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2nd 2011
Mia Herbosa and a certain kind of light

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By Igan D’bayan (The Philippine Star) Updated December 06, 2010 12:00 AM

Laguna sunrise: “There’s something enriching about living in Laguna,” says Herbosa. “My house is small, everything is very Spartan, but I feel very rich inside. There’s something good for the soul.”

MANILA, Philippines – Something about place, something about location.

Arles stirred something in the soul of Van Gogh. Giverny did the same thing to Monet. The landscapes outside sometimes crawl into the mind’s terrain to be relocated on canvas or a wooden panel. A shift of planes, so to speak. A metaphysical relocation.

For artist Mia Herbosa, living in Laguna has given her a quiet spark. Herbosa was based in the Big Apple for more than a decade while studying at the Art Students’ League of New York. (She once wrote, “Why did I stay so long? I knew instinctively that I was learning more about art in these life classes.”) New York with its everyday sirens, frenetic rat race and maddeningly inspiring boroughs and avenues.

“Life is a journey  an interior journey and an exterior one,” the artist tells me over a dishes of mushrooms and chorizo at Terry’s. And painting? Well, painting is her visual diary. “When you paint you are always leaving traces of yourself. (These images) are my notes in a song.” The song that would take a lifetime (or in the case of Buddhists, lifetimes) to finish. The case for each of us.
“Andrea & Tinkerbelle”

Mia is part of a group show titled “Illuminata,” which features the recent works by Herbosa, Denise Weldon, Emmanuel Cordova, Olivia d’Aboville and Neal Oshima, with a special participation of visual artists from L’Arc En Ciel. The show opens on Dec. 12, Sunday, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Art-in-House, The Picasso Residences, 119 L.P. Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. The show was put together by curator Dindin Araneta.

“When I was in New York, (the effect of the environment) didn’t just come out solely in one painting. It came it in a whole body of work. When I came home to Manila, the same thing (happened). Now that I am living in Laguna, the same thing is happening. There is a change that takes place in you whenever there’s a new stage in your life, or a new place where you live.”

Laguna offers less of a stimulus, is more laid back, kind of pastoral. Mia still goes to Alabang every Monday where her energetic mom Elaine maintains a gallery and art school. The younger Herbosa teaches a master class in nude portraiture.

But when she is in Laguna she feels so good to be living in the Philippines.

“Laguna looks like an Amorsolo painting,” she gushes. The rice fields, the glorious sunset, everything’s green, and there are fireflies in the night.


The paintings bear this enthusiasm out. A young Pinoy male stands magnificently in full bloom in a painting titled “A Beautiful Filipino.” A youngish rooster gazes upon something left of the canvas in “Rooster.” In other paintings, there are fish from the market, loaves of bread, coconuts and flowers. Has Mia gone completely rustic?

Not totally, she answers.

Those who are fans of the artist’s European-inspired palette work will still see traces of her astounding technique (lifelike flesh tones, dramatic lighting, precise compositions and blocking, etc.) She still has New York paintings. She also has an homage to Pierre Bonnard. Also one abstract (“I wanted to do something based purely on feeling and without any representational object, but I ended up putting a cross.”). A painting even presents the dichotomy of her Western and Eastern mindset  a Toulouse-Lautrec poster is juxtaposed with some “Mickey Mouse” plants and some rambutan on the table. “This a reflection of myself, a dichotomy.”

Technique-wise, it’s a case of back-to-basics for the artist. In the “Life’s Kaleidoscope” exhibition in August 2008 at Ayala Museum’s ArtistSpace, Mia used oil paint, her usual medium, but superimposed surfaces with Japanese, Nepalese and Burmese handmade paper. She even put real hair onto a portrait of a woman named Mutya.

“This year, nawala ’yung feeling ko that I wanted to work with paper. Maybe there were too many changes in my life  leaving Alabang, living in Laguna, maintaining my own home, enrolling my daughter Lana in a new school  and that I wanted my art to serve as the anchor.”

“Fish & Bread”

Yes, both anchor and illuminator.

The “Illuminata” group show is all about illuminating things about life, a facet of existence that is sometimes relegated to the shadows.

When you paint from life, she explains, you can get hundreds of beautiful things from something you’d otherwise take for granted. “Something you felt was very regular  that is until you started painting it.”

And each artist sees things in a different way (“They’re going to be all different from each other  like a person’s handwriting.”), chooses his or her own colors (“No matter how much a teacher tells you to make it exactly like the model.”), and creates that truly idiosyncratic mark (“What differentiates each painter? One is history or training.”). “Ultimately,” Mia Herbosa illuminates, “The subject of your painting is always your mind.”

