Diaspora Feature Story

Luz Balbin Spanks: Singing her way to art*

Painter and singer Luz Balbin-Spanks posing before two of her paintings in last October’s “Pamana ng Lahi” group art exhibit at the Filipino Cultural Center in L.A.

“NO plan, no shape, not forced, and just like confetti, they just fall into place after they drop. They have to go with the wind – or even without the wind’s interaction. Yes, the result turns out to be very natural.”

Thus said Luz Balbin-Spanks, an artist and the president of the La Habra Art Association in La Habra, California, as she described the kind of art she does with such flair, fun and passion.

“That was the time when we were raising funds for the Asian-Pacific Heritage Group; and one way of supporting that was through an art auction. What I did was to organize several artists to have their artwork sold through bidding,” explained Luz, who aside from fundraising was also tasked to decorate the room with Asian artifacts.

But deep inside her heart there was also an inner longing to express herself through painting. And she did paint for this auction.

“Wow! Would you believe my artwork was bought! Kaya ko pala! [I could do it!]. That spurred me to continue and do more paintings, up to now,” she added.

“I have had group exhibits with other seasoned artists like Rafael Maniago, Bienvenido Sibug and Magoo Valencia in La Habra Art Gallery as well as in the L.A. County Office of Education in Downey, in the art gallery of the Filipino American Service Group, Inc., and in the Filipino Cultural Center in L.A.’s Historic Filipinotown. Throughout our 23 years of marriage, my husband Jim has never failed to support me in all the things that I do,” the grateful artist informed me.

“Chicks on a Fence – Study with Lisa Suttle, 12″ x 9”, acrylic on canvas.

“Every day, I make it a point to journal my art on folded watercolor paper using acrylic paint or other media. I am keenly fascinated with the works of Karrie Evenson and Alisa Burke. My fascination with saints, Mother and Child, Our Lady of Guadalupe and others has kept me busy. I will be doing a series of each of them this year, and eventually come up with my solo exhibit, hopefully this year,” Luz, who started doing her craft in 2013, disclosed.

Despite her busy schedule, she also conducts workshops on acrylic painting and the art of flower arrangements at the art gallery where she is the curator. Her dynamism was the driving force behind several visual art exhibits and musical shows in the community.

She was also instrumental, a few years ago, in bringing together about 14 Filipino American photographers – yours truly included –and having their captivating color and black and white prints of nature and people on display in the gallery.

What’s so interesting about this artist is that she’s also a natural-born singer. Even at the tender age of four she sang along with whatever she fancied listening to on the radio.

“When I was in elementary school, my teacher requested me to sing in the classroom. Ditto when I went to high school in St. Mary’s College in Quezon City – the Mother Superior in that school was so happy to have me on the stage as guest singer during special events. Even when I worked in the Central Bank as an auditor, I was noted more as a singer. Now, I am singing for the ’Handmaids of the Lord’s‘ Music Ministry,” Luz narrated with enthusiasm.

“Tulips by the Windowsill – Study with Lisa Suttle, 12″ x 9”, acrylic on canvas

In the late 1960s she recorded her own music, using a cassette recorder. Later on, when computers became ubiquitous, she was able to transfer her songs and burn CDs. These days, she uses a recording studio that is managed by a well-known guitarist. This gracious mother of two has also performed in the Carson Civic Center, Bellflower Auditorium and La Habra Art Gallery with talented singers like Mon Concepcion and Mat Relox.

“Going back to what I said earlier, it’s kind of interesting that in the schools where I studied, and the different institutions and offices that have been my workplaces, I have been known not as their classmate or their officemate but as their singer,” she recounted.

Like her name – which, in English, means light – her enthusiasm and dynamism expressed through her songs and paintings continue to shine colorfully and brightly, to bring joy to many people.

*All photos © Vics Magsaysay

Vics Magsaysay, Ph.D.
Vics Magsaysay, Ph.D., is a Los Angeles-based writer, fine art nature photographer, painter, graphic designer, makata (Filipino poet) and holds a doctorate degree in clinical hypnotherapy.

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