The feminine body through Goldie Poblador’s multi-sensory art | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Goldie Poblador

Here’s how the New York-based artist portrays the feminine body through multi-sensory installations

“I seek to heal a great wound of cultural loss,” shares ecofeminist artist Goldie Poblador on reimagining Philippine narratives and myths in her work. But engaging with women’s historical plight and cultural disparities has implored her to hone her craft beyond the act of alleviating baggage from the past. 

Through multidimensional mediums like glassblowing, perfumery, and performance art, Poblador has long been creating “art in medias res”—championing the Filipina freeing herself from the ideals and deep-seated structures that shackle her.  

From her “Barbae Collection” of vulva-shaped glasses to her “Sea Anomaly” pieces at this year’s Art Fair Philippines, the Manhattan-based artist draws from metaphors of flowers and nature for her interpretations of the female body. 

In our latest “Normal People” installment, we spoke with Poblador on the inner workings of her artistic process, understanding the feminine body through her art, and how she manifests emancipation through the mastery of her craft.

Goldie Poblador isn’t afraid to experiment with new mediums of art and storytelling | Photo by JL Javier
Goldie Poblador isn’t afraid to experiment with new mediums of art and storytelling | Photo by JL Javier

What do you tend to look for, highlight, or uncover in your work?

To watch the world around me change, and the ecology of the area I grew up in change through the years has impacted how I view the world as a human and in my work. I felt like an outcast as a child, so I spent most of my time in books, music or film. I spent a lot of time imagining my own worlds and filling the gaps of loneliness with the beautiful and the obscure. So in my work, I tend to delve into a mix of current events and the personal. I spend time in character as I work on a project and I like to uncover parts of myself and the world I’ve never entered before through both research and a dedicated sculpture and performance practice. I also pay attention to the senses. Smell has been a recurring theme in my work.

How would you describe your work process?

Through the practice of glassblowing, I recreate, shape, and devise sculptural tools and experiences that engage the senses. These individual sculptures come together to form larger interactive and multi-sensory installations that incorporate video, scent, sound, and performance. 

My practice is deeply rooted in the craft of glass flameworking, a traditional craft among women. This process uses a torch to hand-sculpt glass and create detailed, decorative, and functional objects. There’s a longstanding tendency to demean craft that is traditionally assigned to women. As an artist, I proudly reclaim this and seek to elevate glass flameworking through participating in this art form, which has primarily been reserved for Western voices. I first learned this technique in Manila, where access to glass sculpting was and still is difficult.

Through the years, I’ve challenged myself to continue to learn and grow through this craft well into my journey as an immigrant artist in America. I find therapeutic dignity in the act of flameworking, as it involves the spinning of liquid into solid. In my earlier years of working with this craft, I found each hour of work to be a great privilege not just because of the financial difficulty of practicing but also because of the meditative quality of the process.

I combine glass flameworking with other art forms and ephemeral mediums such as performance, video, and scent. Engaging with glass flameworking comes with a set choreography from European traditions that’s rooted in the body. My sculptures are extensions of myself and my identity as an Asian woman in America. As a Filipina immigrant, I hope to take this craft towards an inclusive future—one that integrates voices that’ve been erased from history.

How do you take control of your work narrative and how it’s being framed? 

You can only do so much as an artist. Once your work is out of your studio door and in an exhibition space, that’s it. You’ve offered it up for people to interpret. I believe interpretations of my work are none of my business. It’s just easier for me to let go once it’s done. One can communicate and work with the best writers they can get, but viewers will always see what’s informed by their personal experience. 

What’s a non-negotiable in your routine?

Coffee! Seriously though, breakfast. Having a glass sculpting practice requires self discipline. I typically try to get to the studio as soon as it opens and I like to work until it closes. That can range from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., sometimes 10 p.m.. You need fuel for that. 

Poblador centers the feminine body and everything it represents in her work | Photo by JL Javier
Poblador centers the feminine body and everything it represents in her work | Photo by JL Javier

What keeps things fresh and exciting for you?

The body enthralls me. Its form possesses me. I’m motivated by a desire to express an emancipation of the body, a sense of freedom in movement and emotion and redemption. I explore these themes through the representation of the body as a subject in sculpture, installation, performance, and film.

In my glass sculptures, I work from the movement of the body to shape a female nude that’s moving and alive. In my performances, I embody the spirit of these glass sculptures, bringing the process full circle.

I also love working with scent. Scent plays a big part in my process. Scent is ephemeral and deeply connected to the part of our brain that interprets emotions. It has grown to become a strong presence in my practice for its ability to invoke the aspect of human beings that is often seen as “the feminine”—the feeling body. Scent is sentimental and one can enter it as if entering a poem or a room.

Perfumery is the ultimate art of smell. It takes us beyond memory and emotion and into the spiritual. In its molecular form scent is ephemeral and alludes to the spirit through its quality of being invisible but undeniably present. It has a long tradition of healing the mind and body through the distillation of plants as they transform into different chemical and material states. The creation of perfume involves glass objects from its beginnings in the process of distillation to the final product—the vessel that encases the scent.

What do you want to manifest through your work?

Emancipation, strength, inner knowing, and mastery.

This story is part of “Normal People,” a series on reclamation as a way of engaging with the world featuring local artist-advocates and community leaders.

Photos by JL Javier

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