Remembering Purita / US paintings on view / Jewish children’s art
Remembering Purita / US paintings on view / Jewish children’s art
SUNDRY STROKES - Rosalinda L. Orosa () - May 4, 2005 - 12:00am
The gentle and genteel Purita Kalaw Ledesma, about whom I have written reams of copy as the Grande Dame of Philippine Art, quietly passed away last week. Five years ago, she suffered a stroke, after which her mental faculties gradually and steadily deteriorated.

This was to be lamented because she had a brilliant mind that was keenly conversant with matters relating to the visual arts, particularly to Filipino painting and painters. A fine arts graduate of the UP who took further art courses in Michigan U. – this gave her a solid artistic background – she did not choose painting as a career. Instead, she became an arbiter and an acute observer who was to shape and influence the direction of the arts here from the ’50s to the time her illness prevented her from taking an active role in the art scene.

Purita founded the Art Association of the Philippines in 1948, serving also as its president for many years. Playing a significant role as such, she gave artists like Manansala, Legazpi, H.R. Ocampo and others due recognition, appreciating their art for its true worth. I recall having attended an exhibition of H.R. Ocampo at which only one or two bought his works. At the close of the exhibit, he gave all the remaining paintings to those present. Today, the works of H.R. Ocampo, Manansala, Legazpi, Manuel Rodriguez, et al. command hundreds of thousands of pesos. Many artists who are now well-established were scholars of Purita.

Incidentally, Purita held herself above controversies that riddled the art world. Remember the war that raged between the "Moderns" and the "Conservatives"? Through the imbroglio, Purita kept her counsel although she would tell me and others in private on whose side she was. But she fiercely fought for a National Museum which the country now proudly has.

Purita was one of the charter members of the Sigma Delta Phi Sorority, and last Monday, it gave her a tribute at her wake in a chapel in San Antonio Church. The simple rites, led by Linda Gamboa, were attended by Gloria Monzon Lucero, another charter member, and former Senator Eva E. Kalaw, Purita’s sister-in-law. Theater personality Behn Cervantes gave amusing reminiscences, and absorbed listeners included Purita’s four daughters – Rita Ledesma, Connie Jalandoni, Ada Mabilangan and Wally – and Ada’s sister-in-law Marilou Mabilangan, and friends, among them Loleng Panlilio, Tata Poblador, Paulynn "Meiling" P. Sicam, Gina Camus, Bonjin Bolinao, Ambassador Virgilio Reyes Jr., King and Pearl Doromal, and Linda Panlilio. Anita Magsaysay-Ho came a day earlier.

The tribute reflected not only their affection for Purita but also their admiration for the tremendous role she played in the development of the arts in the country.
* * *
Guest has a delightful and illuminating experience viewing the exquisite works of contemporary American artists at the official residence of Ambassador Francis and Marie Ricciardone. The exhibit is part of the Art in Embassies Program, and the works are obtained through such lending sources as US museums, galleries, artists, institutions, corporations and private collectors. In the case of the Ricciardone exhibit, the lending sources are the artists themselves.

In the Ricciardone residence, each painting is placed where both its artistic merit and the architecture of its particular location are maximized. The residence, which formerly belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Primo Santos and was designed by noted architect Gabriel Formoso, has long been an attraction for its unusual concept. AIEP Kevin Spence, Project Architect for Residences, US Department of State, describes it thus: "The lush gardens surrounding the house unite the interior and exterior spaces, and its architecture and furnishings blend the aesthetics of East and West. The residence provides a serene setting for the display of Asian and American works of art."

Ambassador and Mrs. Ricciardone say: "We have selected the works on display for their connections to special places and interests in our lives: the sea, nature, the environment, and gardening; New England, the Middle East, and now, Asia. We also particularly sought works in glass and other media to bring natural themes into the home. Our objective was to take advantage of the play of light and scenery that this special residence and its pools and gardens afford."

Among the US Embassy staff at the exhibit were Public Affairs Officer Ronald Post and Cultural Officer Dr. Burt Armstrong who majored in German literature at Brown University. I also chatted with two interesting Japanese women: Mrs. Volker Avenmarg, wife of the Goethe Institut director, and Hiroko Taniguchi, director of the Japan Information and Cultural Center. The only artist present was the charming Japanese-American Theresa T. Miller who has lived in Brazil and now resides in the Philippines with her husband and daughter.
* * *
The art works of the Jewish children done during their incarceration at the Terezin camp and ghetto, which works were exhibited at the CCP lobby on April 28, were in dramatic contrast to the paintings of the sophisticated, schooled and seasoned contemporary American painters on permanent display at the US embassy residence. But the spirit, inherent creativity and impetus of the young artists shone through.

Speeches were given by Czech Ambassador Stanislav Slavicky who must be thanked for masterminding the vast "Remembering Terezin" project, Israeli Chargé d’Affaires Guy Feldman who was pinch-hitting for Ambassador Yehoshua Sagi, CCP President Nestor Jardin and Dr. Milos Pojar, director of the Jewish Museum in Prague.

Rabbi Elijahu Azaria intoned a Jewish prayer and Iva Bittova interpreted an old Moravian Chassidic song which sounded like mournful wailing throughout. Clips from Hans Krasa’s children’s opera Brundibar were shown, these demonstrating the zest and vitality not unlike those of children everywhere else.

Mr. Feldman spoke of Peter Grintz who at 12 had written his first novel in Terezin and who at 14 had written eight novels and countless short stories. At 16, he was sent to the Auschwitz gas chamber, only one of thousands of youths whose creativity had been suddenly – and how tragically! – aborted. Sen. Franklin Drilon described his own trip to Auschwitz where he saw human hair made into carpets. The unforgettable sight proved there was no limit to Nazi cruelty, savagery, brutality and oppression.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with