Thursday, September 22, 2022

‘I’m mainly interested to know what’s on your mind’

 

“You only trust those who are absolutely like yourself, those who have signed a pledge of allegiance to this particular identity.”

—Judith Butler

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

THE meeting between US President Joseph “Joe” Biden Jr. and Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. at the InterContinental Barclay in New York City lasted only for six minutes.

It started at 11:21 o’clock and ended at 11:27 o’clock in the morning.

The two leaders reflected on the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance even as President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines. 

They primarily discussed the situation in the South China Sea and underscored their support for freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes. 

They also discussed opportunities to expand bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including energy security, climate action, and infrastructure. 

The two presidents also discussed Russia’s war against Ukraine and its implications for energy prices and food security, as well as ASEAN matters, the crisis in Burma, and the importance of respect for human rights.

 

-o0o-

 

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Well, Mr. President, welcome to you and your delegation.  I—I think I woke you up election night.  I called you so late to congratulate you.  (Laughter.)  But it’s a great victory, and I—and my best to your wife as well.

The relationship between the United States and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots.  We’ve had some rocky times, but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship, from our perspective.  I hope you feel the same way. 

And we have strong ties, including millions of Filipino Americans who are very proud of their ancestry and desperately want us to continue to have a strong relationship.  

And our foundations are strong in the U.S.-Philippine alliance, which is of critical importance.

For decades, the alliance has strengthened both of us, I believe.  And one of the things I want to talk about today is how we continue to strengthen that and work together on the things that are of greatest concern to you. 

Today, I look forward to discussing the opportunities for a wi- — wide range of issues, including COVID-19 recovery, energy security, and renewable energy. 

I—I was impressed with the work you did on windmills and a whole range of other things. You and I both think that’s the future; we can do a lot. We—how we can do a lot together.  I’m desperately interested in making sure we do. 

 

-o0o-

 

In addition, I expect we’ll discuss the South China Sea and disputes in a critical global through— throughway. I’ve spent a lot of time with—with not only the President of China but others about the international waters and how they have to be respected.  And we should talk about that a little bit, I hope.

 And we’re also—thank you for your position on the war against Ukraine and—by Russia—and how it’s impacting energy prices and—and food prices. And we—we’re working very hard to be able to do something about that. 

And—and so, we want to talk about human rights, talk about a whole range of things. But I’m mainly interested to know what’s on your mind and how we can continue to strengthen this relationship.

And again, congratulations.

PRESIDENT MARCOS:  Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you. We’re very happy for the opportunity to meet with you despite the schedules that we both have to deal with.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  You came a little further than I did.

PRESIDENT MARCOS:  (Laughs.) Well, the—the relationship—the 100-plus-year-old relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. continues to evolve as we face the challenges of this new century and the events that we have been watching over the past few months, really. 

So, we have very much to discuss in terms of redefining, I suppose, in many ways. 

But the role of the United States in maintaining the peace in our region is something that is much appreciated by all the countries in the regions and the Philippines especially.

We feel that we are especially fortunate because we have very strong foundation of a very long relationship and the stren—strong relationships on various facets not only political, not only diplomatic, but also economic. 

And, of course, there is the very large Filipino population that have chosen to live and make their lives here in the United States and have been very successful. 

 

-o0o-

 

PRESIDENT MARCOS: Again, we would like to thank the United States for the massive help that we received during the pandemic. 

We had the provision of up to 35–almost 36 million doses of vaccines very early on, ahead of some of the other countries. And for that we are very, very grateful.

We continue to look to the United States for that continuing partnership and the maintenance of peace in our region. 

In terms of the geopolitical issues that we face in this day and age, the primary consideration of the Philippines and the guiding principle of the Philippine foreign policy is to encourage peace. 

And I hope that we will be able to discuss further the roles that our two countries will play together and individually as we continue down that road, maintaining peace despite all of the complexities that have arisen in the past few months, I suppose. 

