Taking down the show

We packed it up on Sunday night. My first show. I cut the twine and nylon that hung my poems and paintings on the walls. I heard a satisfying snap with each break. I felt it, too.

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running upwards //   nathania aritao  //acrylic, ink, charocal, graphite on wood // 2015

My poetry and paintings hung the course of two weekends on the walls of Scarsdale, a lovely laid back space tucked away in the S&R compound on the busy Shaw Boulevard, boasting artisan doughnuts and croughnuts.

The exhibit was called “If the Ground Moves: Villanelles in Mixed Media.” This was my first independent body of work created as a full show. The work was not only all my own, but also extremely personal. It was not just a chip off of my creative bark, but a walk through a grove of trees whispering my story. In the days leading to the event, I felt my spirit shrink back in unease, but increase too with anticipation.

The work is made up of 13 poems and 3 painting compositions (made up of 12 individual pieces). All but one of the poems were written in California coffee shops and train rides. The odd one out, and the collection’s keystone, was written in my favorite local Legazpi coffee shop. The paintings were made on wood and canvas, a mix of acrylic, ink, graphite and charcoal.

I could not be any happier about my very first solo show.

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My favorite of all the poems mounted and leaning on the wall. Surrounded by my artist statement, information about me, my opening night guestbook, and jars for guests to leave questions or notes for me.
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Some of my poetry, typewritten with a vintage 1967 Olivetti typewriter on handmade abaca paper.  

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If you’d like to know more about the details of the work, please check out my website: www.nathaniaaritao.com.

I have also made a facebook page and instagram account dedicated to my art. Please follow and keep me accountable. I hope to make more art and share more art this year.

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sounds i will later work on forgetting // nathania aritao // acrylic, ink, charcoal and graphite on wood // 2015
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where the pavement breaks // nathania aritao // acrylic, ink, charcoal, and graphite on canvas // 2015
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An Exercise in Vulnerability

I swing back and forth. Mostly I am tickled with delight or excitedly nervous, but between this and that thought, I freeze momentarily in terror.

I am putting up my first solo show of poetry and paintings.

This is a dream come true. And hopefully the first show of a lifetime of sharing art.

It is also an exercise in vulnerability. My paintings and drawings will be on the walls, as will my words, carefully pieced together. On the opening night, I will pick up a mic and read to whoever has gathered.

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Last year I vowed I would make more time for my art – between the adventures of running operations for a social business, teaching classes at the barre and telling stories to Filipino children affected by the destructive typhoons.

While traveling in September, after a caffeinated wave of inspiration, I decided I would go for it.

This is me going for it.

Friends tell me I am brave for doing this. And though that strengthens my heart, it is also when I hear those words that I remember to be scared.

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I think you may have guessed from the silence emanating from my blog, that either (1) life has been very busy and exciting for me or (2) life has been desperately boring, locking me up in a state too horribly embarrassing to even write about, that my shame has caused me to hide out in internet anonymity until further notice, or at least until something remotely entertaining in my life arrives to push me out of the depths of dilly dallying doom that suffocates me like a tie tied too tight.

Well…you will be glad to know that it is the former. This year could not have gotten off to a better start. And all of it in unplanned ways. Ah, it’s always in unplanned ways! I can’t even begin to share about how my life’s plot continues to thicken (in promising, not questionable ways), but I will write a bit about a few things I have learned about myself in these first weeks of the year:

1. Entrepre-WHAT?!

Yes, it seems I have been making the crossover. Well, maybe less of a crossover into someone different and more of an expanding of self. It’s been some months in the discovery, and more than a handful of people have given me similar feedback,… but I am finally coming to terms with this: that I may have more than just two and a half threads of business-minded muscle in this dancer’s body, woven in bright stitches in all my artsy-fartsyness! It was a speaking engagement with a partner foundation just two weeks ago that really opened my eyes to how I was breaking out into a new discipline. (More on that in future writing!)

We shall see where this goes! But for now, I am beyond excited to be able to make this discovery as the company I represent helps build livelihood programs for Filipinos with very limited professional prospects at the moment. It is an amazing feeling to be able to help provide jobs for people that so desperately need it, when I myself have just recently began my life in the “professional” world.

2. I’m a dancer, and there’s just no way to shake it out of my body. Or out of my soul for that matter.

In the latter half of 2012, after moving back to the Philippines I hadn’t been training or taking many dance classes. After having a very dance-intensive life in college, this was a bit of a letdown – for body, mind and heart. I appeased myself by teaching Zumba classes, running (not a favorite past time, but it will do, if only to push my body toward some sort of limit), and dancing alone in my little home studio. Right before the close of 2012, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I discovered a place to dance, take classes, and push my body toward a whole new limit. It came at just the right time! This year my opportunities in that place have grown even more.

Not only that, but in just the second day of this year, I was reunited with two good friends who took me to a freestyle dance workshop on a whim. No doubt, I felt a little out of my element, but it was the needed push to open my year up to dancing again.I was challenged, inspired and more importantly, reconnected with a community of dancers.

