discovered that “heirloom Philippine rice” exists! Last night’s menu included black rice by Social Products — an organization that sources organic food products from Philippine coop smallholder farmer partners that empower rural farmers, women, and indigenous peoples with a more sustainable way to eradicate poverty.
Excited to taste and learn about Kalsada Coffee from the Philippines and roasted in Seattle.
And wow! Theo & Philo artisanal chocolates. Yum! They’re the Philippines’ first bean-to-bar artisan chocolates. You have to try them!
And calamansi liqueur? Yes, please! I am now on the hunt for Manille Liqueur de Calamansi. According to Forbes, it was “conceived as a Filipino take on the Italian limoncello by president and CEO Olivia Limpe-Aw, in collaboration with restaurateur-turned-writer-and-television-host Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, launched in January 2014, is a vodka-based drink that uses the essence of the zesty calamansi rind sourced from Mangyan farmers in Mindoro, a province located off the coast of Luzon, and northeast of Palawan.”
And most importantly, I have secured some SoCal Tagalog play dates in my family’s future! In fact, because of the press coverage leading up to the event, I now know that there’s a show, Kababayan Today. And because of that show, I now know that there’s a summer school program by the Filipino Cultural School here in LA! It’s far but it will be worth it to enroll Cedro next summer.
Limited Edition Tins designed and signed by Audrey Kawasaki, one of my favorite artists — purchased as set of 5 from GR2 // Giant Robot Gallery
During a lazy Sunday afternoon of mundane errands, I had a serious “Ah ha!” moment. (More like, “No duh!” moment.) I was reminded that there is way more to my life than a 9-to-5 job and emails and agendas and deadlines and things to prove. That everyday things can be works of art and that I am completely content simply spending time in a Japanese grocery store or Tokyo Outlet. And it was all thanks to our old neighborhood, Little Osaka along Sawtelle Boulevard.
I decided to wander into GR2 and was immediately inspired by the current Stories group show. Galleries and museums can often be so alienating but I love the shops on Sawtelle. The art scene here in West LA feels authentic yet approachable and even fun. Always inspirational. I love checking out what other artists are trying. Edwin Ushiro‘s graphite on vellum drawings are amazing. And I am totally in love with Jeni Yang‘s paintings on wood with laser cut embellishments. My favorite is her Nuke piece. I couldn’t stop staring at it.
Just as I was about to leave, a little stack of Audrey Kawasaki tins caught my eye. I couldn’t resist. Audrey Kawasaki is one of my favorite artists. And just when I thought my modern Asian-American art adventure was coming to an end, who happened to be the cashier but none other than Eric Nakamura himself! Founder of Giant Robot. I was completely awestruck. I tried desperately to think of something intelligent and thought-provoking to say as I paid for my tins. Instead, all I could think of was, “Uh that’s a cool watch in the display case… It’s on sale? Can I take a look at it?” I’ve bumped into famous people both in NYC and in LA and I usually have no problem chatting it up. “Excuse me, are you Henry Thomas?… OMG, I loved your work in E.T.! Wow!”
Oh well. I was never a very good extemporaneous speaker. Next time I run into Eric Nakamura, I’ll have my speech prepared about how inspirational his work has been — both in the art world and in the Asian-American community. In the meantime, I’ll just have to say my somewhat silent thank you via this blog post.
I wasn’t able to attend the opening reception so I feel fortunate that I had a chance to swing by the gallery space today. The experience means so much to me on so many different levels. First, it’s a thrill to see my work on display IN PUBLIC. It’s the same feeling I get when I bump into someone out and about who happens to be wearing a Barkada(ko) tshirt. Second, it’s an honor to see my work alongside those of esteemed artists. Third, it simply makes me happy that I’m drawing again. Fourth, with my new muse, baby Cedro, in my life, I feel so inspired and motivated to create more art. (Just need to find a way to do it with this breastfeeding lifestyle!)
original charcoal drawing
And last but not least, the act of going to Hollywood with Cedro on my own is a BIG deal! Leaving the house lately tends to require a 2-hour ritual of feeding, changing, diaper-bag-prepping and emergency-bottle-prepping on top of changing myself into a presentable nursing-friendly outfit, putting on a little makeup to disguise the fact that I’m sleep-deprived, packing some water and a snack for myself, packing whatever I need for my final destination and looking up directions in case my navigation thingie on my phone poops out.
Thanks to my husband, Brian, we were able to get out the door together in 35 minutes! So, out we went in the Nishii-mobile minivan. We dropped off Brian at his audiobook recording gig in Studio City so I could have access to the car and continued on to Hollywood at the A & I Gallery. I feel more and more empowered to run errands on my own with Cedro and generally live life beyond our little apartment! It feels like yesterday when I felt like it would be next to impossible to leave the house at all! I’ve definitely come a long way.
Cedro, my model and muse
So here’s to new beginnings! To the rebirth of my artistic career and to my new life as a mommy.
"Love Comes First" by Ardith Ibañez Nishii... featured on Edition One Hundred
I am pleased to announce that (a) I am drawing again! and (b) one of my drawings has been selected to be a part of the Edition One Hundred “Freedom + Revolution” show! What is Edition One Hundred? It’s a curated online gallery of limited edition art prints.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the opening art reception on October 2nd. (I’ll be in norcal for a cousin’s wedding.) The LA launch party sounds like another spectacular event put on by my dear friend and founder of EOH, Cat Jimenez. I encourage you all to attend!
We’ll be posting some of our own videos soon from our “Up Close and Personal” encounters with Manny Pacquiao. (Check out our previous blog posts.) In the meantime, here’s a short clip of us in the background for a moment in Episode 3 of HBO’s 24/7 series on the Pacquiao vs. Cotto fight. OK, so it’s blurry and you can’t really tell it’s us, but we WERE there and SO PROUD and honored to be there! It’s not every day that one gets to meet the Pride of the Philippines!
They’re replaying all the episodes tonight to get us all pumped for the fight! If you take a close look you’ll see us in the background during a shot of Buboy Fernandez in the parking lot of the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles… That’s Arlene wearing the orange Team Pacquiao hoodie (given to her… by Buboy himself!) and Ardith is wearing the Barkada(ko) Logo T in gold while our new friend from Team Pacquiao, Roweena Encarnacion, is rockin’ the Barkada(ko) Philippine Flag T in navy… PINOYS UNITE!
Many thanks to our close friend and Barkada(ko) supermodel, Gary Zane, who introduced us to Roweena and got the ball rollin’ so we could get on this Pacquiao Train!