My 2020 in art.

I was trying to reflect on the changes brought by 2020 (partly for myself and partly for a year-end academic assignment). At first I could only come up with negative things. The last post I made was full of heavy and dark thoughts. I wanted to create something better to start the year to come.

I’m thankful of all the ways we’ve made life beautiful in 2020, in spite of or inspired by the overwhelming ugliness of it all. Thank you to my family and lockdown-mates, my co-online interns, my dearest and oldest friends, the heroes that continued to innovate and create. ✨

See The last piece I wrote in 2020

My year that was can be described in many ways. The most terrible of lows, and the most unquestionable heights of human love. In the end, as with any year, 2020 was a balance of survival. It was a struggle to search for the reason to keep going.

Much like art.

The idea for this format came from Yoko Ono, of all people. (Partly because I just watched the film Yesterday for the first time last December.) Specifically, the inspiration came from a quote. Art is a way of survival. I think I can safely say that creative works have saved so many lives in 2020. The comfort of Netflix to battle the ennui. The commissions that feed artists on social media. The collective struggle to make meaning where there appears to be none.

So this was my 2020 in art. Not necessarily pieces I made myself, but pieces I enjoyed. And pieces that carried a story for this unforgettable year.

Art is a way of survival. Isn’t it just? Some of my other favorite quotes include “life is poetry in motion” and “poetry is painting that speaks”.

Collection: my 2020 in art.

my 2020 in art. a calendar showing a featured artwork for each month.
A calendar of art. There are ups and downs. Probably more downs than ups, but I tried my best to force some balance.

January: Jo Koy – Just Kidding World Tour 2020

When I first watched Jo Koy on Netflix, I found him funny. His humor was refreshing yet familiar. It was nice to see my own experiences growing up mirrored in the anecdotes of a 50-or-something Filipino-American. So I said yes to going with my family to see his show in the Mall of Asia Arena. I even picked up the tickets myself.

This was also almost at the height of my strama drama (that is, my road to finishing my MBA requirements). I needed the levity.

At that time, he was break-your-back hilarious. But I’ve always been cautious of what humor I consume and integrate; I don’t want to laugh with jokes that laugh at me. When I got to thinking, I realized he veers uncomfortably close to internalized racism and colonialism. This is why I never really posted about that night. I won’t waste my storage space with a separate photo either.

But it was the only art I had exposure to. The rest of my January was spent being ridiculously sick.

See Nine things I learned in clerkship

February: Art Fair Philippines

My sister and I don’t have the money to buy art pieces yet. But we’ve been faithful patrons of Art Fair Philippines for the last several years. I even have a tag for it. I personally love walking around and interacting with the art. (Sometimes with my mother, and then again with friends, sometimes thrice again with not-friends.)

When we’re feeling rich and adventurous, we buy from the overpriced stands. Most times we just bring home memories.

This is also one of the first and last times I got to wear this bright yellow denim jacket, which I got at a local bazaar (for a steal price of Php300!)
It’s funny because I actually tried to pick up embroidery at some point in medical school and during this long quarantine. It hasn’t worked out yet.

Art events always have an undercurrent of buzz and evolution. I like the hungry urgency that the crowd brings, versus the almost meditative tranquility I get in front of really nice art.

Before everything closed down, at least I had this.

See Art Fair Philippines 2020, an oasis in the city.

March: The rise of Tiktok and Dalgona Coffee

When 2019 turned to 2020 (my family and I were hanging around Tokyo Tower at that time), I made a resolution to spend more time with visual art. I promised to check out at least one art gallery or performance piece or even just a mall installation each month of the year. Vision 20/20 or something equally punny. I had so many things planned out.

By March, the only art I had access to was Dalgona coffee. And Tiktok. My sister loved sharing her favorite Tiktok videos. She also sponsored our electric mixer, so I’ll forgive her.

I celebrated when our Orthopedics duty got cancelled. Next thing I knew, we were barred indefinitely from the hospital with only the comfort of this chocolate version of Dalgona coffee.

Thanks to the lockdown, I had enough time to train to be peak spouse material. I’ll still outsource to a washer-dryer, roomba and a dishwasher, but the desire in me to be domestic is overwhelming.

Thus, March also marked the second season or whatever of my cooking blog posts.

See Lazy Kitchen Episodes Tag and Lazy Kitchen Ep. 4: Dalgona Coffee

April: Christ the Redeemer Statue Dresses Up as a Doctor

The first quarter of 2020 ended with uncertainty. If I had to graph it, those first three months were still firmly in the positive. Maybe a hint of a plateau around March.

April signified the rise of a very peculiar form of global art. And also a dip in the collective hopes of the rational world??? Christ the Redeemer Statue dressing up as a doctor using the latest (and presumably most costly) in digital art projection technology was an excellent prototype.

