That’s the question posed by friends of artist, businesswoman, and columnist Maria Victoria “Marivic” Rufino.
“June 9,” she would reply.
“Are you getting married?”
She would clarify, “My exhibit in Madrid opens on that day.”
“We’re interested in the wedding, not the exhibit.”
“I’m engaged, but as to when, where, and how, when the time is ripe, it will happen. The exhibit is more important to me. It’s my art,” Rufino would maintain.
In a society where the arts are hardly appreciated, people are more interested in Rufino’s personal life than her forthcoming exhibit at the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia, which celebrates Filipino Month. It also commemorates the celebration of Jose Rizal’s 150th birth year and Philippine-Spanish ties.
It may be coincidental that the title is “Romanza,” and her current status is engaged. The paintings have always reflected what’s in her consciousness. After the death of her husband, the late Bangko Sentral Gov. Rafael Buenaventura, Rufino’s palette leaned towards deep blues. With her engagement to Argentinean diplomat Miguel Realmonte, the colors have become more vibrant.
“I’ve become bolder, taken more risks in my painting,” says Rufino. Earlier, Spanish painter Cesar Caballero invited her to join Spanish Filipino painters Betsy Westendorp and Juvenal Sanso to paint their own version of Spanish classics.
Rufino chose Las Meninas, which incorporated the princess and her mastiff in acrylic glass overlaying her sunset image in mixed media. “The effect was three-dimensional. The images were coming to life from the glass,” she says.
On her artistic style, there is a strong influence of classical Chinese painting, such as the blurry edges, landscape contours dissolving into a haze, and impressionistic renditions of nature. Her works focus on the the mystical attributes of the art, and how her psyche reflects the inner harmony between man and nature – hence the titles “Serenity,” “Imagination,” “Answered Prayers,” “Inner Vision,” and “Romanza Genesis,” the latter done in various shades of purple, a spiritual color. Another Chinese influence is the collaboration of poetry by Virgilio Almario and Marne Kilates.
Rufino says her works in watercolor and mixed media are imbued with vibrancy and light, the images ranging from sunrises and sunsets to seascapes in broad strokes of violet, blue, gold, orange, lavender and pink. There is “Allegro,” which portrays poppies and sunflowers in aqua, green, orange, gold, and red.
“Tuscan Dream” is a recurring theme, which shows cypress trees in Italy in various shades of blue and green. "El Fuego Mi Corazon (Jealousy)” centers on a red-orange sky. One of the most mystical themes is the “El Ojo Divino (Divine Eye),” which reflects her introspective nature.
“It was almost sunset. From the airplane window, the sun was shaped like the eye of God. It was a powerful image that was in my mind for months. The colors are very strong,” she says.
People laud her works for their otherworldly quality. “They say there’s something about them that makes them feel good. To touch somebody’s life is good enough for me.”
“Sahara Dream” is infused with sand from the Sahara dunes. “Miguel spends time in the desert. Last year he brought sand, which is pink beige, cool to the touch, and very fine, like talc.”
Realmonte figures importantly in her life now. Asked how love is at a mature age, she replies, “It’s a companionship, but not the heart-stopping sensation of long ago. He’s my twin soul. I didn’t have intentions of getting attached. I thought the love life was over with Paeng (Buenaventura) passing way. ”
Through a common friend, she met Realmonte two years ago at her last exhibit at Peninsula Manila. “I wasn’t interested in meeting anyone. I was spending time with poets and writers. It took months before we went out,” she recalls.
When she fractured her left foot, he would drive for her and escort her even to the ladies’ room. A true gentleman, he would hold her arm to support her, thereby providing comfort. He brought her out of her recluse, taking her to diplomatic functions or to horseback riding sessions.
“Our friendship developed into an engagement for now. Beyond that, I’ll see how it goes. It’s like another step, but I’m taking things slowly,” she says.
Every time there are questions about her romance, Rufino always brings back the conversation to her art. She recalls the challenge of growing up in a family that deemed art as arcane. “People tend to collect what is valuable because of the artist’s name. I was discouraged.
“I’m a struggling artist up to now, although I work in the family business and venture into productions. But I don’t earn from my art. It’s there to express my connection with the Divine. It’s my way of communicating spirituality.”
Proceeds of her paintings go to her beneficiaries, a center for abused women and music scholars.
“This may sound esoteric to someone who is not spiritual or into art. But that’s the way I am. I have different facets, and what people see may not be me. They might see the façade. Deep within, I’m spiritual. That’s what keeps my integrity. There may be madness in the world, but there’s a part of me that remains whole because I’ve had the strong connection with the Divine. I’ve had many trials and upheavals, but the bond has kept me going.”