Celebrating Pacita Abad, Here’s Everything Extraordinary About Her

Google homepage celebrates Philippine artist and activist Pacita Abad.

Born in Basco, Batanes, Abad is known for her bold use of color and mixed media, as well as her use of art to address global themes.

She received a BA degree in political science at the University of the Philippines and, because of her political activism against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, was forced to leave for America in 1970, where she supported herself as a seamstress and a typist, while studying Asian history at the University of San Francisco.

At graduate school she worked as the art coordinator and became deeply involved in the San Francisco art scene when she married painter George Kleiman, though they later separated. She then decided to hitchhike across Asia for a year with Jack Garrity, whom she married, and then returned to the U.S. to study painting, first at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and later, at The Art Students League in New York City.

After finishing her studies, Pacita became an itinerant painter lugging her paints and canvas, as she traveled with her husband across the globe, living in countries like Bangladesh, Yemen, Sudan, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Her travels significantly impacted her artistic style, and were the inspiration for many ideas, techniques and materials she used in her paintings.

Pacita’s painting is characterized by vibrant color, constant change, experimentation and development. Her early paintings were primarily socio-political works of people, primitive masks, underwater scenes and tropical flowers. Pacita’s most extensive body of work, however, is her vibrantly colorful abstract paintings – on a complete range of materials from canvas and prints to bark cloth, metal, ceramics and glass. Many of these were “trapunto” paintings, a name she gave to her technique of stitching and stuffing her canvases to give them a three-dimensional effect. She then began an almost magical process of transforming the surface of her paintings with materials, such as traditional cloth, shells, buttons, beads, mirrors and other objects.

A disciplined and prolific painter, Pacita created over 5,000 artworks and even painted a 55-meter long bridge and covered it with 2,350 multi-colored circles just a few months before she passed away. A truly global artist, Pacita had over 60 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 70 group exhibitions at museums and galleries in the U. S., Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Her work is now in public, corporate and private art collections in over 70 countries.

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