Moreen Joy Austria had befriended the sparks and fumes of the hot metal rods she used on her very first attempt at sculpting. The more she became accustomed to them, the more her art developed into the winning form that it is today.
As the young lady sat down with The Sunday Times Magazine, fresh from being named Metrobank Arts and
Design Excellence’s (MADE) awardee for Sculpture, she said gratefully, “This is a validation that I’ve been doing things right.”
Her winning piece, “Pagtataguyod,” a result of her gifted imagination, patience and hard work, is now her most valued endeavor in her young career.
The Bacolod City-based artist shared, “This is my second time [joining MADE]. The last was in 2015, where I became a semi-finalist but there was no winner that time,” she said.
Trying her luck again and winning two years later proved to be the best decision she made as this year’s winning peice will be displayed at Metro Park in Pasay, making Moreen Joy Austria a full-fledged sculptor in Philippine Art.
Illustration of national soul
An illustration of the “Filipino values that define the national soul,” Austria said that Pagtataguyod, whose definition equates to building and promotion, has paralleled her appreciation for the character of Filipino families and the culture of bayanihan in the country.
Austria principally drew her inspiration from the sight of a happy family at a park, composed of a young couple
together with their toddler.
Letting go of his mother’s hands, she saw the toddler rushing to his father who was only a few steps away.
“Yung mag-asawa na may anak na very young, na natututo na palang maglakad. Nung time na nakita ko yun, hindi ko alam kung paano basta may nakita akong hinahawakan ng nanay na para pumunta doon sa tatay,” she said.
The sculptor eventually looked for a way to describe what she had felt that day. Thus, Pagtataguyod came to life.
Herself a mother to four children, the 41-year-old sculptor believes that every Filipino family is bound by faith and hope.
“Yung message kasi nito is positive: hope, company, family. Gusto ko, if it’s built, nandiyan siya every day, nakikita siya to remain an implant na okay lang tayo, may nagmamahal sa atin na pamilya and kaya natin ito,” she said.
“Parang naisip ko na lang na all is not lost in being Filipinos. Despite everything, eto pa rin tayo, despite our political affiliations, of our social distinctions, we love our family,” she added.
Through putting brass, granite ceramic and stainless steel together, Austria was able to shape a pattern that depicts five human figures—a structure of a family composed of a father, mother, brother, sister, and youngest child—topped with a blue paper plane which symbolizes the dreams and hopes of Filipino families.
History has witnessed how the number of women sculptors took a longer time to increase, than of other artists worldwide. But through her welded masterpiece, Austria—an embodiment of all women sculptors from all over the world—proved that art knows no restrictions.
“Its [shape is]random. More like an inspiration of a young family,” she said.
Austria also said she had finished the piece only in a few days, fueled by leisure and anticipation. She wanted Pagtataguyod to play a role in promoting the “less technical” atmosphere of public art, where she embeds her affection for the resilience of Filipinos.
“The reason why I joined this contest is because I like the possibility of having it there as public art,” she said, referring to community art as the innermost sanctuary of alternative realities.
Austria likewise imparted that the process of giving Pagtataguyod its final shape was laborious and complicated. Yet, what made her fall in love with metal sculpture even more was the challenge of bending each rod and the thrill of bringing them all to life.
“Very labor extensive yung paggawa from the start, from the rod na ginawang triangle,” she said. “Magtutunaw ka ng metal, part of it, tapos bubuuin mo.”
Aside from receiving an exhibition venue grant from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2016, Austria has also represented the Philippines in an international art workshop and exhibition.
Despite her prowess in giving life to welded sculpture, Austria’s forte, which aligns to welding technology, yet calls for further cultivation, as she described it.
A graduate of Bachelor of Science in Management at the University of the Philippines Visayas, Austria worked as a medical representative for about 12 years before she formally started her sculpture career.
In fact, what led her to embark on a new interest a few years back was a program managed by government-run Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
“Nag-aral ako sa Tesda para makapag-welding, a few years ago,” she said. “But my artwork is not only for one person. Lahat ng artwork, may audience talaga yan.”
A highly skilled painter and an art installation enthusiast, Austria also hoped for the expansion of the art industry in the country to help Filipino artists showcase their talents.
“I would like to believe positively. Marami tayong talent sa Pilipinas. I hope na mag-grow pa [in numbers]in the future,” she said.
‘Life goes on’
Each day, Austria devotes a sum of her time to run through her artistry, which she called her hobby and profession.
Leaving the worries of prominence and wealth, Austria said she would continue to welcome opportunities that could further enhance her lifetime “artistic” process.
Although around every corner is another competition, for Austria, art still means keeping her network loose for the interest of her locality, within its sentiments.
“Wala naman, life goes on. Kasi yung ginagawa ko talaga, I try to make art na relevant sa society ko, relevant sa locality ko, but nothing changes. Yun pa rin,” she responded when asked of her plans after winning the competition.