Boysieâs âpivotalâ art
Designer turned painter Boysie Villavicencio.

Boysie’s ‘pivotal’ art

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2021 - 12:00am

Long before “pivot” became every smart person’s battle cry in the new normal, Boysie Villavicencio had already pivoted, like the gymnasts on his canvas.

A favorite designer of socialites in the late ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s Boysie got his first big break from the late Chito Madrigal-Collantes.

“It was Chito Madrigal who gave me a break after I graduated college from De La Salle with a degree in Business Management in 1973.” That year, I made clothes for just myself, thinking that I would be employed in a bank. She booked me for a fashion show at the Hyatt for July-August of that year, thus my first show. And then I made clothes for her, but being a newbie, I made many mistakes! One day, she said that she better stop having clothes made by me as I had a lot to learn about fitting. After that, our friendship began.”

After Boysie retired from doing haute couture at the age of 40, he ventured into many endeavors, including breeding champion dogs. Talk about a pivot!

Gymnast manipulating a ribbon.

And then at age 61, 20 years after his “retirement,” he entered the UP College of Fine Arts.

“I went back to school 40 years after graduating from college. I was 61 years old. I was older than my professors and my dean,” laughs Boysie.  “At times some of them addressed me as ‘sir’.”

Boysie sits on the board of the UP College of Fine Arts Alumni Association.


He now dresses up canvases with the dexterity of his paintbrush, in the colors of the fabrics that used to sway and swirl on his models and clients. Thus, if you look at Boysie’s paintings, you see movement, or the suggestion of it. A painter’s canvas, after all, is also a fabric.

“I get inspired by the things around me, things that happen, sentiments. I’m impressionable — a trait I’ve had since I was a child. There is always something about everybody that impresses me.  I subconsciously see that in my works,” he describes the bottomless source of his inspiration.

“I believe one cannot depict anything without experiencing it first. Even in the abstract, there must be something in thought, imagined or real that all artists try to copy and relate as part of their own communication skills,” he elaborates.

Night & Day Lovers.


I like the vivid colors of Boysie’s works.  To me, his canvases are meant to be ogled like fashion models on the ramp. Some works exaggerate, some tease, some make you think. They all have a common characteristic — they attract attention. Although they are meant to hang on walls, they are no wallflowers.

I chanced upon a photo of one of his works, Goddess of Air and immediately was entranced by its robust, leaping colors — wine red, tangerine, lime green — against a stark black background.

“The work is a collage,” explains Boysie. “I used fabric to form the figure of the lady. As I wanted to present her as if she were floating, I made her colorful with a plain black background — as if she were flying at night.”

He used see-through lace to depict the woman’s locks. The bodice is slim and the silhouette of the gathering of fabrics, some of them beaded, on her bouffant skirt flips upward, as if in mid air.

“This gives the illusion of her floating and being above ground,” points out Boysie. He painted over the different fabrics — delightful retazos, from his former creations that were stored in his bodega — thus, making them stiff and “more tangible.”

It took Boysie a month to try to depict this particular “goddess,” the first he painted in a series that included one titled, Imeldific. Thus, during the opening of his Goddess series at the Edsa Shangri-La before the pandemic, former First Lady Imelda Marcos cut the ribbon. Imeldific was the first painting sold at the well-attended exhibit.

I immediately reserved the Goddess of Air, especially after knowing that part of the proceeds of the sale of all of Boysie’s paintings goes to a feeding program organized by Fr. Flavie Villanueva of the Catholic Trade Center in Tayuman. With the help of Boysie and other generous donors, Fr. Flavie’s program now feeds 1,000 people a day!

Besides, I like the not-so-subtle message I see in the hands and in the illusion of ascension that I see in the “air goddess.”

The Goddess of Air.

Since the start of the lockdown, Boysie has completed 48 artworks.

“There were days I hardly slept, and some days when I just worked an hour or two,” he recalls.

For someone who knows all about creating linings, that was the silver lining of the lockdown. “It can be kind,” he muses.

Boysie shows us it is never too late, or too early, to pivot to a new calling, a new expression of our talents.

When I told him that his description of his art makes him sound like a poet as well, he shakes his head and his trademark bangs and says, “I’m just a former mananahi.”

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez @yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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