Rosita’s Garden Anti-Corruption Diwata

Rosita’s Garden at The Portal
Catbalogan City
Samar Island, Philippine

February, 2024

I created this large scale painting for my collaborator, experimental musician-composer Anne Perez’  new building in Catbalogan, Samar. This was a special opportunity to paint a mural that extends my own series of Phyllotaxis Earth Guardians to a new location. This painting is a composition of botanical renderings with plant growth algorithmic patterns surrounding the Plant Diwata – a spirit force of nature – in this image it is a memorial based on an image of Rosita – Anne’s mother. She uses the plant growth pattern – which makes visible a system that creates life – to oppose corruption and extractive exploitations. The jagged rocks represent the mining that has damaged the natural environment of this beautiful island in the Philippines.
I painted it on polytab, an archival non woven fabric that has been used by muralists and painters for its flexible properties- in this case painted in my Oakland studio, rolled up, packed in a suitcase and installed across the planet.
Benji, Mark, Eric and Bobby helped me attach it to the outside wall with acrylic gel where it will last for decades. Gian Gianan worked with me on finishing touches. She also suggested using the unique banig – mat patterns from Samar which I incorporated into the design. That I was able to visit the women who weave these banigs on this trip is especially meaningful.

In the economies of cultural production Art as Gift Exchange is a profound pleasure. The dedication of the mural – Rosita’s Garden Anti-Corruption Diwata – was one of those events. Anne opened up her new family building -The Portal – to the Catbalogan cultural community as a venue to inspire a new kind of experimental art and music presentation and gathering. Catbalogan, with a population of about 100,000 is the provincial capital of Samar, the third largest island of the Philippines. It takes 3 hours to drive there on a rough road from the Tacloban airport. It is surrounded by hills which prevents unlimited expansion. Fishing boats from all over dock at its port so it has wonderful fresh seafood. Anne has a long family history there and her 93 year old Papa lives in town.

For the celebration local artists installed an exhibit in the upstairs space transformed into a gallery. As the works arrived I wondered how they were going to arrange all the artwork successfully. In the patio area in front of the mural Anne, Chris Brown and Gian waited for their sound check. Within a few hours fancy lights lit up everything beautifully, the sound system was in, the table for the food beautifully coifed, people arrived, there was an opening ritual, the MC from the Catbalogan Office of Culture introduced the Mayor Dexter Uy, the musicians improvised, a frenzy of pictures were taken in front of the mural, we got banig medals, the food was eaten, I donated the archival prints I brought for the show to raise funds for their art education program, the family friends living in back of The Portal because their house sunk due to over excavation joined in the fun, we stepped outside onto the street to see the light show bounce off all the buildings and tricycles emanating from the José Rizal statue in the nearby square. Catbalogan knows how to put on a light show that is for sure! Thanks to the City of Catbalogan for sponsoring this celebration for National Arts Month!