SPOTLIGHT: In memory of a legend

Read the full issue of Spotlight, which includes pictures of three of Adriano Pangelinan’s last known paintings that were not completed have never been published, by clicking here.

Before dementia advanced on the artist Adriano Pangelinan, his son, Carlos, surrendered to a routine, where he chauffeured his dad in the morning to McDonald’s in Maite. He and his friends – they call themselves the McDonald’s Board of Directors – would spend the mornings doing what old Chamorro men do: talking about people and politics.

Carlos wasn’t entirely sure of these conversations, though. He stayed long enough to order his dad the healthier food on the menu. That led to argument. Adriano Pangelinan was a man who lived life on his terms.

With acclaim by the New York Times and an international audience that adored his work, he could have lived anywhere else. But he chose Guam, his home. And it was this home of his that was the subject of his paintings. He illuminated his impression of Guam in bright and vibrant watercolors on canvass; a distinct body of work that has inspired generations of artists after him.

Seeing those paintings at hotels, in restaurants, in the international airport, and hanging in public offices, I wondered which of the kids that seem to appear in it are depictions of Carlos. Which of the paintings depict each of the artist’s children? His grandchildren? Why else would a man with such promise – an artist whose work at such a young age was welcomed with open arms in San Francisco and New York – settle his life on Guam?

Mr. Pangelinan was battling dementia and a host of debilitating health issues for five years before he died early Thursday morning. He was 81. He had a fighting spirit, to say the least. The old man was admitted to the hospital two weeks before he died; his prognosis was not good. Sheila, his wife, held out hope his condition would improve. Their son, Dano, is only 14.

Carlos would update us on the ebbs and flows of his dad’s hospitalization, and we prayed. By last week, the situation looked grim, and so Carlos and his sister Marilyn began to prepare for their brothers, Adrian and Sean, to make their way home… to the place Adriano Pangelinan painted with such vivacity and bright allure.

“His obvious talent at an early age compelled his high school art teacher to submit several of Pangelinan’s works to various national and international student art shows,” Rita Nauta wrote of him in a piece for Guampedia. “Barely 17, Pangelinan was invited to participate in the Chautauqua Institute Art Exhibit in New York State.  His watercolors immediately garnered media attention, and an article about him appeared in the New York Times.  A year later he was invited to exhibit his work in a one-man show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  He also received invitations from as far away as Japan and Dallas, Texas, to exhibit his work.”

Most people only dream of such honors.

Carlos always has been proud of his dad’s work. Wherever we’d go and an Adriano Pangelinan masterpiece was hanging, he’d stop to say, “That’s my dad’s.” And we’d look at it and marvel.

Ms. Nauta pointed out in her article that Pangelinan taught generations of artists at the University of Guam. Another great artist of Guam, the late Jose Babauta, took his place in the UOG art faculty, when he retired.

“I would always run into him at Agana McDonald’s and sit and talk with him for a bit,” Babauta’s daughter Ana Murphy Babauta said of Mr. Pangelinan. Her dad – her hero – passed away in 2015 at 62. He was about a decade younger than Pangelinan. “He was always so kind and made me feel at ease when I was with him. A genuinely great soul.”

Another great artist, Judy Flores, first met Adriano Pangelinan in 1968, and has “always admired his work.”

“Just gorgeous,” she said of his art. “Beautiful splashes of color. They were abstract, but you definitely knew what it was. He expressed it with so much abandon, though you could surmise he appreciated beauty and could express it.”

His family loved him. People loved his work and what it expressed for them.

Adriano Pangelinan painted the island life we want: serene, teeming with life, bright, and beautiful. He has gone to his eternal rest, and his work, likewise, lives forever.

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