So, thank you again, Mr. President, for making time to see us.  We are your partners. We are your allies. We are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the United States our partner, our ally, and our friend.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Thank you. It’s mutual.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I wouldn’t bother answering.(Source: White House)

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

I wink at UN

“All countries, big or small, strong or weak, are equal members of the United Nations.”

—Nong Duc Manh

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

I NEVER realized I would one day wink at New York City’s United Nations (UN) headquarters literally.

The “United Nations” I knew was a popular street in Ermita, Manila where we personally witnessed one morning sometime in November 1991 a rookie cop named Francis thrown a few meters away after being hit by a speeding car coming from the Taft Avenue.

Francis, 26, was the policeman driver assigned by then Manila Western Police District (WPD) chief, General Ernesto “Totoy” Diokno, to drive us visiting Iloilo journalists.    

While Francis grimaced in pain in the middle of the street and we quickly moved to check him, our colleague, the late Vicente “Danny Baby” Foz Jr. of dyRP Radyo Tagring shouted, “Dali e-shooti nio camera si Francis (hurry, take a photograph of Francis).”

Broadcaster Arsenio “Kamlon” Ang of dyRI Radyo Agong ribbed him: “Ka gago sa imo, bal an mo na gid nga naga haplak na si Francis sa tunga dalan mga shooting-shooting pa sa utok mo (Francis is already sprawled out on the street and you still thought of taking a photograph?). 

To make the long story short, we rushed Francis to the nearby Manila Doctors Hospital also located on United Nations in Ermita. He survived.

 

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Going back to the real United Nations. When Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali became the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations on January 1, 1992, for a five-year term, I saw anew on television that tall and magnificent UN headquarters located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.

Designed by a board of architects led by Wallace Harrison and built by the architectural firm Harrison & Abramovitz, with final projects developed by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier, the complex, a modern architecture, is a sight to behold and built at a cost of $65 million on September 14, 1948.

One day, I will visit this place, I told myself then.

Not only did I visit the place seven years ago, the UN headquarters on East 42ndStreet also became my “neighbor” in the workplace since last year, or after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every Monday morning, I winked at the imposing 155.3 meters (510 feet) long structure on the East side of the Turtle Bay as I passed by on my way to the Grand Central before taking the subway train to the Queens.

I can’t count how many “selfies” I made in that historic structure lined by Members States' flags and connects the Conference Building with the General Assembly Building. It’s a gigantic but amazing structure.

 

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When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, I paused for a while outside the UN headquarters one morning in March. 

Thinking Vladimir Putin’s flag wasn’t there, out of curiosity I checked and saw the flags of both Ukraine and Russia in different places. 

Of course I saw the colorful and stunning Philippine flag middle on the right side. 

It’s so inspiring and delightful to see our Philippine flag flying high among the awesome Members States’ flags.

I learned that the Russian Federation succeeded to the Soviet Union's seat, including its permanent membership on the Security Council in the United Nations after the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, which originally co-founded the UN in 1945, thus it’s still scandalously in the powerful Security Council despite its refusal to halt the carnage in Ukraine.

At the 77th UN General Assembly that unwrapped on September 13, 2022 under the theme, “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges,” I noticed the vicinity once again teeming with activities as dignitaries and diplomats from around the world, including Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in town for the mammoth gathering of the main policy-making organ of the Organization. Comprising all Member States, the UN General Assembly provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations.

The theme stems from the recognition that the world is at a critical moment in the history of the United Nations due to complex and interconnected crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, humanitarian challenges of unprecedented nature, a tipping point in climate change as well as growing concerns about threats to the global economy.

The General Assembly therefore “finds it necessary” to find and focus on joint solutions to these crises and build a more sustainable and resilient world for all and for the generations to come.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressed the general debate of the 77th Session of the General Assembly of the UN on September 20, 2022. The UNGA77 will last until September 26 2022.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

All eyes, ears will be on Bongbong as UN speaker

“It's the right and also the responsibility of member states to express their views. And my role as the present of the General Assembly is not to comment on this. I'm here to protect and respect the rules.”

