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To be lost is to be found: In conversation with Kara Pangilinan

By Andrea Panaligan, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 04, 2023 5:00 am

I’m slowly becoming convinced that existential crises are a quintessential part of womanhood, though perhaps this should come as no surprise. Growing up seems to mean a series of disillusionments and contradictions; distinctly female discomforts that amplify already uncomfortable growing pains.

These vulnerabilities are at the heart of Kara Pangilinan’s new solo show “Lost Girls.” The visual artist insists that, while deeply personal, her acrylic paintings touch on something more universal. In this conversation with Young STAR, Kara talks more about the exhibit, the commonality of feelings we wish we didn’t have to feel, and the joy in realizing we’re never alone.

Visual artist Kara Pangilinan says that, while deeply personal, her show “Lost Girls” touches on something more universal.

YOUNG STAR: What was the seedling that started the idea for “Lost Girls”?

KARA PANGILINAN: I always say art is my coping mechanism, and during the pandemic it was the only way I knew how to channel what I was feeling, all the anxieties. Suddenly there was so much art that wanted to come out. It’s always a feeling; that’s always the seedling.

As you mentioned, your work came from negative feelings, but the art you made and the gathering of people here in your exhibit opening are very joyful. How do you derive that joy from your darker starting point?

Art is a necessity for me. That’s where all the bad feelings go, and then I’m good. I also think that, even if the title is “Lost Girls,” I didn’t see becoming lost as negative. This is something everyone goes through—these feelings, these questions, it’s all part of life, and it’s not bad. It’s just something you have to figure out how to go through gracefully.

(From left) “ignorance is bliss,” “i can feel myself changing,” and “instead, i sleep.”

The main pieces in the exhibit are titled after song lyrics. Was this a choice you knew you were making from the beginning?

Not exactly. I guess it was just art in general, including visual art and music, that makes me feel a lot. Sometimes I feel like the process of every creative is the same: they derive from their inner world. So when I hear certain lyrics, I can really feel what they’re trying to say. And when I was trying to express myself and I couldn’t fully, these songs helped me. I think everyone who watches movies or reads books feels that they’re connected and that we’re all going through the same thing.

It’s been five years since your last solo show, so as you were preparing for “Lost Girls,” did you have that moment of, “Oh, these paintings are no longer mine”?

It’s been such a good process making it, and it’s a completely separate process from showing it. When you put creative work out there, you can’t expect people to accept it the way you want them to, so you really have to let it go. But it’s also exciting because I’m always curious how others would take it. In the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, (the author) talks a lot about the creative process and how your job is to do the work and be free of the hurricanes of outcome. I love that a lot.

If any of the lost girls can talk, what will they say?

In one of the paintings, “instead, i sleep,” she just wants to be free of other people’s expectations. So I think she would just say, “Please let me sleep!” She’s almost asking permission: “Is it okay if I don’t do what everybody asks? If you think I have this potential, will you only accept me if I fulfill that potential?” I believe that you should do everything you can in this life, but I also believe in resting and doing nothing and just being. I love that painting because of that.

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See more of Kara’s work on Instagram or