Over the years, Lolita’s art has caught the eye of collectors like billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Davos World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab; she has also befriended them. In December 2013, the Florentine government sponsored Lolita’s one-woman painting exhibition at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, a museum palace built by the great Medici family. Lolita is an example of a global talent we Filipinos are proud of and seek to emulate – she is truly an art ambassador.
But is it all glamour and glitz? The finished product, perhaps, but the path to such glamour and success is tough, like in any profession or vocation. Lolita and her body of work represent several principles that should guide budding artists and young professionals today.
Discipline and Determination
Lolita exerts a lot of discipline in her work, which she describes as fine art. She painstakingly crafts each painting with tender brushstrokes to evoke certain images, whether landscapes or portraits. She has extraordinary discipline in nudging herself to regularly work over the years, without any corporate boss giving her deadlines and regardless of her other life responsibilities (as a wife to a highly successful businessman, mother of three children and a devoted daughter).
Lolita doesn’t paint out of whim. She paints out of vocation. Her regular painting also implies a determination, an innate confidence that her work will eventually be exhibited. An artist’s professional biography is very interesting to anyone who has prepared a corporate resume. There are no fixed timelines in such a bio, but an artist must be determined enough to create a sufficient body of work, to find appropriate venues for exhibition and willing sponsors of her art, and to act as her own handyman, working on the frames and handling transport, packing and the set-up of pieces to be displayed in any exhibition. So before an opening where Lolita appears bejeweled and holding a champagne glass, she endures long periods of hard physical and mental work.
Artists are pioneers. It’s a tough career. There’s no corporate ladder, no set pathway. Commercial taste in art is extremely fickle. Current art auction trends indicate a preference for highly conceptual art. A true artist needs to be secure in her craft, her vocation and her life’s mission to create beauty to inspire others.
Even as a child, Lolita knew she was an artist and would draw and draw for hours. She paints in the Impressionist style, like Van Gogh. She studied Filipino masters like Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hildalgo and Fernando Amorsolo, whose styles were quite classical and figurative. She immersed herself in the works of European masters from different eras, from medieval paintings to the Impressionists and the Italian Futurists. Lolita studied under European professors (e.g., Silvio Loffredo and Staffan Hallstrom) whose own contemporary/modern painting styles varied vastly from hers. Through the years, however, she has kept to her own style and technique, remaining authentic to herself.
What binds Lolita’s work to those of Filipino and European masters? A dedication to “fine art,” to scrupulous, meticulous work in drawing, color, brushstroke and layering.
Optimism and Universality
Lolita’s paintings evoke serenity and joy consistent with the optimism that radiates from her when you meet her. Despite living a significant chunk of her life in the metropolis, she takes every opportunity to be close to nature, be it in New York’s Central Park or Salvadonica near the center of Florence, the woods in Sweden, the desert in Egypt, or even the isolated arctic. A large part of her body of work consists of landscapes.
Anyone who looks at her paintings will notice a universal theme – nature is beautiful, wherever it may be. The images give hope, because as human beings, we are part of nature and whoever and wherever we are, we are beautiful too. She also occasionally does figurative paintings: a little girl getting water from a fountain or a knitting grandmother on a plane. She picks random images of people who could represent anyone, from any class of society, and renders that person beautiful on canvas.
What is most striking about Lolita is how her charming paintings reflect her personality. I’ve observed her interact with wealthy and successful businesspeople and professionals, socialites and high-level diplomats, as well as humbler apartment building staff members and restaurant wait-staff. She sees and treats everyone in a universal and egalitarian way and is genuinely kind, happy and charming to all.
We Filipinos are global citizens by choice, luck or force of circumstance. But we all share toughness, resilience and the capacity to achieve wonderful things in our own fields. Lolita teaches us traits to emulate so that each one of us can also be an ambassador of goodwill and achievement to the world.
Dominique Padilla Gallego is a freelance writer in her spare time. She lives in New York City and the Philippines, works for the family’s real estate business, a staunch advocate of women’s rights, a lover of art and genuine people, was the first Philippine-trained J.D. to make it to equity partner at a major North American law firm based in New York City after just six years of US law practice.