The art of Tu-2 and Angela Oh: a dual treat for the spirit

Tu-2's silver pencil sketch takes a 3-dimensional image of  "NELA," the first African American graduate of New York University.

Tu-2’s silver pencil sketch takes a 3-dimensional image of “NELA,” the first African American graduate of New York University.

By Cecile Caguingin Ochoa

Evelyn Aviado Portugal, advertising manager of a prestigious news weekly in Beverly Hills came to the board retreat of The Filipino American Press Club of Los Angeles (est. 1978), Inc. last Saturday with her special notebook. The FAPCLA VP expected to jot down notes from a lecture of strategic planning by the retreat masters.

She and her board were to meet a nationally well-known speaker: Angela Oh, who is often remembered appearing with Ted Koppel in ABC TV’s “Nightline” in the national dialogue on race relations. She attempted to forge a healing between Koreans and African Americans in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating in South Central L.A. in the 1990s. On this pleasant summer day, newly married Angela came to the elegant L.A. Athletic Club with her husband, Ying Ming Tu — or Tu-2 — described as a “visual artist who focuses on painting, documentary film making and photography.”

Evelyn enjoyed the ambiance of the L.A. Club’s wood-paneled boardroom and warm, delicious café au lait as she comfortably sat on a rich leather sofa anticipating to listen to the couple’s prescription for leadership.

But instead of a lecture, Oh, a lawyer and a practicing Zen Buddhist, invited everyone to view Tu-2’s silver pencil portrayal of six persons he had met and sketched, on a blue canvass.

Tu-2 used the blue canvass to invite peace and contemplation. It is amazing how his simple strokes in pencil brought the subjects to life – laughing, pondering, poking questions – the interpretations are based on the eye of the beholder.

“I felt the sorrows, pain and joy of the subjects of Tu’s arts, “Evelyn recalled. “I remembered the hardworking determination of my mother,” she added.

Among the group’s favorite was the sketch of “Nela,” the first African American graduate of New York University who raised a daughter who now teaches law at the Southwestern University in L.A.

“The nicest feeling I had was peace and joy. That despite negative vibrations I feel from many, everything will be alright, said Lou Sabas, another FAPCLA board member.

The retreat, indeed, was different. There were no lectures, just conversations about art interpreting life, and vice-versa. Of “being and doing” and the “number 108.”

The works of Tu-2 were products of his contemplation on the 108 stages and levels of sufferings of the human life, based on Buddhist religious beliefs.

His paintings of people are products of his meditation and contemplation. Pondering who this person is; what has his or her journey been like, before starting to draw them?

In the 1990s his paintings on “Mao-ology” and “Timeless” series was acclaimed in the U.S, Asia and Europe, becoming subjects of two books and several publications. Taking a sabbatical from his painting a little over a decade ago, he “searched his soul and reset his spiritual compass.”

His website expounds: “A new body of work emerged: a series of spiritual portraits in silver pencil on blue paper that reveal the true essence and interior qualities of their subjects. These meditative works inspire awakening, affinity and compassion, and when viewed as a group, illustrate the infinite ways in which humanity is connected through space and time.”

During the afternoon, everyone walked around the artist’s work, pausing to reflect on those. Similar portraits affected individuals in different ways based on each life’s experiences. Some saw their parents’ compassion and kindness; others, their children’s joy and energy; wisdom and courage in Tu’s paintings, without the artist describing the background to each of his sketches.

The retreat became a moment of contemplation and introspective thinking with the art genius of Tu-2 as the medium.

“In the fast pace of your day, you need some time to be quiet. Stop doing too much. Change focus from being goal-oriented to understanding who you really are,” said Angela who was formerly a litigator for a large downtown law firm, until she decided to focus on meditation and work full time as a mediator for the State and L.A. County.

Once, a backdrop of boardroom chatter from other guests invited knitted brows which Angela dismissed as not “noise” but “life happening.”

“Don’t be bothered by that kind of ‘noise.’ Worry more about the ‘chatter’ in your mind that prevents you from engaging in worthwhile activities,” she smiled.

In the end, it is not important that one has all the academic degrees, medals and honors and material possessions, she reminded us. It is how we tackle the ideas of compassion and connection with one another and somehow the possibilities of affecting the universe, said Angela.

At the end of the afternoon, Evelyn reviewed her notebook and found she wrote very little on it.

“I took down the lessons from this retreat in my heart, she pondered. “I have to de-clutter my mind first and then quietly reflect on how would I conduct my life today, will it consist of good vibrations or negative vibrations”?

FAPCLA Board members with the artists.  From left seated: Artist Tu-2, Ludy Ongkeko, author Cecile Ochoa, Angela Oh.  Back row from left: Hollywood actor Muni Zano, Louine Lota, Dante Ochoa, Evelyn Portugal and Lou Sabas.

FAPCLA Board members with the artists. From left seated: Artist Tu-2, Ludy Ongkeko, author Cecile Ochoa, Angela Oh. Back row from left: Hollywood actor Muni Zano, Louine Lota, Dante Ochoa, Evelyn Portugal and Lou Sabas.

Angela Oh and Tu-2 enjoying a lazy afternoon coffee chat about art and life with FilAm journalists.   Photos by TFLA

Angela Oh and Tu-2 enjoying a lazy afternoon coffee chat about art and life with FilAm journalists. Photos by TFLA

Tu-2 recently completed his year-long artist-in-residency at the O Street Museum Foundation in Washington, D.C. On September 9, 108 of his portraits from his infinite Blue Series will be presented at the Commonweal Gallery 451 Mesa Avenue in Bolinas, in an exhibit called “Gift of Compassion.” The public is invited; there no fee but donations will be appreciated.



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