Bicolano sculptor holds art exhibit

NAGA CITY – Focusing on the Babaylan, the pre-colonial native women before the Spanish colonization of the country, noted Bicolano sculptor Jose “Jo” Barcena, Jr., opened a public art exhibit of large-scale sculptures in stainless and fiberglass on Feb. 28 at the Plaza Quince Martires here.

The exhibit entitled “Babaylan: Ang Pagbabalik Tanaw sa Kanyang Kaakit-akit na Ngiti” is composed of an oversized smiling face of a Babaylan made of fiberglass, which Barcena placed at the foot of the large tree in Plaza Quince Martires, with the branches and leaves serving as the hair of the sculpture when viewed from a distance.

The Sculptor, Jose “Jo” Barcena, Jr. standing in front of his work entitled “Fill my Inferiority” during the opening of his public exhibit at Plaza Quince Martires, Naga City, Feb. 28, 2020. (JRM-PIAV/Camarines Sur)

Barcena narrated that the face of the Babaylan is meant to relive and re-imagine this vanished breed who served as the medium and intercessor between the visible and invisible world – a big symbol of hope to heal the wounds caused by war and religious tensions.

“With this giant fiberglass face, my creation of the Babaylan hopefully will awaken the hearts of the people and bring back the smile in them,” Barcena said.

The other sculptural pieces or figures entitled “Fill my Inferiority” are made of welded knots and bolts of the human face that appear pixelated and seemingly vanishing in certain parts and points of the subject.

To Barcena, these vanishing or fragmented points or parts are spaces for completion by the spectators, for them to be involved in giving a final shape to the sculpture. In this sense, his work in progress gives a new meaning to public art.

“I intentionally did not finish the sculpture to give the spectators a participation to complete the whole picture with their imagination,” Barcena said.

Award-winning Bicolano poet and journalist Frank Peñones, Jr., who helped stage the exhibit has all admiration on the works of Barcena, together with his brother Bong Barcena IV, for setting up the exhibit in public.

“All the while we’ve been taught that art is always in the gallery. The artist has a responsibility to educate the people. It’s a sculpture of works, which can be displayed in public. It’s really democratizing art. That is why, this is one good thing that he made,” Peñones said.

Born in Naga City, Jose “Jo” Barcena, Jr., is the great grandson of sculptor Federico Barcena, who made the visages of the historical Quince Martires at the plaza dedicated to them.

He took Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology, Major in Drafting at the Bicol College of Arts and Trade (BCAT), now Bicol State College of Arts and Trade (BISCAST), then later at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts where he specialized in painting.

In 2009, he was awarded as one of the Outstanding Bikolano Artists by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Jo Barcena is well known for his famous sculpture of Plaza Oragon Monument in downtown Naga, the John Paul II Center, and the Image of Our Lady of Peñafancia used during the Traslacion.

His other works include: the Gibalon Shrine in Sorsogon; Enchanted Lady in Hinatuan, Surigao City; Regina Rica in Tanay, Rizal; and the 110 ft. Sto. Nino Functional, among others.

The Babaylan public exhibit will run until March 15, 2020, after which, Barcena intends to bring the exhibit to other cities in the country. (JRM-PIAV/Camarines Sur)