Rightly so. Whether in the New York or the Laguna of the mind.

* * *

“Illuminata” features the recent works by Mia Herbosa, Denise Weldon, Emmanuel Cordova, Olivia d’Aboville and Neal Oshima, with a special participation of visual artists from L’Arc En Ciel. The show opens on Dec. 12 at Art-in-House, The Picasso Residences, 119 L.P. Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.

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29th 2008
Mia Herbosa’s kaleidoscope world

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Philippine Star

Monday, August 25, 2008

Like some of the great adventures in art, it started with a small object. In this case a kaleidoscope.

“It has two discs with jewels and when you turn it, the images are amazing — like stained-glass windows in a church,” enthuses Mia Ongpin Herbosa about a particular kaleidoscope that was lent to her by an acquaintance, a key moment leading up to her latest exhibition that will open this Thursday.

“The kaleidoscope is not just an instrument, it has something to do with an allegory of life itself,” she explains. If you look at it from the outside, it’s merely a vessel, nothing oracular about it. But when you peer inside, you get these visions. Remember how John Lennon once sang about skies with diamonds, cellophane flowers and girls with kaleidoscope eyes? Mia’s epiphany is similar. Human beings are kaleidoscopes of sorts: we may be made of matter that rots and is corruptible, but from the inside we could peer into another dimension — one illuminated by the light of spirituality. This is the human condition; everyone is a repository of varying visions.

“I was sitting on the floor of my studio with my 15 paintings around me, and it felt like looking through a kaleidoscope and seeing (aspects of) my life. It was a weave of emotions, visual, tactile, even audible. Like any child’s kaleidoscope, the physical look of it differs so entirely from the feelings you get by peering into it and looking at the light. Its capacity to make you see and feel something so joyful and magical is what constantly draws me to expressing myself in visual art,” she explains.

Mia presents her latest paintings in oil and mixed media in her 10th exhibition titled, aptly enough, “Life’s Kaleidoscope,” which opens on Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m., at The Ayala Museum ArtistSpace. The show is on view until Sept. 11.

Her present works are far more personal, more introspective, and in some cases more experimental.

“I am using mixed media now — oil with delicate Japanese rice papers, handmade Nepalese marbled paper and Burmese paper that I found in a New York supply store. I also use many antique silk, provencal cotton and even woman’s hair. The overlapping textures gave me a feeling of depth and gave me a wider sense of expression. This is my way of understanding my feelings about cycles of life — ‘life’s kaleidoscope.’ I learned this printmaking technique called chine collé, which gives you different feelings depending on what types of paper you use. I thought if you can do this in printmaking you could also apply it in oil — superimpose paper or natural fibers on top of it or beside it, using rabbit-skin glue as adhesive.”

Mia has always been entranced by gold leaf and has an attraction for Gustav Klimt’s work — a duality of “draftsmanship and fierce abandon to the power and psychology of color, rhythm and shapes.”

She stresses, “Some works in the show are precursors of things-to-be, still forming in my mind. Just like me, my art is still growing, expanding, it is still becoming.”

From the time Mia started exhibiting as a student in The Art Students’ League of New York in ’95, she has dealt with motifs of her life as artist in the Big Apple. (One of her achievements is becoming the first Filipina to win the top prize at the Annual Junior Scholarship Members Exhibition held at the Salmagundi Club in New York, a center for American Art since 1871.) She remembers painting in this building on West 57th Street and going to Central Park with its “trees and rolling slopes two blocks north,” as well as going ice-skating at Wollman Rink during a break in class.

For Mia’s latest show, she dug deeper — digging through stacks and stacks of sepia photographs of her ancestors, as well as digging through ineffable things piled up in her own psyche.

She remembers sifting through photographs from the early 1900s of her Lolo Luis who chronicled life with his own trusty Leica camera. Some of those photos would become the basis for her paintings. “Clown Brothers (Luis and Dante)” shows her grandfather with his brother Dante, who passed away at a very young age. A painting titled “Portal in my Mind (Alfonso and his Leica)” depicts her great-grandfather Alfonso — a foremost collector of Rizaliana, and an early collector of Luna and Hidalgo — taking his self-portrait. Somewhere in the painting a dragonfly symbolizes the ethereal; and the stairs, something transcendent.

