Obsessing over Georgia O’Keeffe at one point in your life is like a rite of passage for anyone looking to come into terms with sexuality and the female reproductive system. Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” is similarly impactful, or at least in feminist circles, as it took whispered conversations on vaginas out in the open. For those looking to find a Filipina artist who explores flowers as a metaphor for women like O’Keeffe and as uninterested in modesty as Ensler, Goldie Poblador might just be who you’re looking for.
The artist behind Goldieland Studio caught the attention of many with her “Barbae” collection. There is an ir/reverence in the act of drinking from her signature vulva-shaped glasses that is simply thrilling. We had a chat with her about the inspiration behind the pieces and the narratives she chooses to explore as an ecofeminist immigrant.
Hi, Goldie! First off, how have you been doing these past few months? I saw that you took part in “Solidarity Against Silencing.”
Things have definitely been better. Yes, I did. I think it is important to protect freedom of speech and to show solidarity with the rest of the creative community during this time.
Your vulva-shaped glasses have been making the rounds on the internet. What’s the story behind “The Barbae Collection?”
The glasses were originally part of an installation I made for Collarworks and for the MU Space gallery in New York. The installation featured 60 of these glasses and included a scent and taste component that was created in order to create a dialogue surrounding the import of plants and flowers from developing countries. During this time I saw something on the news about shooting female rebels in the vagina and this graphic image made me want to create something in response.
The feedback for it was good and this as well as the lack of inclusivity in the art world’s hiring practices in New York inspired me to take action. Last year I teamed up with Lohar Projects, an art advising company that helped me transition my installation into a design collection that is now available internationally.
I read on your website that the pieces “aid in the inner adjusting of energies within.” Can you tell us more about this?
This is largely based on Eastern healing practices. Meditation is a part of my personal life and health. I see my glass practice as a form of it as well. I am no expert but I’ve come to form my own interpretation of ancient teachings.
Every person basically has both the female and the masculine side within. The female would be more of what I associate with the gut—our feelings and emotions. Our masculine side is in reference to logic and direct action. I see these glasses as talismans, not just of female empowerment, but something that can bring us to balance both these things in order to be the best version of ourselves.
Apart from glass sculptures, you also have installations and performances. Can you share with us some of your favorites from your body of work?
My favorite piece is still the very first installation I made when I was starting out. It was called “The Fragrance of Ma-i” and featured hand-blown glass bottles that depict current and historical narratives in Philippine history. Something about that piece feels like something I waited my whole life to make. It is also what got me into glass in the first place.
My favorite performance is a collaboration I did with a multimedia artist, Ankita Mishra. We wrote, performed and directed “The Thing to Miss Most” which is an exploration of both our connections to our respective homelands in the Philippines and Northern India. We translated our poetry into scent and movement and created a sensory experience through which lessons from the feminine immigrant experience can be shared.
Scent plays a big part in your process and the technique that you specialize is in glass flameworking. How are these connected?
Scent is our sense that is most connected to the limbic system in our brains, which is the part that relates to how we process and store memories. I wanted to create a piece that preserved my memories of places and concepts and turn them into perfumes.
That was how I started glass flameworking. I basically had the need to create and shape my own bottles. From then on, I’ve come to expand on this research through several projects and iterations of similar themes. Glass flameworking is a very ancient art form that has always been linked to storing medicine, beverages and scent. It dates back to the Mesopotamian period.
What are the themes that you explore in your art and the principles that you abide by?
I currently explore themes centered on ecofeminism and the body. Ecofeminism is a branch of feminism that recognizes the connection between women and the earth. It addresses the parallels between the oppression of nature and the oppression of women. In my work, I often use the metaphor of a woman in relation to flowers and currently, with the myths of Filipino flowers. This, for me, has everything to do with growing up in the Philippines where you are basically at the mercy of nature.
I try not to be so strict with myself and welcome experimentation and collaboration, yet this is the main theme that I feel I’ve stuck with through the years.
How do your experiences as a Filipina immigrant inspire the work that you do?
Before moving to the US, I was creating work that felt relevant to myself and to the social and political environment at the time. When I moved, I felt like I was encouraged to abandon that narrative in order to create work that was more relevant to the US. However, I always questioned this and found myself seeking to create work that represented who I am. Lacking this acceptance and representation has fueled me to keep going and to push further.
Practically, I’ve also had to adjust to the challenges of living as an immigrant. All of a sudden, I became an Other and that made me question my otherness and the Western view towards the socially disenfranchised. For the first few years, I experienced shocking discrimination as well as demeaning critiques of my work. Now, I feel less shocked and I just do my best to ignore it and to continue to create.
What is feminism for you?
For me, it means supporting women of all kinds and our rights. It also means, supporting the work of other women and working towards empowering ourselves through our voices. This has manifested for me through my art and through seeking to express my views and aesthetics as a Filipina.
Do you have any upcoming projects we should look forward to?
Yes! I am currently working on a new set of colors for the “Barbae” collection. I am finally back in the studio after a long time in quarantine. I am also working on a new multi-sensory installation entitled “Fertility Flowers.” I collaborated with a team of talented people in Manila on a video piece directed by Apa Agbayani. Currently, the footage is being edited.
The end goal of this project is to raise awareness on the issues surrounding the appropriation and use of flowers and plants from developing countries, the issues of fertility and reproductive health for women and the oppressive history of the myths of the two flowers featured in this project.
I currently have Barbae pieces available in Manila and supporting this would mean a lot to me during this time! You can shop the collection on Goldieland Studio’s website.