During these times of great uncertainty and disorder, we are moved to look inward and find ways to cope with anxiety while managing the struggles that come with daily life. The arts and our own creative endeavors continue to contribute to our wellbeing, allowing us to freely express ourselves when words aren’t enough to convey our emotions and when we simply want an escape to get back into the right headspace.
Art, which serves as a reflection of society and the times, has become even more central to our lives. In this series, we delve into the works and musings of artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives who continue to share their craft and inspire others to carve their own path and cultivate a sense of hope and passion.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
“This quarantine has made me reaffirm that time spent with my family is the most important. We as a family have more time to talk during lunches, meriendas, and dinners — not the usual hurried time when we all have a busy schedule or work/homework to do.
“Being a father of two daughters is challenging but rewarding. I’m trilled to see them grow and still can’t believe how time flies. They both have a different personality and different frame of mind because of their age gap. Gabby is 13 and Julia is 7, but they get along so well, even more so now, since they’ve been spending a lot of time together. I try to be there for them as much as I can by playing games with them, camping in the backyard, baking brownies, and walking around our village. We even made woven palm fronds (palaspas) for Palm Sunday. Ultimately, I’m always here for them as their father.
I always try to empower my daughters that they can achieve and be anything they want, as long as it helps the community and makes them happy as well
“As an artist, the last thing I want to do is teach them any art technique. I want them to find art and the love of art on their own. Once they get the passion and the love to be creative, it’s easy to teach the technique. But most of the time, it’s creativity that is better to bond with your child. My daughter’s and I occasionally play treasure hunts inside the house. We make our own maps, clues, and obstacles to find the treasure (the reward is usually a chocolate or a massage). We also made bows and arrows from a piece of bamboo. They pretended to be Merida from Brave and an Olympian.
“Art heals. So we are fortunate to be in a situation in which we live in an environment surrounded by art. Also, being creative forces one to find ways to cope with stress or solve a problem, if it does arise. For example, if my daughter comes asking what she can do because she’s bored, most times, she will start drawing and the next thing you know, she already has a story book that she wrote and imagined filled with her drawings.
Art has the power to elicit emotions that can calm, elevate, inspire, and bring joy to our lives
“Being a father has influenced how I approach my craft in such a way that I felt I’ve become more responsible when purchasing my supplies and materials. I buy the things I really need, not want. I’ve never sacrificed the integrity and explorations of my ideas, so I still continue to be faithful and honest about where my art is going.
“I always try to empower my daughters that they can achieve and be anything they want, as long as it helps the community and makes them happy as well.
“Art is more relevant now. Art has the power to elicit emotions that can calm, elevate, inspire, and bring joy to our lives. Being away from galleries and museums has made art even more desirable and valuable.
“Currently, I’m focusing on capiz shells as the material for my paintings. I’m currently exploring the fragility of our environment and climate change. One is ‘Deep End’ which is a new painting about coral bleaching. It’s a fragile oil painting on capiz shell. It’s a miniature painting, which measures 3 x 2.5 inches. Another painting is ‘Dreamer’ which is a small piece that measures 3.5 x 2.5 inches and is about humanity. Both are currently in the show ‘Placuna placenta: Capiz Shells and Windows to Indigenous Artistry’ at the National Museum of the Philippines
“The art world will adjust slowly and adapt to the changes. Artworks will always be better experienced in person, so I’m hoping, one day, things will be much better that you can see the actual work in front of you. But for now, things will happen a lot online. As for my family, I hope to continue a simpler life, less stress from the daily grind of life.” — Gregory Halili as told to Carmencita S. Sioson
Cover image: A glimpse of Gregory Halili’s home and studio (Image courtesy of Gregory Halili)
Gregory Halili (b. 1975, lives and works in Manila) carves and paints mother-of-pearl shells, creating memento moris. Halili received his B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He returned to the Philippines in 2013 after 25 years in the United States. Halili’s work focuses on the art of miniatures with interest in the notion and idea of memory, life, death, and cycle.
His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and shows, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; The Hammond Museum and Sculpture Garden in Salem, New York; Ayala Museum in Makati City; Jorge B. Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City; West Gallery in Quezon City; Silverlens Gallery in Makati City and Nancy Hoffman gallery in New York City. In 2016, Halili was one of the Filipino artists who presented in the Singapore Biennale. (Source: Silverlens)