—Miroslav Lajcak

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

BECAUSE of his association with the controversial family, all eyes and ears will be on Philippine Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who will be among the speakers of the the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) on September 20, 2022 (US time).

Mr. Marcos Jr. is the son of the late former dictator, Ferdinand Sr., whose 20-year reign as Philippine president was by tainted by horrifying human rights violations committed mostly by the military during the dark years of Martial Law in the 70s.

The UN General Assembly has the power to censure states for violating UN Charter principles. 

It can bar, for instance, countries from serving on UN panels and kick countries out of the UN Human Rights Council if they commit egregious human rights abuses.

Mr. Marcos Jr. will be watched closely both by critics and admirers of his father along with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister whose U.S. entry visa was in doubt for some time despite an agreement between the U.N. and the United States that requires the approval of visas “irrespective of the relations existing between the governments of the persons referred to” and the U.S. government.

 

-o0o-

 

The only son of the late former President Marcos Sr., elected President in May this year, has earlier vowed to bring up “economic recovery, food security, and agricultural productivity” during his address. 

He is also the agriculture secretary of the Philippines.

He said he was unfazed by the issues leveled against his family which happened before he became president.

The UNGA 77 also expects “heavy hitter” addresses from among many others, new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, French President Emmanuel Macron, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and new Kenyan President William Ruto.

The first Southeast Asian leader to speak during the General Debate and the first Filipino to speak at the podium since 2014, according to Philippine Consulate officials in New York, Mr. Marcos Jr. was allowed entry in the US on September 18, 2022 over a diplomatic immunity amid the existent contempt judgment against him and his mother, former First Lady Imelda, over a human rights class suit filed against the former President Ferdinand Sr.

 

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According to the UN, the order of speakers during the General Debate,  is made “based on the level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.” 

The UN General Assembly is the only universally representative body of the United Nations. 

The other major bodies are the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. 

As delineated in the Charter of the United Nations, the function of the General Assembly is to discuss, debate, and make recommendations on subjects pertaining to international peace and security, including development, disarmament, human rights, international law, and the peaceful arbitration of disputes between nations.

The UN General Assembly has been a forum for lofty declarations, sometimes audacious rhetoric, and rigorous debate over the world’s most vexing issues, including poverty, development, peace, and security since its inception.

As the most representative organ of the United Nations, the assembly holds a general debate in the organization’s New York headquarters from September to December and convenes special sessions at other times to address a range of issues.

 

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Mr. Marcos Jr. was with the controversial family that flew to Hawaii in 1986 during the People Power EDSA Revolution. 

Despite electing a Marcos in the recent election, the delegation from the Philippine this year was still accorded diplomatic courtesy and was welcomed and accommodated.

In the 1960s, the assembly suspended the South African delegation from the United Nations because the country was practicing apartheid, in violation of Security Council resolutions and international law. 

South Africa was readmitted in 1994, following its democratic transition. 

In 1992, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, an assembly resolution denied Serbia and Montenegro the automatic inheritance of the former Yugoslav seat, requiring them to reapply for UN membership and forgo participation in assembly deliberations.

Israel was barred for many years from serving on UN commissions and panels because the slots are allotted according to membership in the UN’s five regional groups. 

Arab states had blocked Israel from membership in the Asia-Pacific Group, which includes other Middle Eastern states. 

Israel was made a temporary member of the Western European and Others Group in 2000 by the United States and some European countries.

In 2012, the General Assembly voted 133–12, with 33 abstentions, to denounce the Syrian government for atrocities committed since the Syrian civil war started a year earlier. 

In 2019, the General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution condemning human rights abuses against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar. It passed 134–9, with 28 abstentions.

The seventy-seventh General Assembly session in 2022 comes as countries continue to suffer from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

It is focused on confronting these global challenges; renewing attention on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to end poverty by 2030; and preparing a Pact for the Future, to be unveiled next year, that ensures the UN system can effectively confront future challenges. 

