Jo Ann Bitagcol clothes ‘voodoo’ dolls in silk satin | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

“Vintage Barong Pop,” digital print on satin fabric
Artist and photographer Jo Ann Bitagcol at Vinyl on Vinyl gallery

Photographer and model Jo Ann Bitagcol is weathering the pandemic by tapping into a wellspring of creativity. Last weekend, she participated in a pop-up exhibit in a Makati gallery where she showed a collection of mounted works that combined photo-printed images of barong and maria clara sleeves concealing “voodoo” dolls.

“Tripolar 2.0” at the Vinyl on Vinyl gallery was her second exhibit—the first “Tripolar” show was held at Avellana Art Gallery in 2015—that once again featured the dolls. This time, however, they’re either covered in brightly colored squares of silk satin or exposed and “ready for the next part of their journey.”

When people think about voodoo dolls, they imagine witches up to no good, but Bitagcol thinks otherwise.

“I prefer to see these dolls as a chance to wish someone well. I choose to see that positive side. The colors represent where I am now after looking within and healing,” she told Lifestyle in a phone interview.

In the show notes, one reads that the idea for the collection was to portray a life in full color through prints.

“It was inspired by a new chapter that reveals the joy of looking within and opening up to boundless possibilities,” she said in a statement.

Before she became a photographer, Bitagcol was one of the country’s top runway models who could carry off any outfit and make it look cool and expensive.

“I’ve always liked using clothes differently, whether backwards or inside out. I often found the back print or a concealed detail far more interesting,” she said.

“Barong Pop (Yellow),” silk, satin, thread on canvas

This quirk of hers comes across as endearing and not at all forced or precocious. It also helps that she’s naturally lanky and blessed with the shoulders of a model. Even when she began working behind the camera, she continued to dress herself in easy, often neutral-colored separates that gave off that unmistakable, off-duty model look.

Dry spell

Bitagcol began selling photo-printed scarves at the Katutubo pop-up market two years ago. She told this writer then that the idea came about after a particularly dry spell in her professional life. “This was during the slow months. I wasn’t doing anything and I was bored.”

When she would attend her friends’ pop-ups, she admitted feeling a twinge of jealousy.

“Vintage Barong Pop,” digital print on satin fabric

The burgeoning interest in all things Filipino was already growing, but the thought of simply selling prints of her photographs hardly offered any challenge. Instead, she came up with scarves printed with ghostly images of gossamer-thin camisas, terno tops, antique hairbrushes and cameo brooches.

The scarves were a hit but Bitagcol has continued evolving, pushing the envelope, but still using her evocative Filipinana prints. In the two years since, she has expanded by coming out with face masks, tunics, robes and t-shirts with photo-printed pockets, all in limited quantities.

“I design apparel now but because of the pandemic, I have only one mananahi (sewer) so it’s a slow production.”

“Vintage Barong Pop (Green),” silk, satin, thread on canvas

She recently collaborated with a graphic artist and will launch the new product line next year. Right now, however, she wants to continue evolving as an artist.

“I want to do more gallery shows. Who knows, there might even be a Tripolar 3.0 soon.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.