Mel Vera Cruz
Union City, CA
I migrated here in the United States back in 1995 and lived in the east bay ever since. I’ve had group and solo shows back in Manila having Eurocentric influences. We Filipinos were taught the English language in schools. We love all things from the west. The magazine Art in America was the way to go. I painted like Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet. That’s the way my art was until I came here.
Living here gave me a bird’s eye view of who I really am.
I realized all the exposure I had in the Philippines about western culture didn’t tell me how it really were. I thought all those high grossing American movies I’ve seen convey the truth. All of them show white and black people only.
15 years of living in the east bay tells me they were twisted. They didn’t teach me how to deal with being a FOB, having an accent and a different skin color.
That’s when I started digging my history and boy I was elated. I am blind no more. Knowing myself gave me new interest and passion for my art. I realized I didn’t have to chase or mimic anybody. I began to have confidence in myself and started using non-traditional materials. I now use anything that’s indigenous to my environment. Art stores are part of
tradition and I don’t have to follow this. I have to create my own vision so I let all my former self go and start all over.
I now see art from my perspective. From my culture’s point of view but I can’t deny my western background. My works come from various influences and it’s mix of being Filipino, from being provincial, a FOB with a thick accent, from Vicente Manansala to Santi Bose, from Chagall to Rauschenberg to Warhol, from working as a printer, illustrator, designer and a tattoo/flash artist.
I had no intention of representing my culture because that’s a heavy burden. It just happened that I am Filipino. I just do my thing with confidence and delighted that I don’t have to look no more. I have found myself and just be glad to keep my torch burning.