PAULINA CONSTANCIA: Sipping from Her Glass of Samba
By: Ricardo J.S. Caluen

Reprinted from the Filipino Bulletin, October 2001

A fashion designer (of her own boutique) at 17, advertising think-tank at 21 post-Mass Com degree from a Cebu Exclusive girls’ college, played the flute at 23 as a pioneering member of the Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra, had her first one-woman exhibition ("Solo" at Cebu’s Montebello Villa Hotel Gallery)…and the list goes on for this Cebuana who, at age 30, has accomplished so much you’d worry she’d be a burnt-out case in 5 years. But I guess Paulina Constancia won’t go in that direction for as long as she hears her muse and lives by her own philosophy "that the livin’ be set to the beat within".

Paulina, who is a poet, sculptor, painter, paintitcher (you have to come to the exhibit to know what this is) and unabashed Carlos Jobim and samba music fan all paintitched into one, is perhaps the first Filipino to hold a one-woman exhibition in trendy Yorkville. " Pulso" opened at Gallery 7 (on 118 Scollard Ave.) on October 6 and will run through November 3 with the artist herself curating the exhibit. The members of the Filipino Bulletin Staff were among the first visitors at the exhibit that naturally attracted some of the well-heeled from Toronto’s Cebuano community. Consul Sylvia Marasigan (who was one of those instrumental in introducing the artist to Cebuano contacts in Toronto) and I exchanged observations on some of the works, both of us pontificating that Paulina’s works are indeed worthy of an exhibit in this section of Toronto frequented by art aficionados

I have never seen so much optimism and joie de vivre depicted in a set of works as those I noticed in Paulina’s: whether these depict the joy of a mother soon to give birth, children at play, a musical ensemble, Adam and Eve in a Philippine Garden of Eden, or even a suspected self-portrait. And what burst of colors and allegorical imagery! These just transform one to an idyllic farm or a surreal world that can only be in the mind of one who truly appreciates and respects nature. Indeed, the exhibit is aptly titled "Pulso", the artist truly following her own heart’s beat and the rhythm of Mother Earth. -Strong Mexican-South American influences are unmistakable in Paulina Constancia ouvres: a cumbachero framing a scene, the omnipresent ears of maize (a critic actually one’s noted that Paulina’s are not short Pinoy mais but more of the long Mexican variety), or the perennial sun. Contorted bodies and animals in flight or engaged in human activity suggest that there’s more to the artist than being just an admirer of Marc Chagall (for defying the laws of gravity) or Salvador Dali (the comically-mustachioed Spanish pintor for his fascination with REM). Whether Influenced by their works or not, Paulina admits to looking up to Pablo Picasso for experimenting with various media and to Grandma Moses for the courage in picking up the brush late in life..

Where upstarts in the art exhibit scene display a certain attitude (why, this is even seen in their pricing!), it is encouraging to note that Paulina Constancia does not let her string of credentials get in the way of her connecting with collectors or those whose means will only allow them the appreciation of art. Creative passion runs in the veins of Paulina Constancia whose father, the late Sandigambayan Justice German G. Lee, was as erudite in the legal field as he was passionate about music and the Psalms. Her paternal great grandfather, Santiago Gutierrez, was an artist-poet while she had a photographer mannequin maker for a maternal great grandfather - Santiago Pangilinan. Filipino-Canadians will be proud to know that an uncle from Paulina’s mother’s side, Rodney Cornejo, was the landscape artist who created the Philippine pavilion at the World Expo ’86 in Vancouver.

The artist had a casual introduction to the Cebu art scene, experimenting on "assemblage art" and joining group art exhibitions in the first five years after finishing college. The success of her first one-woman show in 1995 paved the way to 2 solo exhibitions at prestigious venues in Manila: Ayala Museum and Shangrila EDSA Plaza Hotel. Awarded a 4 - month studio residency grant in 1997, Paulina Constancia formally studied art at the Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, Vermont, USA) that culminated in a show at the Red Mill Gallery, VSC. This was followed by "Here’s to Sunny!", an exhibit at the Philippine Center in New York.

Paulina returned to Cebu in the same year to exhibit "And Heaven and Nature Sing". Her recent achievements until then landed her a featured artist coverage in the Reader’s Digest Asia-Pacific Edition. She flies back to the USA in 1998 to study sculpture at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. The following year, she attended classes at the Bellas Artes, Instituto Allende, & Clay Ole, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Her obras nuevas comprised "Twogetherness" (Estando Junto) exhibited at La Galeria in Guanajuato. A similarly Mexican-inspired exhibit by El Consulado Honorario de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos at the CAP Art Center, Cebu, in October 1999.

Hitting the road once again, Paulina Constancia was a key player in the celebration of 400 years of Dutch-Filipino relations last year. She held two shows in the city of Haarlemmermeer. Still running on her regular dose of Carlos Jobim and Cebu’s famous mango juice (again served at the Toronto exhibit), the artist returned to her beloved city to yet hold another show, " Secret Gardens", at the SM Art Center.

For as long as she will drink from her glass of samba, the sun shines on her face, and she can touch the daisies in the fields, Paulina Constancia will keep on making art that are truly a delight to eye.