Image: Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Tomato Pickers (1975)
This week’s art post about food comes from Filipina artist Anita Magsaysay-Ho and continues the theme of the path food takes before it gets to our kitchen.
Magsaysay-Ho was born in 1914. As a young woman she studied at the University of the Philippines before leaving to study and work in the United States. Living in New York, she me Robert Ho of Hong Kong. They got married, and due to his work would end up living around the globe. She painted wherever they went but often chose to use the working women she saw in her youth as subjects. She said it showed their true strength. She painted in various modern styles – neo-realism, cubism. As early as 1958, she was recognized as a great painter of her country. She painted into her 90s, until a stroke in 2009. She died in 2012.
Wikipedia, citing source in German describes her later developments: “The 1960s brought along more articulate, spaced-out figures and softened tones. A decade later, her work was inspired by Chinese calligraphy as she created objects found in nature by using ink blots. Finally, in the 1980s Magsaysay-Ho utilized green hues to portray fruits and vegetables that oftentimes resembled women.”
This piece is from 1975. It appears to be in a private collection. The Christie’s website describes it as,
“A homage to the hardworking, nurturing Filipino women, whom she felt a strong personal affinity towards, Tomato Pickers features its subjects in a means that approaches the sculptural. Their varying postures remain elegant despite the physical strain of their task, and their serene expressions afford the painting a quality of timelessness and transcendence. The delicately rendered foliage in the foreground, together with the warm green hues that permeate the entirety of the canvas suggests a sense of lightness and warmth. What also sets the painting apart from other depictions in this ‘green period’ is the dabs of shamrock green paint impasto on the leaves of the plants, which lends a textural complexity to the painting’s surface which is otherwise rarely seen in her works from this period.”
This essay looks at this work and related ones from the same era as representative of Social Realism. “The artist shows us what is essentially an overlooked aspect of rural farm life by focusing her subject matter on the efforts and contributions of women and the roles that they play in these settings and perhaps this is why each of her women lacks much individuality; they are representative of the rural woman as a whole.”
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