“With multiple crises looming, nothing less than the credibility of the UN is at stake,” session President Csaba Korosi said ahead of the event.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

 

 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Traffic poses a big challenge to Bongbong UN protesters

“As we take our places in the General Assembly and at the Council meetings, let us begin all our work in the name of God, for the solution of all our problems is a spiritual one.”

—Warren R. Austin

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

ANTI-MARCOS protesters may not be able to penetrate the main areas leading to the United Nations Headquarters in the Midtown Manhattan as the New York Police Department (NYPD) disclosed September 17 a list of street closures and expected traffic delays relating to the weeklong United Nations General Assembly.

Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is scheduled to address the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77), which officially opened September 13, 2022. 

The first day of the high-level General Debate will be on September 20, 2022, the same day Mr. Marcos will speak.

Meanwhile, Francis Tapiculin, an Ilonggo supporter of President Marcos and Vice President Sara Carpio in Northern America and Canada, has called on individuals and supporters of Mr. Marcos Jr. to “please 

go to New York City and show our support  BBM. And protect him!”

Tapiculin said groups in Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco opposing the President’s father, the late former President Marcos Sr., “are now in the areas, with their Patroness Loida Nicolas Loida who launched a blitz campaign for pinklawan, but suffered dismal defeat in all States and in all countries with our compatriots, our OFW's.”

He urged Marcos supporters to “come and create a Tent Villages along the streets, to manifest our support to BBM. Oras na ipakita Puersa ng mga Pinoy sa katahimikan at kaunlaran ng bansa! Mabuhay  si BBM, our President! Go out, and protect him!”

 

-o0o-

 

Enrico Inayan, a Filipino Martial Law victim now residing in New York City, however, disputed Tapiculin’s claims. 

“We will only tell the truth about the Marcoses. We will not harm the President; it’s impossible to do that. They need to answer so many questions regarding the human rights violations against the Filipino people during the dark years of Martial Law,” said Inayan. “We may not be able to hold a protest near the UN, but our voices will definitely reverberate all over the world.

Drivers should expect extensive street closures and delays across the general UN area in Manhattan. 

The United Nations is located at 1st Avenue and 42nd Street. The use of public transportation for the duration of the General Assembly is highly encouraged.

According to the schedule provided by NBC New York, the street closures are: 

On September 18, 2022 beginning at around 10 p.m. the following streets in the vicinity of the United Nations will be closed to vehicular traffic: 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street (However, the tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48 Street will remain open); 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue; 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue; 46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue.

The following streets will have managed access and no vehicle parking permitted: 48th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue; 49th Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue; 50th Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue; 51st Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue

On September 19, 2022 the following streets will have one traffic lane dedicated to emergency vehicles for the duration of the General Assembly: 42nd Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue; 57th Street from 2nd Avenue to 5th Avenue; 2nd Avenue from 41st Street to 57th Street.

 

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The following streets will continue to be closed to vehicular traffic:

1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street (However, the tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48th Street will remain open for passenger cars. Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access until the end of each day’s session.); 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue; 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue;

46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue.

The following will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at about 5 a.m. The area will reopen in the evenings after the day's session: 42nd Street from the FDR Drive to 2nd Avenue; 42nd Street Exit and Entrance Ramps of the FDR Drive.

The following streets will have managed access and no vehicle parking permitted: 48th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue; 49th Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue; 50th Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue; 51st Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue

The following streets will have one traffic lane dedicated to emergency vehicles for the duration of the General Assembly: 42nd Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue; 57th Street from 2nd Avenue to 5th Avenue

2nd Avenue from 41st Street to 57th Street.

On September 20, 2022 The following streets in the vicinity of the United Nations will continued to be closed to vehicular traffic: 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street. (However, the tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48th Street will remain open for passenger cars. 

Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access until the end of each day’s session.); 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue; 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue; 46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue; 49th Street from 3rd Avenue to Lexington Avenue.

