Newsday staffer mounts solo show at Philippine Center

Lorina Tayag-Capitulo: A loner who loves creating art

Lorina Tayag-Capitulo: A loner who loves creating art

By Kata Rojas

Lorina Tayag-Capitulo is nervous and excited. She’d been working for months on new paintings and sculptures in preparation for her first solo exhibition at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue. She’s anxious and eager to show the public everything she can do, everything she wants to say. But the center has limited space.

“I feel bad,” she said of five of the pieces she did this year that had to be left out. But there was no room. “I made them too big.”

Maybe they’ll make it into “Anitya 2.”

But before that “Anitya: Memento and Nostalgia” is running until September 20th with an artist’s reception on the 13th.

Tayag-Capitulo, 43, began to draw as a way of expressing herself as a shy teenager growing up in Angeles City, Pampanga. A self-described loner, she called the work her outlet. She drew cartoon characters — Superman, Batman and Mazinger Z from the Japanese anime — then she began taking inspiration from her surroundings, a farm where her family raised poultry and pigs. That nature theme was apparent in her early works, she said, and she goes back to it for some of her pieces for “Anitya,” a Sanskrit word of impermanence. For “Anitya,” Tayag-Capitulo’s intent is to “capture the tension between the pull of memory and the propulsion of change.”

Her talent was soon noticed at Holy Family Academy in Angeles City and she began making posters and participating in inter-school art competitions, producing works with social themes.

She said she wasn’t sure what to pursue in college, but knew she loved creating art. She took a talent determination test at the University of the Philippines in Diliman and was accepted in the fine arts program, eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

For a while, she said, she thought about dropping her art. She wasn’t sure how it would work out financially. As she pointed out, “Not a lot of people buy art, especially in the Philippines.”

But she persevered, and began making a name for herself with her paintings, installations and experimental works. Her work won awards from Philippine groups such as the Art Association of the Philippines, as well as internationally.

In 1997, she was one of two representatives selected to represent the Philippine government in the ASEAN Sculpture Exhibition and Workshop in Brunei Darussalam.

She drew images from her youth

She drew images from her youth

That same year, Tayag-Capitulo moved to the U.S. to be with her husband, Ariel Capitulo. Being uprooted from everything familiar, she said, had a profound effect: She stopped creating. She still painted, she still sculpted, but she wasn’t satisfied with the results. “Mitda,” a Capampangan word that means snuffed, is how she describes the sudden absence of creativity, inspiration.

“Maybe it’s because so much had changed in my surroundings,” she said. The connection to her roots was severed, she said, her routine disrupted. When she was in the Philippines, she worked almost every day, sometimes well into the night. In California, her time and space were not her own. She and her husband shared a home with her in-laws. Out of consideration for her family, Tayag-Capitulo, who specialized in large-scale pieces, tried to scale down her work. She used the same materials, but she didn’t get the same results, she said. She felt lost.

She and her husband eventually moved to Long Island. She participated in arts and craft festivals and also joined group exhibitions on the Island, in New York City and other states. But that creative spark continued to elude her.

Tayag-Capitulo, who works as a photo researcher at Newsday in Melville, said she also explores other forms of art such as photography, graphic arts, mixed media. Eventually, the drive to paint and sculpt returned. She’s not exactly sure what triggered it. But meeting members of the Society for Philippine American Artists a few years ago must have played a part. They urged her to mount a show, and in May, the date for her solo exhibition was finalized.

She was told she didn’t need to create new works just for the exhibit. But Tayag-Capitulo sees the show as a way of introducing herself to a new audience, and so she created new pieces tracing her evolution as an artist. For some paintings, she went back to the images she remembered from her youth. For other paintings and sculptures, she explored issues such as the relationship between technology and art.

Before the exhibit, the living room of the North Babylon home she shares with her husband and 23-year-old son, Felix, was packed with artworks, both old and new. It’s apparent that she’d been very productive since she was told of her solo show. She likes having a target date, she realized.

As her husband worked in the basement to create frames for her paintings (“He is very good, but I asked him to make them simple for the show,” she said. “I want the focus on the paintings.”), Tayag-Capitulo mused on that period in her life when she was struggling with her work. She wondered if it may also be because she had nothing to say at that point. “I was interacting with other people, expressing myself,” she said. A far cry from the young woman who she said had social anxieties.

But now, a more confident Tayag-Capitulo has something to say again, and she hopes the public will listen.

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