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Filipino-run New York gallery cited in Queens’ biennale

Bliss on Bliss Art Projects is recognized by the New York art fair as one of Top 10 artist-run spaces


GED Merino, Ernest Concepcion, Marietta Ganapin, Carolina Morales at Bliss on Bliss Art Studio, New York

Mounting an art exhibition in the Big Apple can be intimidating. New York is New York.

Anyone planning a solo exhibit in such an art center without the necessary support could be out of one’s mind. One should try exhibiting in New York when it’s supposed to be the last days of winter but it’s still snowing; in fact it’s snowing even more. One can get cold feet, literally. Even the brains freeze up. So, one realizes everything’s going to be a fantastic flub. Just when one is about to give up, someone shows up to pick up the pieces.

Ged Merino is godsend to any Filipino artist trying to give her best shot in New York City. Merino was a blessing right on cue to this writer, helping Filipino artists and offering his art space.

Merino, who studied Fine Arts at the Philippine Women’s University College of Music and Fine Arts, came to the US in 1987. He is married to Carolina Morales from Bogota, Colombia. They both worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan until Ged finally decided to set out to fulfill his dream: put up a studio for his own art.

The couple live in Queens, the most diverse borough in the city where many cultures meet. “The interaction between multi-cultural ideas was so inspiring that Carolina and I decided to open up our working studio as an art space to the community,” Merino said.

They named it Bliss on Bliss Art Projects.

This writer interviewed Ged Merino regarding the art space.

What are your goals for Bliss on Bliss Art Projects?

When we launched Bliss on Bliss Art Projects, we envisioned a place where we can network with other artists, where we can do art residencies and have exchange artists residencies with other art spaces in other countries.

What has been your biggest challenge in putting up Bliss on Bliss Art Projects?

Funding. That is my biggest challenge so far. Carolina and I operate as a small, artist-run space. We are very happy doing it that way. We are very fortunate to have a great community of locals and Filipino friends in the neighborhood who come and support us. Big-name artists, writers, and filmmakers lend their support by performing for free. But we want to also provide them with artist fees and fund quality exhibits. In order to do this, we need funding.

As a small, artist-run space, most of the time I am working solo. With the exception of a few really good friends who help out and, of course, my tireless wife, Carolina, most of the grunt work, blogging  and PR stuff I do myself, which is time away from my own studio practice.

Have you tried to approach our government for any support?

Other than art institutions in Queens, I have not attempted to approach the Philippine Consulate here for any funding. We are at a crossroads right now where pros and cons should be weighed in deciding for a “non-profit” or “for profit” or simply stay as an “artist-run space.” I am planning, though, to try to interest future partners who have the same advocacy for Filipino arts. I would be glad to meet up with them and present to them my plans. I also plan to visit other artist-run spaces in Manila to look at possible collaborations and learn from them.

Can you talk about your most celebrated milestone?

In January 2012, the Queens Museum of Art included us in its Biennale’s “Salute to Artist Run Spaces in Queens,” where the museum recognized 10 artist-run spaces. Bliss on Bliss Art Projects was included despite its less than a year in existence. The event was covered by several local publications such as Queens Buzz and The AM New York Daily. Our shows have also been visited by the Queens Council on the Arts and the Asian Cultural Council.

I am looking forward to an invite from the Asian American Alliance on the Arts.

What does the line-up of your featured artists look like?

Despite being a small, artist-run space without any funding, we are truly grateful to have hosted emerging, mid-career and established Filipino writers, musicians, designers, filmmakers, performers and artists from the US and abroad. We have, so far, artists such as Vicente Rafael, R. Zamora Linmark, Jessica Hagedorn, Lav Diaz, Ernest Concepcion, Marietta Ganapin, Jeho Bitancor, Jojo Austria, Feliciano Gallardo, Art Zamora, Happy David, Dago Santos Jabagat, John Javellana, Cel Lumbrera, Arjay Arevalo, Oliver Liu, Steven Blake, Charles Nikolas Buenconsejo, Sonny Thakur, Tammy David, Geric Cruz, Paolo Morales, Bob Nuestro, Norman Montifar, Flexy Casero, Perry Mamaril, Ninotchka Rosca, Stanley Ruiz and Eric De Leon Zamuco, Patrick and Merce Layog, Pipo Batto, Melinda Muñoz, Tosha Albor and Bren Bataclan.

Back in September of 2011, we hooked up Lav Diaz with Matthew Freundlich of Exit Art, an art gallery cum performance venue also in New York. Exit Art did a Lav Diaz retrospective in March 2012 featuring four of his best films.

What were your latest exhibits in the gallery?

For 2013, we were excited to host our visiting artists starting with Jane Ebarle, Alfredo+Isabel Aquilizan, Mideo M. Cruz, Racquel De Loyola, Noell EL Farol, Mervy Pueblo, Riel Hilario, Josephine Turalba, Jose Johan Bitancor, and a guest performance by Nyko Maca.

How do you see Bliss on Bliss Art Projects years from now?

Carolina and I see a Filipino-centered and cross-cultural creative hub, a “migratory” place, if I may say so, for Filipino artists travelling to and from New York. Bliss on Bliss Art Projects will be a venue where local and visiting artists could come, create, talk and exhibit their art.

Ged Merino is  in the Philippines for a visit and is quite excited about Bliss and Bliss being integrated in the list of Asia Society as an Outreach Partner. Asia Society is a multicultural organization which promotes mutual understanding among its partners worldwide. Merino, however, still looks forward to a possible deals with anyone who might share his magnanimous vision for Filipino arts in New York. E-mail him at ged@blissonblissstudio.com.

The author recently held a group show at Bliss on Bliss Art Projects, Queens, New York with Flexy Casero and Jeho Bitancor. On March 18, she held her sixth solo show at the Philippine Center. E-mail jebarle@mozcom.com.

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