Art

Chairs for mental health: 58 artists reimagine seats for a cause

MANILA, Philippines — Chairs as statement pieces are featured at the ongoing fundraising exhibition “The Empty Chair Project” at the Art Lounge Manila in The Podium in Ortigas, Pasig City.

There are pieces that are simply drawing attention. Jonathan Dangue’s popping red creation reminds onlookers of the brain with its neurotransmitters. The architect-sculptor named his latest piece as “Sikreto ni Marites,” a sly take on how stories are born inside curious or nosy minds.

Carlo Magno’s “Blue Moon Rising” makes one think of a water nymph that arises at night on a blue moon. There are many superstitions associated with the occurrence of a blue moon, among which is fertility and good luck. For whatever it is, Magno’s piece is not something to be sat on.

Other pieces do not have intricate details attached on or with them. They simply are painted or engraved with details that resonate with the artists’ message.

One other piece that also catches the eye is Juanito Torres’ “The Healer” with the body of a man and a head of a green scaly fish or reptile sitting on an ordinary looking chair.

This piece is aptly titled with The Empty Chair Project’s goal of raising funds for the visual artists’ health needs as well as awareness on mental health.

Fifty-eight artists including Aileen Lanuza, Anna de Leon, Antipas Biboy Delotavo, Anton del Castillo, Carlo Magno, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, Ciron Señeres, Daniel dela Cruz, Dino Gabito, Dominic Rubio, Erwin Leaño, Ferdinand Montemayor, Fil Delacruz Nacion, Gene Paul Martin, Guerrero “RG” Habulan, Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, Janos Delacruz, Jason Montinola, Jayson Cortez, Jef Cablog, Jia Santos-Estrella, Jik Villanueva, Jomike Tejido, Jonathan Dangue, Jose Tence Ruiz, Juan Alcazarezm Juanito Torres, Kat Cuenca, Kim Hamilton Sulit, Kristine Lim, Leeroy New, Leo Abaya, Louie Cordero, Luis Lorenzana, Luis Santos, Lynyrd Paras, Marc Aran Reyes, Melissa Yeung Yap, Migs Villanueva, Nona Garcia, Ombok Villamor, Omi Reyes , Pepe Mendoza, Pete Jimenez, Rando Onia, Raul Isidro, Raul Lebajo, Reginald Yuson, Renz Baluyot, Riel Hilario, Rodel Tapaya, Roel Obemio, Romeo Lee, Soler Santos, Stanley Ruiz, Veronica Peralejo and Yasmin Sison-Ching are featured in the exhibit. It will run until July 30 at the Art Lounge Manila.

“We restaged The Empty Chair Project Reprise in recognition of the need to reconnect after the lockdowns. We lost two artists during that time, Riel Hilario and Leo Abaya, and their works are in the exhibition. We would like to honor them by exhibiting their works, along with other artists, as the lockdowns and the pandemic, were tough on everyone’s mental as well as physical health. This exhibition is a reminder for our need to look out for each other. This was the message of The Empty Chair Project in 2019. And it rings truer now,” said Daniel dela Cruz, the Director of the Visual Arts Helping Hands Foundation, Inc.

The Empty Chair Project had its initial run at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2019.

The exhibition curator Ricky Francisco shared that “during the lockdowns, artists and collectors were among the very first to rise up to help our front liners through various online fundraisers. The usually solitary artists have come out of their shells to support other members of our community when the need arose. I think this is the essence of The Empty Chair Project, and this is our essence as Filipinos. We are always there to offer a helping hand to those in need, as we know deeply that when we are in need, others will do the same.”

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