Photo by BUDA MENDES/GETTY IMAGES. Taken from this Newsweek article.

All over the world, capitalist companies and governments started coming up with their own effigies and monuments to hail our “frontliner heroes“, while still denying measures of actual protection and support. This is a self-patting self-aggrandizing gaslighting trend that continues today.

Shows like this are in a new category of meta-absurdist state-sponsored social art. (Or something like that. I’m still working on it.) There’s meaning to be found, but it’s been warped beyond recognition by context. The context being, of course, that Brazil’s strongman Bolsonaro was still actively downplaying the threat of a pandemic when Christ was all dressed up for this PR stunt.

*Absurdist art: the Sisyphean contradiction between humanity’s struggle for meaning and the universe’s inherent meaninglessness. In this context, I argue the government’s production of meaning juxtaposed to the government’s inherent meaninglessness. Mom, I hate it here.

May: Twenty-five cities in twenty-five years

By May, the ennui has set in. I felt a shortage in inspiration.

My backlogs, on the other hand, were endless. I finally finished writing about our trip to Japan. And I took an afternoon to paint this little watercolor map and finally update my travels page.

Twenty-five cities in twenty-five years! Watercolour, 30 May 2020.

I’ve been incredibly blessed. I know. That I can even complain of postponing a vacation abroad for the pandemic speaks for itself.

See Travel page

June: Black Lives Matter Plaza

May 25 2020. George Floyd died after a police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for seven minutes and forty-six seconds. Floyd’s death –one in a long-list of racially-charged state violence– propelled waves of global anti-fascist anti-police protest.

The giant mural of ‘Black Lives Matter’, painted by eight artists and volunteers, led up like a nice big fuck you to the Washington monument. The mayor renamed this part of 16th Street NW as Black Lives Matter Plaza, possibly as another form of performative and toothless advocacy. It’s bright and bold. I still like it.

People decried the mural. It was repeatedly vandalized. Religious organizations tried to sue that the renaming of the plaza was a violation of church and state; they argued it a sign of a “cult of secular humanism”. But the mural kept coming back. It’s here to stay.

Photo showing the Black Lives Matter mural
Photograph by Khalid Naji-Allah / Executive Office of the Mayor / AP. Taken from this article from The New Yorker.

There are plenty other #BLM murals in the world. I also liked the one right outside Trump Tower in New York.

July: Footnotes – Women in STEM

Anna Morandi Manzolini was an 18th century wax sculptor and anatomist. She wrote in her notes, “this was discovered by me in my observations and I have found it always to be constant.” Hardly anyone knows about her, though. I imagine she’d make it to the footnotes of anatomy books at best.

This inspired a casual infographic series on people, scientists, inventors, and pioneers overlooked in the annals of scientific and medical history. It started around June at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. There are so many ways we as a society have exploited others in the name of discovery.

The need to make the series broke through the almost pervasive creative listlessness of my life.

Racism in medicine. Told only that they had “bad blood”, hundreds of black men became part of the 1932-1972 government study on the natural course of syphilis. Despite the advent of penicillin, none of them received treatment. Children also became infected. This was the Tuskegee Study.

In this day and age, infographics are essential to education and communication. I’m working slowly to be good at this kind of design.

Women in STEM. Augusta Ada Byron, also known as the Countess of Lovelace and daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, was heralded the “first computer programmer”. It’s a title of dispute.

See Footnotes – Women in STEM

August: Ayuda from the Art

Ayuda from the Art, literally aid from the art, is a Facebook group of artists and art enthusiasts who are buying and selling art for the benefit of communities in need. According to the group description, “at least 50% of the proceeds raised during this event will be donated by the artists to our beneficiaries”.

Specifically, the auction proceeds are given to students who need financial aid to meet the rising needs of online schooling. Most in the Philippines don’t have the luxury of owning even a smartphone.

One of my uncles (my father’s old friend) manages the group. Personally, my mother and I have never won a bid. I’ve certainly never auctioned up an art piece. But it’s a community of 2000-strong people. It feels good to be part of such a positive and collaborative online space.

Facebook banner reads 'Ayuda from the Art for the benefit of #AyudaPangEskwela
The initiative was started by Ayuda Likha.

Join Ayuda from the Art

September: Salinsina PH

I started Salinsina PH as a way to productively procrastinate. In times when I didn’t want to study –or watch Netflix or read a novel or talk to people– I’d pick a topic and go wild on Photoshop and Canva. I feel passionate about health communication as a way to promote wellness and disease prevention.

My sister helped me choose the name. Salin stands for translate, and the sina comes from the word ‘medisina’ or medicine. Through this regular exercise, I hope to be more confident about simplifying medicine for my patients. I also want to make accurate medicine more accessible to people online. I always feel a bit glad when people I don’t know message for health advice through the page.

