Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, February 25, 1999

An untitled work by Romolo Valencia demon-
strates his fascination with religious images.

Images of crucifixion
dominate artist’s work

By Pat Gee
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Graphic artist Romolo "Ray" Valencia saw the crucifixion in Nick Ut's famous Vietnam War photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc screaming in terror. With her arms stretched out wide and her nude, sticklike body, the girl reminded Valencia -- who served in Vietnam -- of a cross, a symbol the Catholic-raised artist uses a lot in his work.

The image, rimmed with bullets symbolic of war, is now part of an assemblage he mounted in an old ammunition box. In contrast, Valencia placed beneath the image a statue of a Buddha meditating on a bed of rice, to represent peace.

This untitled work and others are on display in his first major solo exhibition.

Valencia said he leaves much of his work untitled so people can bring their own interpretations to his work.

"If it jogs their memory, that's what's really important. If it does for just one moment make (the viewer) aware of something that's always been there (at the back of his mind) -- that's cool," he said.

Recurring themes in his work include his observations as a child growing up on a sugar plantation in Kauai, his military service, his Catholic faith and Filipino culture.

"I'm very pleased with the response so far; it's been very positive. People I've spoken to have been very excited about my work. Up to this point, people have been familiar with my two-dimensional pieces on paper. This show is three-dimensional," he said.

The award-winning artist is especially known for his hand-worked, photocopy-transfer monotypes. His work has been featured in collections of The Contemporary Museum, the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and the City and County of Honolulu.

Also on display until April 4 at the academy is "Malaya: The Last Filipino Art Show/Return to Forever," an exhibition of contemporary works examining the roots of Filipino culture. Artists include Mandell Andres, Gaye Chan, Pauletta Chanco, Steven Niles, Rebecca Ramos, Frank Sheriff, Charles Valoroso and Marc Ulep.

This exhibition complements another collection, "From the Rainbow's Varied Hue: Textiles from the Southern Philippines, which continues to April 4. It examines the social and ritual functions of the region's textiles, while surveying a variety of genre, techniques and fabrics.

Included in the display, organized by the Fowler Museum, are rare ceremonial costumes, tapestry cloths, large silk flags and canopies of swirling hues, and beaded, embroidered and shell-sequined garments made of abaca fiber, a relative of the banana plant. The finished cloths represent little-known weaving traditions of Mindanao and the adjacent Sulu archipelago.


Quiet Thoughts:
Mixed Media Work

Bullet Artist: by Romolo Valencia,
Bullet On display: Through March 7.
Bullet Place: Graphic Arts Gallery, Honolulu Academy of Art
Bullet Call: 532-8700

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