Tell me about your early life – where were you born, emigrating to the USA, schools and jobs.
I was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Mataasnakahoy, Batangas, Philippines. I miss it quite a bit. It was a lovely place to grow up. Surrounded by wilderness; great for the imagination. We moved back to the States when I was 7; first place we lived was in Echo Park, in a big apartment complex. It was quite the change from the rock-strewn roads and shoeless playmates of Mataasnakahoy, but I liked it all the same. Now of course, I’m in Pasadena, and boy do I love this little, quaint plot of dirt.
As for jobs, nothing that stands out, other than the time I spent four years as an adventure guide. Took kids out to the wilderness, threw them on rocks. It was the best and worst job for me, best because it allowed me to be outside and get paid, and worst because – have you ever tried to deal with 60 prepubescents out in a desert campsite that’s stripped down from all comforts? My god, the whining. And the attempted tomfoolery in the dank, pungent, outhouses!
Then there was that brief stint ghost-painting for a, shall we say, adult model. That was an experience.
Right now, I work as a researcher in a company that writes environmental reports. It’s about as dry as it sounds, but I was tired of being a starving artist, and goddamn do I love food.
What two pieces have you made currently that you are happiest with?
Probably my first wax sculpture, a Self Portrait of sorts:
Self Portrait, wax, flower, plate. approx. 10" x 15" x 3", 2014
And my first proper oil painting, a portrait of my buddy Josh.
I’m really excited about these pieces, because I came to Art Center primarily as a painter, working with watercolour. Digging into different mediums has been immensely enjoyable. Self-Portrait made me fall in love with wax. The texturality of it, the scent, the malleability. And oil has been a revelation. I can paint over things! Nothing is set the moment it touches the canvas! It’s magical.
Tell me more about these pieces. Is there a statement or intent in the work?
Well, Self Portrait came about from a prompt that required we do exactly that – a self portrait. And being that I’m a big fan of literature (Camus, Nabokov, and Peter Shaffer are my soulmates) and the existentialist dilemma, the monologue in Macbeth where he says, “Out, out, brief candle, life is but a walking shadow,” has stayed with me for a very long time and was the impetus of the piece. The idea of a person being a finite fleshbag that is lit, and then goes out, is beautiful, daunting, and truthful. Plus, I’m a vegetarian, so presenting myself as a slab of meat is humourous to me. Joshua is also pretty straightforward. It’s basically my commentary on traditional masculinity, and the tension that comes from modern man trying to live by outdated, religious moralities. I think I’m pretty heavy handed overall when it comes to my work, both in execution and concept, and what that means, I’ve yet to conclude.
Do you have contemporary artists that you keep up with?
Of course! Hundreds. For example there’s Jessica Drenk, who plays with subverting the cycle of nature-to-manmade to manmade-to-nature; Berlinde de Bruyckere, who is making wax sculptures that are all about the fleshiness of humans; and Andrew Wyeth, who is doing amazing things with watercolour.
What do you like to do when you’re not making work?
Allow me to show you a picture.
See this man? I’m in love with him. I want to learn necromancy so we can live happily ever after and make babies. I still hold onto the dream of becoming a Camus scholar some day.
In other words, words. I like books. And climbing. And music – from the wanky (Mozart) to the unidentifiable (Tom Waits) to the mundane (Backstreet Boys).
I also have three intensely adorable rats, Sequoia, Eowyn, and Camus, and they help me keep my sanity.
Where do you see yourself going in the next few years? Other than graduating, of course. What are your goals?
Well, I want to master everything. For example, my latest obsession is woodworking; I’d really like to become more skilled in that. So far I've managed to make a pun-y bench:
I also hope to become more dexterous with new technology multimedia. Right now, I can barely manage Microsoft Paint. But in my field, it would probably behoove me to learn Photoshop, Illustrator, movie editing, et cetera. It’s probably going to take a while, which might be my fatal flaw – I’m a bit of a slut when it comes to mediums – I want to dive deep and dive well into everything I’m introduced to! And I have a hard time exploring freely without becoming obsessed with executing things perfectly. I don’t like letting the material control me; I like to be in control of every detail of a piece. It’s my best and worst trait as a maker of things.
Any last words?
I was reading Keats the other day and came upon this line: "The poetry of the earth is never dead." Isn't that beautiful? I want to share it with everyone. The poetry of the earth is never dead!