 

-o0o-

 

The following streets will have one traffic lane dedicated to emergency vehicles for the duration of the General Assembly: 42nd Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue; 57th Street from 2nd Avenue to 5th Avenue

2nd Avenue from 41st Street to 57th Street;

The following will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at about 5 a.m.: 42nd Street from the FDR Drive to 2nd Avenue; 42nd Street Exit and Entrance Ramps of the FDR Drive

These areas will reopen each evening after the day’s session. The FDR DRIVE will be subject to intermittent closures: Southbound at 63rd Street; Northbound at South Ferry.

The following streets will have managed access and no vehicle parking permitted: 48th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue; 49th Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue; 50th Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue; 51st Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue

Mr. Marcos was expected to arrived in New York City on September 18.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

 

 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Why it’s the best time to visit Washington DC

 

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.”

—Georgia O'Keeffe

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

THE best reason to visit Washington D.C. nowadays is the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

If we go to Washington D.C. and miss the other museums, we must see to it that we prioritize the Renwick Gallery, which runs This Present Moment: Crafting A Better World from May 13, 2022 until April 2, 2023




Located steps from the White House in the heart of historic federal Washington, this National Historic Landmark was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. in 1858 and was the first building in the United States built specifically to be an art museum.

I visited the Renwick Gallery after the Smithsonian American Art Museum on 8th and G Streets, NW. 

Entrance in both museums are free.

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World showcases the dynamic landscape of American craft today. 

The exhibition highlights the role that artists play in our world to spark essential conversations, stories of resilience, and methods of activism—showing us a more relational and empathetic world. 

It centers more expansive definitions and acknowledgments of often-overlooked histories and contributions of women, people of color, and other marginalized communities.


 

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One of the four arts in the exhibit that caught my eyes in the Renwick Gallery was Ta Saparot (pineapple eyes) by Linda Sormin, a Bangkok-born New York resident.

Ta Saparot is made of glazed ceramic with found shards, glitter, and gold leaf.

The abstract ceramic sculptures show the upheaval and chaos that comes with migration. 

Moving frequently with her family, the artist collected keepsake and found objects, which she weaves into pinched and pulled threads of clay.

Here, the artist embellished the surface of the clay with glitter and gold leaf. 

According to the art description, Sormin feels that her work “is a response to human needs, our loss and our longing.”

 

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The other was Santa Chingada: The Perfect Little Woman by Kukuli Velarde, born in Lima, Peru and based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is made in ceramic and mixed media.

According to the art’s description, Kukuli Velarde portrays her inherited memories and emotions. Her series of squatting ceramic figures, called Isichapuitu, were inspired by a Peruvian myth about a priest who used vessels called Manchaypuitu(male) and Isichapuitu (female) to summon spirits from the past. 

This Isichapuitu embodies a ​“Perfect Little Woman,” after the Virgin Mary of Sorrows, a mournful figure with seven daggers piercing her heart. 

This woman has no power over her own body: she is pregnant but wears a chastity belt, and she wears a mask of an idealized white woman. 

Velarde crafts a charged moment, as if the woman has woken up and realized her confinement. She removes the mask to show herself as a fierce Indigenous woman. 

Velarde wrote the text around the sculpture’s edge: I open my arms to you, saying ​“I am yours.” Nail your thorns on me. I will be the one who heals your wounds and relieves you from your sorrows. I do not ask for anything in return. If something, maybe a little of your love … If something, maybe just to know I am your savior, the sacrificed mother of your children … Any offense you inflict on me is welcome as my token … For your veneration …

 

-o0o-

 

The third one that caught my attention was Araña by Cristina Cordova, born in Boston, Massachusetts. It is made of hand-built ceramic with glaze and stain.

According to the art’s description, Cristina Cordova shapes earthly matter into mythic figures. 

This uncanny Araña (Spanish for spider), with its androgynous human torso on seven spindly legs, startles all sense of reality. 

The artist, who currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, grew up in Puerto Rico, where she was drawn to the prevalent icons of Catholicism—figures that bind together the contradictions of agony and ecstasy, corporeal and magical. 

“Here, Cordova has begun a story and invites you to finish it,” read the art description.

Meanwhile, the Smithsonian American Art Museum currently runs We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection from July 1, 2022 until March 26, 2023.

