Pangasinan woman wins Maningning Miclat Art Award for incredible piece
BINMALEY, PANGASINAN—Jessica Lopez, 26, spent a whole week in May patiently attaching pieces of a “bangus” (milkfish) backbone on plywood that was painted black.
Lopez was working on an art piece for the Pangasinan artists’ exhibit at Art Cube Gallery in Makati City—the first time she was featured in a Metro Manila venue after she began experimenting with fish bones as a medium in 2015.
That piece, titled “Motions of Life,” landed Lopez the grand prize in the recently concluded Maningning Miclat Art Award.
She returned home to Barangay Gayaman here with a trophy by sculptor Julie Lluch Dalena, a P28,000 cash prize, a collection of Maningning Miclat’s books, and an opportunity to have a solo art exhibition in an art gallery in Metro Manila.
It was her first grand prize and the first time one of her fish bone pieces won. In 2016 and 2017, she was a semifinalist in the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence competition but her entries were acrylic paintings on paper.
Lopez was inspired to use fish bones while attending an art workshop in Ifugao province in 2014. During one of their meals, one of her teachers pointed out that the tilapia they were eating concealed a fish-shaped bone.
“I stared at the fish bone for a long time when the teacher showed it to me. And I thought, ‘Why not use fish bone for an artwork?’” Lopez said.
As soon as she got home, she pondered where to get the fish bones. Every time her family had fish for dinner, she would hoard the bones.
Months of collecting bones helped Lopez assemble her first art piece, “Messiah,” the following year.
Portraits of celebrities
Lopez would later do black-and-white fish bone portraits of celebrities, like Sen. Manny Pacquiao. She mixed fish bones with acrylic paint, playing with different colors on small pieces of plywood.
She produced more pieces when her father brought a “banyera” of fish bones he collected from bangus deboners at the Dagupan City fish market.
Her works have given her more drive, but Lopez said she often reflected about her career, given that she had to raise her 4-year-old son.
“The difficulty of being a full-time artist is that you have no stable source of income. There’s no assurance when the next project or exhibit will come,” said Lopez, who is employed by a local online trading firm.
A college dropout, Lopez said she did not have any plans of finishing her business administration course, which she started at Pangasinan State University.
“That’s how life is: It’s like dancing on a thorny path. But no matter how difficult it is, you just have to work hard and persevere ... to succeed,” she said.