October 5, 1946
Basco, Batanes, Philippines
|Died||December 7, 2004 (aged 58)|
|Education||Corcoran School of Art|
Art Students League of New York
|Alma mater||University of the Philippines Diliman (BA, 1967)|
Lone Mountain College / University of San Francisco (MA, 1972)
|Known for||Painting, Trapunto painting|
Pacita Abad (October 5, 1946 – December 7, 2004) was born in Basco, Batanes, a small island in the northernmost part of the Philippines, between Luzon and Taiwan. Her more than 30-year painting career began when she traveled to the United States to undertake graduate studies in Spain. She exhibited her work in over 200 museums, galleries and other venues, including 75 solo shows, around the world. Abad's work is now in public, corporate and private art collections in over 70 countries.
Pacita Abad was born on October 5, 1946, in Basco, Batanes to Jorge and Aurora Abad. She was the fourth of twelve children, including brother Butch. Her father was the Congressman of Batanes before being appointed by President Diosdado Macapagal as Minister of Public Works and Communications. Subsequently, her mother, Aurora, ran for Congress and, in later years, would become Governor of Batanes. After finishing elementary school in Batanes, Abad attended the Ramon Magsaysay High School in Manila.
In 1968, Abad earned a bachelor's of arts degree in political science from the University of the Philippines Diliman. While continuing graduate studies in law, in 1969, Abad's father was victimized in an election fraud financed by President Marcos. She began organizing and joining student demonstrations in Manila against the Marcos regime. When their home in Manila was targeted and it was too dangerous for her to continue to stay in the Philippines, her parents sent her to Spain to continue her studies.
Before going to Spain, Abad visited relatives in San Francisco, where she decided to pursue her studies in the United States instead. She earned a master's degree in Asian History from the University of San Francisco in 1971. Although offered a scholarship to Boalt Law School at the University of California, Berkley, Abad decided instead travel Asia.
Her first formal training in art began in 1975 at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., under Berthold Schmutzhart and Blaine Larson. Abad would also later study at the Art Students League of New York in New York City under John Helicker and Robert Beverly Hale in 1978.
She lived on six continents and worked in more than 50 countries, including Guatemala, Mexico, India, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
During Abad's time in San Francisco's art scene, she married painter George Kleiman, though they later separated. She traveled to art scenes across Asia for a year with Stanford business student Jack Garrity, then returned to the U.S. to study painting, first at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and later, at The Art Students League in New York City. While in California, she married Garrity, who became an international development economist.
Abad created over 5,000 artworks in her career. Her early paintings were primarily figurative socio-political works of people and primitive masks. Another series was large-scale paintings of underwater scenes, tropical flowers, and animal wildlife. Pacita's most extensive body of work, however, is her vibrant, colorful abstract work – many very large scale canvases, but also a number of small collages – on a range of materials from canvas and paper to bark cloth, metal, ceramics, and glass. She painted the 55-meter long Alkaff Bridge in Singapore and covered it with 2,350 multicolored circles, just a few months before she died.
Abad developed a technique of trapunto painting (named after a quilting technique), which entailed stitching and stuffing her painted canvases to give them a three-dimensional, sculptural effect. She then began incorporating into the surface of her paintings materials such as traditional cloth, mirrors, beads, shells, plastic buttons, and other objects.
In 2021, a retrospective of the artist's work showed for the first time in Dubaï, titled I Thought the Streets Were Paved With Gold. The exhibition showed a wide selection of works from abstracted forms on padded canvas to social realist depictions of daily life painted and weaved, inspired by the artist's experience living in the United States and the Philippines.
Abad received numerous awards during her artistic career. Her most memorable award was her first, the TOYM Award for Art in the Philippines in 1984. The Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) is an award that had always been given to men, until 1984, when Abad became the first woman to receive this prestigious award. After she received the award, a public uproar erupted in which angry letters were sent by male artists to editors of published newspapers who thought that she should not have received the award. Despite this opposition, Abad was thrilled that she had broken the sex barrier, and she stated in her acceptance speech that "it was long overdue that Filipina women were recognized, as the Philippines was full of outstanding women", and proudly referred to her mother.
Abad died on December 7, 2004, in Singapore. She is buried in Batanes, Philippines, next to her studio which is called the Fundacion Pacita.
Abad established a unique trapunto technique in painting, and has influenced numerous art scholars. She received numerous international awards in the field of painting. Her works have been acquired and prized by art museums in Tokyo, Paris, London, Singapore, San Francisco, New York City, Hong Kong, and Manila, among others. Her art has been in the national collections of at least 70 countries worldwide.
The Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge in Basco, Batanes, "was lovingly refurbished" by her brother, Butch Abad.
Pacita Abad's works have been displayed in numerous galleries and museums in the Philippines during the annual Philippine Arts Month and art festivals.
On July 31, 1984, Abad won the Ten Outstanding Young Men award. On July 31, 2020, Google commemorates the anniversary of the award and also commemorates Abad's legacy through a doodle paying homage to her art style.
"I always see the world through colour, although my vision, perspective and paintings are constantly influenced by new ideas and changing environments. I feel like I am an ambassador of colours, always projecting a positive mood that helps make the world smile."