I got bit by a dog. What do I do next? Please give my page a like and follow for more accurate health infographics in English and Filipino. :)

The first few posts I made were on cerebral palsy and goiter. Two weeks later, I posted this in time for World Rabies Day. If my metrics are to be believed, this post has reached more than 12,000 people (many more times the actual number of followers the page has)!

I think it’s the effect of having a cute dog on the cover.

Malusog na puso, the best na regalo! Made a last minute post for the holidays, specifically on avoiding the Holiday Heart Syndrome, Merry Christmas Coronary, and the Happy New Year Heart Attack. It’s all very interesting.

Visit Salinsina PH on Facebook or follow it on Instagram

October: Nadine Lustre’s Wildest Dreams

My Spotify really only knows (1) the original soundtracks of anime series, (2) my alt beats playlist, (3) trap music for studying, (4) dark academia for vibing, and (5) kpop.

Occasionally, my music branches out into original Filipino music (OPM). My sister’s a big fan of Ben&Ben, the soundtrack of the 2020 show Gaya sa Pelikula (Like in the Movies), and basically all the wittier singer-songwriters of the yearly competition Himig Handog.

This year I discovered Nadine Lustre’s talent through her visual album Wildest Dreams. It was released October 31. I’m now a fan. I’ve replayed the album a million times.

Visual albums. Left: Nadine Lustre in Wildest Dreams. Right: Kim Jong-in in KAI.

See I’m falling in love with visual albums

November: Creative presentations

In the corner of my room sits a half-finished canvas. My brushes and acrylic paints have been sitting there for months. I started painting this fanart of Haikyuu, one of my favorite anime shows of all time, a few months ago.

I haven’t picked up a non-make-up brush in three months. I don’t know why.

Instead I make my art that’s easy and effective. Mostly that just means creating really “aesthetic” title cards for case discussions and academic reports.

Creative presentations. Top: A Harrison’s review on diabetes made in October. I drew an archetypal patient as well as all her organs to complete the presentation. Middle: A report on diabetic retinopathy made in November. For this one, I took a random color palette from the internet and combined it with an “ice cream” aesthetic. BLACKPINK’s new song with Selena Gomez had just been released. Also, eyes cream? And then ice cream for diabetes? Get it??? Bottom: A case presentation on atrioventricular block (hence the dropped beats reference!). My punniness is reaching new heights.

I think I even animated a video for diabetic retinopathy at some point in November. The things we distract ourselves with.

See My anime picks!!!

December: Manila Art Fair 2020

It’s 2017. We were second year medical school students about to nod off to a droning pathology lecture. To save my soul, my consciousness and my grades, I open one of my favorite recently-discovered apps Google Arts & Culture.

This amazing app gives you access to artworks and feature articles from 2,000 collections across 80 countries. I visit it when I feel thirsty for beautiful things. It’s like the technology of digital walkthroughs for Google Maps was transformed to walkthroughs of the leading art museums across the globe. And you could zoom in all the way to see every brush stroke for many of the paintings. It was the future.

And it’s here. In Manila. Or, as these things go, in the borderless reach of the Internet.

ManilArt 2020. The longest-running visual arts fair in the Philippines is now online. The actual event ran from December 10 to 13.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and a nationwide quarantine is a strong driver of said necessity. While some people still went to ManilArt 2020 to see the pieces in person (and probably to buy them), more humble persons viewed the 360 degree walkthroughs of each collection. For free. That’s me. I love the digitization and democratization of art.

I sincerely hope they keep this walkthrough up for the future. Probably not. I also wish this is something major art events (and at the very least our national museums) would offer in the years to come.

Visit ManilArt 2020: The National Art Fair online

My art in 2021.

We keep using the word unprecedented to describe 2020. A time of unprecedented politics, travel bans, store closures, mass stupidity, super typhoons, deaths, state-sponsored brutality. What a time of unprecedented art. But then again, art is always unprecedented. Neither the viewer nor the piece remains ever unchanged.

Here’s to more unprecedented art in 2021. It’s up to us to make things beautiful. For example:

  • Expect a hundred more Lazy Kitchen episodes from me. Getting to plate fresh food you made yourself and getting to eat it = art.
  • I recently shared my love of Haikyuu with my sister. She’s been so patient. We just finished the first half of season 4 yesterday. I’m angling to finish the second half before actual internship resumes.
  • My pressed flowers collection, Permanence, hasn’t grown since 2019. A horror. I’ll be adding more to it in the next few days, probably with the herbs we’re now tending (I can neither confirm nor deny a brown thumb). I might walk around and steal from neighboring gardens soon. I’ll figure it out.

See Permanence (2015–)

I guess that’s it. Just like that.

It’s day 4 of 365 again.

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