We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection traces the rise of self-taught artists in the twentieth century and examines how, despite wide-ranging societal, racial, and gender-based obstacles, their creativity and bold self-definition became major forces in American art. 

The exhibition features recent gifts to the museum from two generations of collectors, Margaret Z. Robson and Douglas O. Robson.

Also in the Smithsonian American Art Museum I visited in the morning before the Renwick Gallery was Artist to Artist, which features paired artworks, each representing two figures whose trajectories intersected at a creatively crucial moment, whether as student and teacher, professional allies, or friends.

It runs from October 1, 2021 until September 3, 2023.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt

 

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

—Aristotle

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

IN my visit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. recently, I stumbled into one of the finest works of art, Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt, by Charles Sprague Pearce, one of the most inquisitive and ambitious of the expatriate American painters in Europe in his day.


The painting is made of oil in canvas dated 1877.

At various times experimenting with realism, neo-grec historicism, Orientalism (both modern and biblical), plein-air naturalism, Japonism, impressionism, symbolism, and pointillism, Pearce based this work on a passage from the biblical Book of Exodus describing the tenth plague of Egypt, in which God declared his intention to kill every first-born Egyptian child unless Pharaoh freed the Israelites.

He instructed Moses to tell the Jews to mark their doors, so that their children would be spared.

Pearce paints the aftermath of this vengeful slaughter, as these distraught parents prepare their son for burial. Shawabtis—clay figurines traditionally buried with the dead to accompany the body to the afterlife—litter the floor​.


In the Victorian era, when infant mortality was still prevalent and many parents endured the loss of a child, Pearce’s Old Testament subject aroused all-too-modern feelings of grief.

 

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Pearce’s blend of the exotic and the popular led him to become a sought after artist in both Europe and America, perpetuating the interest in Orientalist aesthetics, among many other preoccupations, as well as the search for newer styles and iconography strongly influenced by what was shown at the public Salon exhibitions.

During the mid-nineteenth century, before America had truly established its claim to artistic originality, American artists were seduced by the fascinating Parisian art scene.  

During the latter half of the nineteenth century an important group of American artists congregated in France, among them Mary Cassatt, James Abbot MacNeill Whistler—though only temporarily- and Daniel Ridgway Knight, among many others.  

Another American artist, albeit one who has not been given sufficient attention, is Charles Sprague Pearce, whose presence in Paris and later Auvers-sur-Oise was important for the propagation and appreciation of American artwork, even though he continued to be strongly influenced by the predominant European artistic styles of the period.

According to Rehs Galleries, Inc., Pearce was born on October 13, 1851 to a wealthy Bostonian family. From an early age he was immersed in a setting which nurtured his appreciation of the arts—his parents played the piano and the violin, and his father was a dealer of Chinese porcelains. 

Pearce’s father must have been keenly aware of the increasing fervor with which collectors began to seek these exotic works which also suggests his understanding of the artistic trends of the period.

 

-o0o-

 

From the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I proceeded to Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum located across the White House.


A huge new exhibition that celebrates the diversity of American craft is now on view at the Renwick Gallery, which celebrates its 50th anniversary. 

The massive display marks Smithsonian museum’s anniversary and presents an impressive spread of 171 works that weave through each room of the two-storied museum.

Washingtonian reports that This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World began as an acquisition campaign that focused on adding artworks made by a diverse and representative group of American artists, working across different media, to the museum’s permanent collection. 

The 50th anniversary campaign added more than 200 pieces to Smithsonian’s permanent craft collection, including many by Black, Latinx, Asian American, and indigenous artists. LGBTQ+ and women artists are also among the expansive acquisitions.

More than a hundred of the artworks in This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World are being shown for the very first time, including works like Bisa Butler’s vibrant quilt that depicts the Black World War I regiment the Harlem Hellfighters and Sonya Clark’s humongous reimagined flag, Monumental (2019).