“He was my first inspiration to venture into doing something more personal. Art rooted in my ancestry — who I was, who am I… He was an aesthete and a lover of noble ideas.

“Luis and Cats” shows her lolo carrying two of his pets. Another one, “Once Upon a Time,” juxtaposes rich sepia tones with collaged paper. She explains, “For these paintings I wanted to capture childhood, a way of rendering memories through art.”

There are newer memories also.

“Lana and Jada” is a painting of Mia’s daughter with a Labrador who lived in the resort where they stayed in and who followed them around like a pet of their own. “Mutya (Monica)” is a combination of oil paint, torn-up bits of kimono and real hair. Mia points out the therapeutic effects of art. “Not only painting, even the tearing of the paper, the cutting, the pasting, the whole creative process.”

Mia reveals how art saved her from a depressing moment in her life.

“I got very sick in the States for almost the whole of 2006. I got burned out by the pace and coldness of New York. Even simple things like the weather would affect me. I felt nauseous every time I stepped out of the apartment. I realized that this was because my painting took a backseat in my life. I think it did something to my spirit, affected my body. Some people are predisposed to expressing themselves. It’s like a lifeline in a way: a dancer has to dance, a writer has to write… If you’re cut off from it, that’s when problems arise. When I rested and then painted again more regularly, bumalik ’yung energy ko. Something opened up in my mind.”

It was like looking at the world again with a whole new kaleidoscope of colors.

* * *

“Life’s Kaleidoscope” opens on Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m., at The Ayala Museum ArtistSpace, second floor, Glass Wing, Greenbelt Park, Makati Ave. corner De La Rosa St., Makati City. For information, call Ayala Museum at 757-7117 to 21 local 31, visit and, or SMS 0917-8901219.


13th 2007
Fine art at Bravo Restaurant

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Philippine Star

By Araceli Z. Lorayes

A chance meeting among neighbors paved the way for artist Mia Herbosa’s paintings to be exhibited until Oct. 31 at Bravo Restaurant at Festival Mall in Alabang, Muntinlupa. Thus, the restaurant’s patrons are able view art created in the European tradition with their pasta and osso bucco.

Elaine Herbosa — owner of L’Arc en Ciel, the artists’ atelier in Ayala Alabang — hosted the neighborhood party in her Tuscan-inspired house, and among those present were Raffy and Gia Suarez, owners and proprietors of Bravo Restaurant. After viewing the artworks produced by Mia, Gia proposed an exhibit.

Other featured artists are Miguel Buhay, Ditas Dominguez, Elizabeth Garrovillo, Elaine Herbosa, Carla Kim, Pilar Quiros, Ruth Santiago, Vernice Songco and Margie Villonco. The paintings on display are a mixture of portraits, still lifes and landscapes.

Mia Herbosa’s formidable talent as a portraitist was well demonstrated with two portraits in graphite on paper, and two oil paintings. The two graphite portraits, “Portrait of a Lady” and “Tyrone,” demonstrated her mastery of line: fluid in “Lady,” and precise in “Tyrone.” She is equally adept at color — the skin tones of the oil painting of a male nude rendered the portrait both luminous and vibrant.

Herbosa, who studied advanced art courses at the Art Students’ League in New York, is in Manila for a one-year sabbatical, and teaches at the L’Arc en Ciel. The instructor follows the atelier method, which is an interactive teaching method by immersion, wherein a group of learning artists all work at different levels, whether they be beginner, intermediate or advanced. They are guided by several instructors and all works are done from life: actual still life set-ups, plein air landscape painting, live models posing for their portraits.

To learn more about L’arc en Ciel atelier, visit


23rd 2007
Portrait of the artist as traveler

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By Maria Teresa Lapid Rodriguez

arts2Thirteen Filipino and Filipino-American artists are featured in the “New York-Manila-New York” exhibit, which runs from Aug. 9 to 23 at Ayala Museum’s Artists’ Space.

Without a doubt, the featured artists are all travelers, as well as adventurers of the world, of myths and social phenomena, or, introspectively, of the self. The exhibition is characterized by a sense of wander and a sense of place into many levels of life and many expressions of art depicting different parts of the world. Nonetheless, there is a common thread that binds them: wherever they have been and have done, the dots connect to the Philippines, implied or outrightly expressed in their art.

Spearheading the show is the Society of Philippine American Artists, an artist organization based in the States. The many attempts to create an artist organization from the 1960s onward finally gelled in 1995 perhaps because of Manuel Rodriguez Sr. and his co-founders Jose Dureza, Angelito David and Oscar Dizon. The members are from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut and growing beyond. Its current president is Lenore Raquel-Santos Lim.

