(SPOT.ph) Propped elegantly among arrangements of flowers in the well-lit, generously-spaced Grand Atrium of Shangri-La Plaza are 18 serene gold-copper ballerinas. Each has big, blush-pink skirts billowing about them, posing elegantly in medias-res nostalgic images of jobs typically seen practiced by men: selling taho, fanning street food over a grill, harvesting fish, hawking vegetables, manning the gas station, and more. In every piece crafted from brass, copper, stainless steel, and occasionally a specially chosen precious stone, every swirl, twirl, and curl of metal subsumes the softness and fluidity of fabric, able to capture, in its strong hardy material, the softness and fluidity of fabric.
In every piece portrayed, the artist’s voice pirouettes, exhibiting a frenetic yet graceful energy. Her passion is evident in every hammered intricate line, every detail intricately gracefully out, every facet a purposeful composition. Karen May Castrillo-Villaseñor (a.k.a. Karen CV) decided early on she would make 18 pieces for her debut exhibit, Glamorosa, which runs until March 19.
That began a non-stop journey, each piece taking up to three weeks to complete. The artist soldiered on, with mere naps in between. In a studio that she compares to a junkshop filled with all shapes and sizes of metals and a variety of tools, she made hard metals submit to her hand and her vision, churning out piece after piece of the deceptively soft-looking troupe of metal ballerinas. This was her routine carried out by every powerful pound of her muscles and from the heat of the furnace, day in and day out. Karen CV missed out on having the traditional 18 roses ceremony for a debutante; but at 35, she makes up for it with 18 metal sculptures.
"I think it’s in our DNA—the Castrillo blood. The sound of the metal bending, hammering is music to my ears," Karen CV shares, referring to her father, Ronald Castrillo, and grandfather, Eduardo Castrillo—both metal sculptors. She grew up hearing the studio coming alive with the clanging of metal on metal. Later on, she took the reins as the studio manager and apprentice of her father.
According to Karen CV, in most families of artists, the older generation would step down before the younger generation would go full-time as working artists. But this was not the case for her, as she and her father now work together in their studio. They often encounter collectors who would request the older Castrillo to put a little more feminine spin to his works. Instead of forcing himself to change his style, he saw it as a space where his daughter could play in. "Ikaw na yan, ikaw na yan," he would encourage Karen CV.
In March 2021, Karen CV and her father had a duo show titled Shaping Wonders and Dreams at Newport Mall in Pasay City. Glamorosa, a year after their father-and-daughter show, completes her own vision. Still, the artist repeatedly says with gratitude, "no one is an island." She acknowledges this in the very collection.
The first piece that she created was "Prolific Presence of Fortune," which shows a woman fishing. It’s a reference to her father’s iconic sculptures of fisherfolk, who are usually young men. Karen CV’s take is a more youthful take—whimsical and warm with a composition akin to the ruffles of a carnation at its fullest bloom.
In "Outreach to Greatness," Karen CV gives her own rendition of her father's famous balloon sculptures. While her father's balloons have long and strong lines, hers are bigger and with strings that come with ribbons and frills.
"It's really hard when you come from a family of artists you need to have this certain distinction," she shares.
This search for her own signature is also why Karen CV chose her moniker. First, she wants you to notice her by her art, the hard work of her own two hands, and the vision of her own soul. But her gratefulness demands acknowledging that she could not have done this all on her own. "C" is a sign of gratitude for having been born with the artistic skills of a Castrillo, while "V" is her recognition of the incredible support of her husband.
"No masterpiece didn’t start from scratch," you can see the sparkle in Karen CV’s eyes as she talks about art. Though her collection shows off an incredibly high level of skill as she combined her family’s traditional legacy of nostalgic, masculine sculptures, with her feminine touch, this debut is only just the beginning. She’s grateful for where she is, but she sees there’s still so much to reach for with her mindset that "seeks to improve, innovate, and create."
Answering a question on what she can say to other emerging artists, she looks at her audience on opening night dead-in-the eye with a sternness contrasting the lightness of her work. "Now you need to hear this," she starts. "Even though I give you the best advice, if you don't have that urge, if you don't have that strength and feel of wanting to or wanting to, like pursue your dreams, nothing will happen. Even if you read 1000 books, even if you get to—you know—to be taught by a lecturer from the art industry, from fine arts and such, it will still come from it needs to be coming from this. That's how it is, you know, you need to feel glamorous, you need to feel that you are good. You need to feel that you can do it."
That’s what Glamorosa is all about. It’s about that gem she found in herself she wants to share with her audience. Karen CV was born into a family of artists and has a supportive father and a supportive husband; but at the end of the day, it wasn’t their hand on the hammer birthing these pieces. It was her own personal feelings as she looked around the world, her environment, and her vision, that pushed her to roll the dice and pursue her art career at 35, and finally go for her dreams, going all in.
Also read: Personal Mythology, Lost Memories + More Art Exhibits to Check Out This March
Glamorosa ran from March 1 to 5 at the Grand Atrium of Shangri-La Plaza, Shaw Boulevard, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. The exhibit continues from March 9 to 19 at the East Atrium.