One of my most favorites on display is the “Don’t Tread On Me, God Damn, Let’s Go!”–Harlem Hellfighters monumental quilt by by Bisa Butler, who brings to life the history and emotions of nine members of the 369th Infantry Regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters, a segregated unit of the American Expeditionary Force in World War II.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

 

 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Face to face with Ukrainians outside White House

 

“It is not all right for Russia to decide Ukraine's future.”

—Antony Blinken

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

I DROPPED by outside the White House in Washington D.C. at past five o’clock in the afternoon on September 13 and chanced upon seven placard-toting Ukrainians protesting the Russian invasion in Ukraine on their 202nd day.

“We gather here everyday to remind you that Russian missiles rain down on innocent civilians. Everyday Russian missiles are targeting schools, hospitals, day care centers, residential areas, urgent cares, shopping malls, playgrounds, universities,” declared a Ukrainian woman in a megaphone.


I approached them and they noticed I videoed their activity. The speaker, as well as her six other compatriots, were apparently glad we gave them attention.  

“We are here to say thank you. Thank you to all of you and to the US Government for all of the support you have provided Ukraine. We say thank you because this support is crucial,” the lady speaker continued.

“This is helping Ukraine fight for its survival. It is helping Ukraine turn the tide of the war. We ask you to continue to stand with Ukraine. Please continue to support Ukraine in its fight for survival. Please continue to remember this war is happening. We ask you to recognize how much the US assistance is helping the Ukrainians. Ukrainians will win the fight for their survival and democracy. USA, thank you for supporting Ukraine.”

One of the protesters was carrying a placard that screamed: “If you ever wondered what you would have done to stop Hitler, you’re doing it now.”

“Would you defend your home? Help Ukrainians defend theirs,” suggested another placard held by a young Ukrainian lady.

“Ukraine is standing for the world. Stand for Ukraine,” read another placard.

 

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The protesters carried both the flags of Ukraine and the United States.

The United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. The equipment the United States provides has changed as the Russian invasion has continued. Originally, the U.S. provided anti-armor and antiaircraft munitions, including the Javelin and Stinger systems.

The United States has provided more than $17.3 billion in security assistance for training and equipment to help Ukraine preserve its territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO since 2014.

The United States has been working with Allies and partners to support Ukraine in their fight for sovereignty and freedom. 

The U.S. has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in security assistance since the beginning of Russia's unprovoked assault on Feb. 24.

So far, the U.S. has reportedly sent the following weapons to Ukraine: 

-High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ammunition. 

-1,500 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles. 

-155mm Howitzers. 

-105mm Howitzers. 

-120mm mortar systems. 

-National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); 

-Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Following Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the United States embarked on a long-term commitment to provide Ukraine with the tools and equipment it needs to defend its sovereignty. Since that time, more than $14.5 billion in assistance has reportedly been committed to Ukraine.

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Part of my itinerary in Washington D.C. is to once again revisit some of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. In Washington D.C. history, science, art and culture live at these free attractions.

Collectively called the Smithsonian Institution, the world-renowned museum and research complex consists of 17 museums and galleries in Washington, DC, including the National Zoo. 

From the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum (and its even bigger sister facility, the Udvar-Hazy Center), Smithsonian museums are a guide to the most fascinating aspects of our world. 

The museum collection contains more than 150 million objects, works of art and specimens altogether. 

And the best part: we won’t have to pay a penny to experience it as admission is free at every location.

Smithsonian’s collection of knowledge centers serve as a treasure chest for visitors. The aforementioned Air and Space Museum and Natural History Museum are definitely fanned favorites. 

The American History Museum, with its endless array of Americana (read: the Star-Spangled Banner Flag), takes a comprehensive look at our country’s history, and the National Zoo, which features hundreds of species and the cutest panda cub around, Bei Bei, also draw millions each year.

But with the whole Smithsonian lineup at our disposal, it is recommended that we also dig deeper in the District to witness the wonders of Asian art at the Freer Sackler Galleries. 

We can marvel at cutting-edge exhibits and Instagrammable architecture at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and have our minds blown by the crafty wizardry seen in the art at the Renwick Gallery, located steps from the White House.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)