The first seven artists in this show are first generation Filipino-Americans whose works are quickened by the ideals of the Philippine culture and historical past as well as the global values permeating in today’s Filipino–American communities.

Manuel Rodriguez Sr. is best known as the man who introduced printmaking in the Philippines. Rodriguez’s “Once Upon A Dream” is built on layers of muted oil colors rendered in small brush strokes he calls squiggles.

In Imelda Cajipe Endaya’s  “My Mother and Me,” contradictions exist at every angle of the painting that visually divides into the cold of winter against the warmth of a home featuring a living room rich in symbolisms.

In Lenore Raquel Santos Lim’s “Constant Evolution,” the artist sees life as an ongoing process alluding to New York’s tragic event of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

In Madonna’s “Bamboo and Butterfly,” washes made from red rice coffee are inspired in the manner of sumi-e painting that are disciplined and mysterious in their simplicity.

Mars Custodio presents a refreshing view of the world unadulterated by the canons of painting such as seen in his painting of his garden, “Le Petit Jardin.”

Jose Dureza’s “Bayou Diversity,” “Watermill House” and “Plantation House in Dixie” and many other paintings document America, perhaps best illustrated in the graphite pencil work of the New York harbor entitled “Lost Perspective.”

Julian Oteyza delves into the subliminal and surreal in “Awit ng Panaginip (Dream Song),” which articulates female faces fading in and out in wistful mood.

The younger generation refabricates similar ideals of the first generation through their own experiences. Some grew up in the United States and visited the Philippines as adults, and whose works are exploratory.  Some grew up in the Philippines and visited the United States as adults whose works are meditative or “imploratory.”

In Mia Herbosa’s self-portrait, she presents herself as Albrecht Durer. In the original, Durer represented himself as a philosopher.  In Herbosa’s version, she represented herself as a winner.  In another self-portrait, etched rather than painted, she captured a sweetness with a few lines in the Chinese manner. A true portraitist, she grasps and depicts her sitter’s individuality as in “the man with red sweater and hat.” Her impeccable skill stretches to other fields such as a still life with a jade pot in the manner of Vermeer. The issue is not copying the masters but discovering and truly understanding the essence of their greatness.

Toots Magsino explores conceptual art with her handwritten text art embellished with collages of photographs and other memorable articles.

Manuel Gamboa’s primal approach to a subject touches upon basic beliefs and value systems.

Gregory Raymond Halili focuses on the intricacies of nature like an entomologist in the case of insect representation or a behaviorist in the case of human representation.

Francisco Bordeos’ “Unlikely Crowd” is an allegory of humanity reduced to a clown encapsulating a slew of “unlikely crowd.”  This is not without precedent in the realm of symbolisms.

Christine S.C. Jeanjaquet is influenced by Pacita Abad’s trapunto process that overlapped and padded fiber materials, and her own experience with mixing and overlaying compounds as a product designer in the Philippines.

* * *

Curator and museologist Teresa Lapid Rodriguez is director of the Montclair State University Art Galleries, for which she acquired the sponsorship of the George and Helen Segal Foundation, and the naming of MSU’s latest gallery addition after the world-renowned artist, George Segal. Her publications include: Igarta: Monumental Figures (2000), Celestial Boundaries (2004), Street Crossing: Photographs by Donald Lokuta (2006), Alexander Calder Hammocks and Wall Hangings (2006) and Transparent Colors: Filipino American Watercolorists.

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8th 2007
ART OF THE ‘CARPE DIEM’ – Mia Herbosa seizes the day

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Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Victoria T. Herrera

THE HOLLYWOOD FILM “Dead Poets Society” (released in 1989) popularized the Latin phrase “carpe diem” to the youth of the 1990s as a call of admonition to live life to the fullest.

Mia O. Herbosa, now in her 30s, belongs to that same generation to whom this call had perhaps the most meaning then. In her exhibition at the Alliance Française de Manille, she appropriates this phrase as title but with a different twist.

Now a young mother, Mia has further developed into an introspective artist. Instead of adopting the authoritative tone to “seize the day,” she quietly “takes a journey” (the literal translation of the Latin word “carpo”) to reflect over her life story.