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Reunited on stage after eight years!

Just a few weeks ago, I got another random call from one of those friends on a Thursday– telling me, not asking me, about our plans for performing over that weekend. Together we did the doxology for a college dance concert, barely practicing before the show! They needed someone who was comfortable with improvising, and there we were, freestyling a somewhat structured prayer, through dance.

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Then again, randomly, last Monday, I got a text from the other of the two friends asking for a favor, that I might dance with him at church on Sunday. It seems I rarely turn down an opportunity to perform because I said yes, even when he told me we’d have to dance seven times throughout the day. The creative process leading up to Sunday consisted of just two practices, but we were certainly amazed at how God used even those short moments together to help us choreograph a story of love between two characters. I got proposed to seven times in one day! (That Sunday’s theme was “Marry Me!”)

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We survived sixteen hours, seven services and proposals! I wouldn’t mind not hearing Train’s “Marry Me” for another sixteen months…

3. The calendar fills up without even trying.

Barely a few weeks into the year, 2013 was already shaping itself up. Dates were getting blocked out for events, like weddings or trips. We were setting quarterly targets at work. With my Buhay Makulay team we were setting program dates and casting visions. So on and so forth. But the spaces underneath dates are now tied down in scribbles. First in vague ideas, but more and more concrete as the weeks go by.

I’ve noticed how nice it is to be able to think of a year in calendar quarters, rather than school semesters. My calendar no longer revolves around an academic schedule (with the sad loss of casualties like summer break and winter break), but I can now look at a year in full and wide perspective, not broken up and spilling into another year. I like this view a lot better. It makes more sense to me, a steady ebb and flow of months and seasons. Although I panicked a little when I realized how far ahead things could be arranged! I already have an idea of what my December looks like, even from this end of the calendar year.

Now wasn’t that a mouthful of a post?! Bottom line? 2013, what an adventure it will be to slowly unwrap you!  I just hope I find time to write about it.

Speak soon,

T.

The Weekend, Only Busier Than The Week That Precedes It

Despite the recent extra long weekends thanks to official holidays, the tail ends of my work weeks have remained packed with excitement. They’ve somewhat embodied some of the things I would really like to stay busy with (apart from my lovely day job) for a really long time: fitness, advocacy, spoken word performance, dance and non-profit work.

1. I had my biggest Zumba gig so far.

I arrived at the location, expecting at the very least, a hundred attendees at the sports fest I was opening. However, the lines of people spilling out of cars, jeepneys, and even a bus, took me by surprise. When I walked into Cuneta Astrodome, I realized that my humble estimate was clearly mistaken. Music was blasting, energy was high, and there were already at least five hundred people there. There must’ve been at least 800 by the time I finished my set. We kicked some serious Zumba butt at seven in the morning!

 

2. I performed a spoken word piece for the first time in Manila.

The International Justice Mission, an international human rights organization that, held it’s annual Manila Prayer Gathering. My brother gave the main message, after which I had the privilege of sharing a poem I performed and dedicated to my brother months ago while I was still in college. It’s a poem called Sold, written from the perspective of a victim of human trafficking and sexual slavery. What an honor to perform it for people who advocate for the very individuals that inspired my words. I was so happy when they asked me to perform – I had been secretly hoping they would!

 

3. I co-hosted the 50th anniversary of the Precious Jewels Ministry. And with my brother too!

PJM is an NGO, near and dear to my heart. They are my family, my mentors and my friends. They have reached out to so many of the broken in the Philippines and Uganda – serving families and loving children from the poorest and most high-risk communities. Another honor.

4. Played tour guide for a visiting friend, AND filmed a mini-dance video with him!

TRYBE, my amazing multicultural and hiphop dance group at Wheaton, was finally represented in the Philippines by someone other than me! Shannon came to visit and we couldn’t pass up the chance to dance. Unfortunately, both YouTube and Facebook have been taking down the video every time I try to post it, even after I slaved for hours trying to get the large file uploaded. I’ve sent it over to Shannon to deal with.

 

5. Had Buhay Makulay’s first major strategic planning session with my newly formed executive team.

AKA a couple of my childhood friends – all creative, intelligent and big-hearted. It was an inspiring couple of hours of brainstorming and vision-casting. The next few years look very promising with them on my team!

 

6. Spoke about the grace of giving through dance.

Pastor Scott had approached me months ago with the idea of using dance as part of a Sunday morning message at church in November. He and I worked together over the past couple of weeks, the product of which was a great experimental episode in interweaving live art into the Sunday morning church service. It was an amazing experience (of course it involved chairs – I have an unexplainable long standing delight in chairs) and although I had a bit of prepared choreography, I ended up improvising much of my movement, directly responding to Pastor Scott’s words. If you’re interested, check out the full message video here, to see the first out of three services.

 

Now this weekend, compared to the last few, is a little tame. I made sure not to plan anything for the day and I even got to read a whole book this afternoon. Just enjoying a bit of the calm before another whirlwind week and another big Buhay Makulay activity on Saturday – our first young women’s fair at local girls’ shelter!