Female figures, feminine energy at The Well-Appointed Life

An interesting assemblage of women—artists and subjects alike—at Salcedo Auctions’ The Well-Appointed Life.

Call it fitting, or perhaps a tad bit trite, but when I attended Salcedo Auctions’ vernissage last week for the March edition of The Well-Appointed Life, I was paying close attention to the female presence—at least, the feminine energy—within the auction house, what with March being Women’s Month. 

There’s Norma Belleza’s vibrant folk genre paintings depicting vendors, mothers, and colorful still life. Betsy Westendorp continues to captivate with her skies and flowers. And auction favorite and modernist luminary Anita Magsaysay-Ho, though not the highlight of this month, graces Salcedo anew with her beautiful visual rendering of the Filipina. 

Norma Belleza, ‘Untitled (Vendors)’

Meanwhile, there are pieces that break away from the idyllic and dreamy visions of the aforementioned artists, but striking nonetheless.

Nena Saguil, a pioneer in Filipino abstract art, reiterates her presence with her circular and organic forms. (It bears mentioning that Saguil was also part of this year’s Art Fair Philippines exhibit called ‘Pambabae: Exploring Abstraction by Women Artists 1969-1989,’ wherein it was recognized that women in abstract art “have largely been overshadowed by their male contemporaries”). 

Nena Saguil, ‘Untitled’

Speaking of circles, Yayoi Kusama makes her mark at Salcedo Auctions with her trademark dots, patterns, and colors. Equally captivating—and a far departure from the other women depicted on the canvases— is Yeo Kaa’s wide-eyed girl who, despite her withdrawn stance, is a bold presence in her color and nakedness.

Yeo Kaa, ‘Dry and Confused 1’

It would be foolish to overlook the women as envisioned by the gents—after all, there are a number of stunning works up for auction. Fernando Amorsolo’s women will never fail to captivate in their simplicity and beauty. Federico Aguilar Alcuaz’s ‘Tres Marias’ series are interesting studies of human character through facial expressions and body language. And Angelito Antonio, husband of Norma Belleza, also painted Filipino women in various roles and duties. 

Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, ‘Untitled (Tres Marias Series)’

Then there are the more unconventional depictions. Yoshitomo Nara introduces us to a little girl whose face and gaze invite us to inquire about her story: why is she staring at us with piercing green eyes, and why is her face bandaged? And Junyee’s ‘Martha,’ a kakawate wood sculpture inspired by American modern dancer Martha Graham, captures smooth and fluid motion using a tough and robust material—a satisfying juxtaposition of form and substance. 

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Green Eyes’

What was the point of this artistic exercise? It may sound odd coming from a man, but today’s times call for being more critical about how women were, are, and will be depicted in art and other media, all while considering their respective contexts. 

For instance, to criticize Belleza and Magsaysay-Ho for painting women in ‘stereotypical’ roles misrepresents their artistic sensibilities and ignores the social forces that shaped their time. In fact, recognizing these very forces may allow us to understand how far we have come—or how different we’ve transformed—in terms of what women can do in life, be it in the workforce, their artistic careers, or their personal life. 

And what of the men throughout history who have adored and venerated women in their work? Well, we cannot always assume that their intentions are corporeal in nature, but it bears reiterating that women will always be more than just their bodies and roles in society, imposed or otherwise. 

Fernando Amorsolo, ‘Bathing by the River’

Presented with Metrobank, ‘The Well-Appointed Life’ live and online auction will take place on Saturday, 9 March 2024, starting at 2PM. The online catalogue is available at salcedoauctions.com; in-person previews run until Friday, 8 March at NEX Tower, 6786 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, from 9AM to 6PM daily. For inquiries, email info@salcedoauctions.com or phone +63 917 107 5581 | +63 917 591 2191 | +63 917 825 7449. For the latest updates, follow @salcedoauctions on Instagram and Facebook.

Features Associate

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