The artist’s personal introduction to the exhibition relates a particular fascination over her great-grandfather, Alfonso Ongpin, whose personal art collection was instrumental in introducing her to the arts. She writes:

“Growing up, I often stared at the many wonderful oil paintings on the wall of my lola’s home… Though his (Alfonso’s) beloved collection is now no longer intact, I feel, in a great way, his passion for art and beauty has left its mark on his family… He captured his world to share with us today. In my own way, I try to capture mine. In this way, both worlds come together, bridging the gaps of time, sharing a place in the fourth dimension. Carpe Diem.”

Ongpin is recognized for his contribution to Philippine art both as a collector and a gallery owner. He was one of the founders of the first commercial art supply store in the country. He later opened his own store and art gallery. Ongpin was also self-taught in painting restoration. Some works traced back from his collection still have the inscription “Restaurado por A. Ongpin” on the reverse of canvases.


In this exhibit, Mia gives us a glimpse of another of Alfonso’s interests—photography. His grandchildren—the artist’s mother Elaine O. Herbosa, and aunts, Deanna Ongpin and Cynthia O. Valdes—remember the many self-portraits in photographs their grandfather had accumulated through the years.

And it is from this collection of autobiographical images that the young artist had selected two portraits to recreate a connection with her Lolo Poncho.

One of these shows Alfonso carrying his first-born son Luis. Both are dressed to the hilt, possibly for the infant’s baptism.

The other portrait is more intimate in scale and candid in pose. Alfonso, wearing a white hat and shirt, looks away from the lens. Curiously, Mia frames his image in an eye-shaped inner frame.

She adds a new element in these portraits—a fabric collage in the background. One may think of the crafty techniques in scrapbooks but her handling is subtle and refined, almost blending with the painted surfaces. It may be to remind one of the very personal roots of these images.

We actually see the subject—Alfonso—through his own eyes as well as through the eyes of his great-granddaughter, three generations later. These portraits are not merely copies from existing photographs but are Mia’s personal projections of a beloved ancestor.

Mia trained for 12 years in the Art Students’ League in New York. There she earned three certificates for completing full programs in painting, printmaking and sculpture, each four years long. She felt most comfortable in the League’s informal teaching approach—“where a beginner paints beside advanced colleagues.”

Her journey in art school developed a keen mastery for human subjects and their distinct personalities. The head drawings and nude paintings on exhibit show Mia’s talent to capture individual characters.

The five graphite drawings are especially engaging even with minimal details. They are not simply facial and anatomical studies. She imbues in them a state of mind and a sense of place.

Lessons from past

Mia continues to value lessons learned from the past. In this exhibit, she incorporates ideas and techniques of European artists. In her “Self-portrait at Thirty-six,” she employs the reflected image on a mirror to create an illusion of three-dimensional space, reminiscent of elements in the works of Jan van Eyck and Diego Velasquez. Unlike her earlier self-portraits, she is more candid with her image as an artist by showing herself in action and directly gazing at us. She depicts her mother, Elaine, also an artist, in a similar fashion, without the mirror but with canvases hanging and cropped in the background.

Mia also pays tribute to Dutch and Flemish masters known for their tradition of still life painting in the 17th century. Popular among private collectors, these paintings were ideal for domestic spaces. They were carefully composed to look ordinary—a disheveled fabric covering the cloth or draping diagonally from the wall, a jar or bottle lying diagonally on the table, fruits scattered or dangling at the edge.

Her still-life paintings are autobiographical, like a personal essay. It brings us viewers to ask what connections can be made. It assumes the importance of the everyday and the ordinary. Objects in each canvas were carefully chosen and composed. They may seem common things but they are her “precious necessaries” that represent a phase in the artist’s life, a season of the year, or a time of day. A pair of red shoes and a row of summer hats introduced to us her 4-year-old daughter Lana. The choice of flowers may refer to different times of the year spent in her studios in New York and in Manila.

Traditionally, still lifes were viewed in Northern Europe then as symbols of material wealth. For Mia, however, it is more of a wealth of blessings. Still life as a subject matter is also taken as a memento mori. It reminds us of our mortality and of time fleeting away. And this brings us back to the idea of carpe diem. Making the most of the opportunities, Mia captures what is before her—a life blessed with family, a career, and a past that has connected with her present.

Mia O. Herbosa’s works are on view until Jan. 12 at Alliance Française de Manille Total Gallery, 209 Nicanor Garcia St. (formerly Reposo), Bel-Air II, Makati City. Call 8957441 or 8957585 (Olivier Dintinger/Earl Parco) or 0917-890-1219 (Elaine Herbosa) or visit

The author is assistant professor at the Department of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, UP Diliman.


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