“Most of my works explore the possibility of a new day. The rising sun is all about joy and hope, I want my work to convey the positive. I want it to have a pleasant effect to the viewers, nothing uncomfortable or sad,” Elenita Cruz Dumlao, Davao’s homegrown artist said.

In line with the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dumlao opened her solo exhibit in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Downtown Davao last October 1 to 31 at the Waterfront Insular Hotel. Another solo exhibition is at Apo Gulf Country Club, Dumoy, Davao City last October 12 to 14. Her major Solo Exhibit entitled Colors of Hope will be held at SMEcoland Annex last October 16 to 31.

Aside from visual arts, she is also into dance, theatre and music. She started in directorial work, choreography and teaching. Boots, as fondly called by her friends and loved ones, has helped nurtured young people into the creative and theatre arts.

“I have lost count,” she says. “But instead of them roaming the streets, I take them out to perform.”

Unknown to many, Dumlao, mid in her career started gathering young people who are often in the streets and started teaching and involving them in dance, theatre and music. It later evolved into the multi-awarded Davao-based Kathara Theatre Collective where she is its Artistic Director.

Dumlao has successfully held five (5) One-woman Arts Exhibitions at Museo Dabawenyo. She also had exhibitions in other venues and participated as one of the featured artists of group exhibitions in the city.

She is also the only Asian who qualified to the 10th International Women’s Exhibit held in Maidanpek, Serbia in 2013 winning the first place for the New Media Arts category. She was also the recipient of the City Mayor and Vice Mayor Award for her exemplary contributions to the Arts.

“Most of my work explore the possibility of a new day. Laging may source of light. As an artist, I am still inspired to create,” she said.

Her works, often done in mix media were surreal and abstract. One could not help but notice the stunning brightness of her work though. Light as symbol of faith and hope emerged in her painting six years ago, after her bout with breast cancer.

It was an outburst of joyful feeling, she said, leading her to work on her major work—My Left Breast which took her awhile to finish.

“I was mesmerized by my memory- basically my journey in life. Every time I think of my left breast, I think of many things. It was difficult to put something in the canvass,” she added.

“I wanted to inspire people, share my joy but I need to internalize what I wanted to share, is it the happy or the sad? Eventually I made the decision to share the positive—I am alive, I have friends who helped me get through and got me out of the pit.”

The technical style and excellent skills in mixing colors she learned by experimenting on her own. She had a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology but taught Arts and Music.

“There’s always a plan in what I do, in what I want to share—it is to convey happiness through colors,” she emphasized.

I remembered when I was still about 10 years old, I would spend a lot of paper and time trying to draw, in full details. They were exercises for refined detailing ( in oil pastel, lead pencil or charcoal). My models were the many objects found in my home like jars, bottles, fruits, vegetables, toys, dresses, including the faces of my parents, brother and my pets. They said I was good.

There was satisfaction every after a finished work whether they be appreciated or not by the people around me. Yet, I loved most the activity when I would just simply apply primary colors of paint on a broad paper and use my hands to mix them right there and then. There was joy and much satisfaction when many other different colors resulted from what I did. A kind of joy that ensued from creating something new from what was existing.

She was trained and nurtured by her parents, both educators and grew up to be exposed in arts and culture. “When I was growing up, I have all forms of arts with me. However, I did not proceed to Fine Arts because at that time, I thought I had so much of it already but I later realized while I was taking my psychology course (and being exposed to the works of Salvador Dali and Picasso) that I should have taken fine arts as foundation,” she said.

As I grew older and my world became bigger, I began to search for meaning, and look further beyond the details of my own works. I began defining “essence”, I began exploring my own emotions related to subject matters before me, and expressed them extensively with the use of colors rather than “lines”. I also began receiving both positive and negative criticisms and reviews about my works from the bigger outside world. “So be it”, I would always say.

As I continued to create art and assert my interpretation of what art is all about, I kept myself open to new possibilities and new learning. Today, I still I continue on experimenting, seeking new approaches to my creative process. I continue to seek and develop a visual language of my own, both authentically mine and representative of my own experience in my own time.

Over the years, Dumlao creates a unique vision of the world. Her colors are bright and tropical. Her images often “inspired by recognizable, biomorphic forms, are less reflections of nature than revelations drawn from her mind’s eye.”Her works represent emotional distillations: simultaneously sensual and metaphysical.

For others, like this writer, her work conveys the spiritual and depth of being fully alive.

“Over the years, I was able to crunch the essence and color is important to capture the essence,” she pointed out. “Each of my work is an expression of how I feel and think about my world. Each contains a part of my mind, heart, and soul.”

Always expect the unexpected from a free soul, so they say.

There will be more exhibits to come as I continue on. Even If I do not sell.

I will find my mark , I am confident about that. I will never cease to dream and will work to materialize that dream.

In the span of six years, aside from participating in group exhibits, Dumlao was also able to stage her own solo exhibits.

By far, she is the only woman in Mindanao to dabble in New Media Arts. She also holds the distinction of the only woman Artistic Director for theatre groups in Mindanao, leading her team to different experience and recognition.

“In my time, discrimination was strong but you get what you see. To be in such community, one has to be strong to survive,” she emphasized.

More than surviving, Boots has breezed through life with vigor and optimism. She has reached across different audiences and different medium only to find her way back to a blank canvass.

In her case, helping others create and appreciate art.

“One can only be creative when it’s all blank,” she says, with a full heart and smile.