Creative's Questionnaire is an interview series where artists, writers, filmmakers, and other creatives talk about their work, the challenges that they face, and their inspirations.
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — If you’ve been seeing sensual, vulva-shaped glasses on your Instagram feed lately, you might have wondered what the deal was with those curious creations. The artist, Christina “Goldie” Poblador, describes her work as “center[ing] on ecofeminism and the body as it relates to my culture as a Filipina woman and an immigrant.” The glasses are part of “The Barbae Collection,” a design line that began as an installation consisting of 70 shot glasses shaped like female reproductive organs. Poblador says she created the installation in reaction to a comment about shooting female rebels in the vagina.
“I believe you need bravery as well, because your taste may not always be what institutions are looking for,” she says when asked about the essential traits every creative must have. “If that is the case, you will need the balls to step into your studio anyway and create the work that you believe needs to be in the world.”
Poblador is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and received her MFA in Glass at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she was the President’s Scholar for two years. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, from The Knockdown Center and The Clio Art Fair in New York; the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris to the Singapore Art Museum.
She is one of a handful of Filipino artists who focuses primarily on glass. But what truly sets her work apart is how she incorporates scent and performance into her art. She creates multi-sensory experiences that help viewers reimagine different times, places, and cultures. In “Halimuyak ng Yangon,” a piece featured in the traveling show Concept Context Contestation sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Myanmar, she presented a perfume bar featuring four bottled scents that describe life in the city of Yangon. She bottled the scents of betel nut, roadkill, river water, and even “corruption.” In some of her works, Poblador teams up with musicians and movement-based artists, creating performances akin to a synesthetic experience.
For CNN Philippines Life’s Creatives Questionnaire, we spoke to Poblador about the “Barbae” line, the biggest challenges faced by visual artists, and how she’s learning to thrive as a creative in the midst of a pandemic.
What do you think are the essential traits of a creative person, especially in your field?
Resilience, consistency, and perseverance are important in the visual arts because you need the persistence to get back up when you don’t get things right the first time. I also believe you need those traits to be able to build skill and expertise. Everyone starts somewhere, and you can’t get good at something without putting in the hours. I believe you need bravery as well, because your taste may not always be what institutions are looking for. If that is the case, you will need the balls to step into your studio anyway and create the work that you believe needs to be in the world.
What is the core philosophy that guides your work?
Often interactive and experiential, the themes in my practice center on ecofeminism and the body as it relates to my culture as a Filipina woman and an immigrant. At its core, my work is about empowerment through creating beauty, form and experience.
And how does that relate to your current project? Tell us about your latest project.
Recently, I launched a design line of glasses called “The Barbae Collection.” Originally they were made for an installation entitled “Babae” (2019) which consisted of 70 shot glasses shaped like female reproductive organs, which I created in reaction to a comment made about shooting female rebels in the vagina. I wanted to reclaim this brutal image, and instead celebrate the liberated and sensual feminine.
Growing this installation piece into a design line was born of my frustration with the job market in the art world in New York, which is highly problematic in terms of inclusivity and equality. I was fed up, so last year, I worked with Lohar Projects in order to transition this piece into a business.
I wanted to create something that could function in people’s homes and embody that message of empowerment. I have just recently made them available in Manila and I’m excited about that!
Do you have a mentor? Do you think it's important to have one?
I believe a lot of people have served as the role of mentor for me. Leo Abaya was my thesis adviser in U.P. and he helped me form my ideas when I was starting out. That was when I first started glass sculpting and experimenting with scent, so I count that time as very formative. Jocelyne Prince was my adviser at RISD, and she helped sharpen my voice and effectively communicate my identity with a different audience. I do think it helps a lot to be in conversation with someone who can give you constructive feedback and criticism.
What skills do you wish you had?
Writing skills are really important when you are an artist, since you will constantly have to apply to open calls and grants in order to get that funding! I wish I had more of that, and it wouldn’t hurt to gain even more glass skills. I feel like I still have a long way to go in terms of technique and I would like to expand my design line and create larger objects in the future.
What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by people in your field today? How do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge by far for visual artists, and I imagine other creatives as well, is finding the funding to create and searching for the avenues to generate income through that work. Jobs these days are few and far apart and materials and a studio cost money. Beyond that, you still need to find that bridge between your work and the public eye. Emerging artists and creatives are often given “exposure” as a means of payment for their work. This is in no way acceptable in this day and age. Now that public spaces are closed, visual artists are forced to think outside of the literal white box. What might help us overcome these challenges is finding new ways to be profitable without fully relying on the systems that were in place before the pandemic happened.
In my field, one usually relies on grants from museums or being signed by a gallery in order to generate funding. If you are an emerging artist like myself, that isn’t always guaranteed. However, there are several platforms these days that encourage independent crowdfunding for a wide range of projects. I am also starting to see a lot of artists sell their work online.
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What myth(s) about your field of work would you like to debunk?
There is that one myth of the bohemian artist that comes to mind, which involves a life of drinking and financial turmoil until their untimely death. I feel like this trope can be harmful because it is used as a crutch when deciding on the value of a living artist’s work. There are living artists that are well paid, and continue to thrive through the work they believe in. It is important for young artists to be able to aspire to this so as not to be discouraged to choose this path.
What have you learned from work that you've applied to other areas of your life?
The questions you ask yourself are important. It isn’t enough to just do something if you don’t ask yourself the reasons behind why you are doing it. One of the most important things my work has taught me is that there is no harm in self-promotion. I used to have odd guilt about that, and I realized it affected how I would interview for opportunities. People want to see someone that has confidence in what they are about to invest in. When I first started I encountered a lot of doubters but I am thankful that I never listened to them.
How is this pandemic changing how you approach your work?
I am now thinking of other ways to blow glass that do not involve being in a shared studio, but I am at odds with this. Being in a shared space builds community. This pandemic has made me prioritize my online presence more, and has been a replacement for that sense of community I need.
What kind of changes do you think are essential to ensure the work that you do can thrive, while still protecting the people who do it?
I think that museums and galleries that have received aid should be critical of who they are supporting and hiring during this time. Artists need relief right now, especially if they supplement their creative practice with other jobs since those are scarce. If creatives cannot continue to make their work, the industry will suffer. I also think that freedom of speech is essential, and we must protect it at all costs. If that becomes something that we have to fight for, then so be it.