John Milton and Paradise Lost
Blind Man Achieves Immortality
(Second of a Three-Part Series)
By Phillip Somozo
Davao Surreal Artist features in New York Exhibit celebrating John Milton and Paradise Lost
Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo* were the first Filipino visual artists to achieve international recognition by virtue of their winning gold and silver medals, respectively, in international painting competitions in 19th century Europe, during years when Modernism was still swelling as a wave to eventually sweep the world. Luna, especially, did it as a form of propaganda disclosing imperialist Spain’s unjust treatment of its then colony, Las Islas Filipinas. Unknown to these two Philippine art icons, a trail of artist followers would form behind them a century later, in terms of desiring to be recognized internationally, this time as a way out of the difficult artist condition (whose condition is easy anyway?) in the Philippines. As result, a number of contemporary pinoy painters are now represented by established galleries in some of the world’s art centers. Whether they are financially better off now and happier is, of course, another question.
Bienvenido Bones Banez is a surrealist artist from Davao City who is not after monetary rewards in his artistic pursuits, but is definitely happier since he based himself in New York because he is experiencing acceptance and recognition of his talent. Now, he is posed to enter the portals of art history as the only Filipino invited to exhibit work in what is projected to be the grandest-ever celebration honoring the blind man-turned-literary immortal John Milton and his classic masterpiece, Paradise Lost. Banez’s participation is more significant in that of the more than 60 visual artists from all over the world, who will display work, he is one of only three who are distinguished as featured.
In his emailed letter to this writer, WAH Center President and Executive Director Terrance Lindall announced that Bienvenido Bones Banez has been named a “Featured Artist” in the Paradise Lost show in September 27-November 2, 2008, at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center in Brooklyn, NYC, USA, along with two other outstanding artists, Kris Kuksi and Rich Buckler. Terrance said of Ben (Banez’s nickname):
“I know of no artist whose work so sincerely expresses his heart felt belief and knowledge that we live in a Satanic time. Ben calls this his ‘666 World.’ He sees humans as possessing the ability to make a Paradise on Earth and yet devoting their energies for wealth, power, and self gratification at the expense of their fellow beings. It is a contradiction to pursue selfish interests for one’s own satisfaction by creating misery for one’s neighbor. No lasting satisfaction can ultimately come from it. Ben is right in that Satan surely has the world in his clutches while encouraging nations and individuals to dominate one another for wealth and resources. Until another Jesus or Ghandi appears to lead us to the light, we are in dark times and dire straits. One should look deeply into Ben’s paintings to see what we have become and are becoming in this ‘666 World’. True poets and artists must be called upon to sound the alarm. Ben has answered the call!
“He paints as if he is plugged into a wall socket and the energy that pours forth through his brain and fingertips to the canvas comes out in pulses of scintillating colors,” addsLindall.
Kris Kuksi is one of the most highly regarded artists in the contemporary surreal/visionary movement. His work is in the collection of Chris Weitz, Director of the movie, The Golden Compass, based upon Philip Pullman’s book and grounded in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Richard “Rich” Buckler is an American comic book artist best known for his work on Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four in the mid-1970s. He will be producing a portrait of John Milton for the 21st century, unveiling of which will be at the Costume Ball.
Of the participating performing artists, Polish surrealist fashion designer Olek, herself a stunning beauty, will be of particular interest to beholders of the absurdly beautiful as she unravels her latest unique creation with her company of models parading, preening and posing throughout all three floors of the exhibit venue during the ball (see sample photo of her 2003 debut also at WAH Center). Another is playwright/musician/composer Peter Dizozza, described as an “incredibly unique talent,” who will present his musical mystery play “Paradise Found!”
Other performing artists are scheduled intermittently to grace the celebration all the way to November 2: the jazz bar-favorite JC Hopkins Biggish Swing Band; Yana Schnitzler with Human Kinetics Movement Arts—a “mesmerizing”, interactive, cutting-edge dance group; a band of musicians led by Arthur Kirmss dressed in 17th century costume belting out Baroque tunes; and poet S. David as tour guide.
The historical exhibit includes Miltonia; a handwritten Torah scroll of the Book of Genesis— approximately 300 to 400 years old, original copies of Paradise Lost; old woodcuts and engravings; and Royal British memorabilia.
Entrance ticket to the ball is very affordable at $40 for art and entertainment that could go into the annals of history.
*Simon Flores y de la Rosa was reported by the Ayala Museum as having won silver award in the Philadelphia Universal Exposition in 1876, several years earlier than Luna and Hidalgo earned their medals; thus, accordingly, should be credited as the first Filipino artist to receive international recognition.
(Watch out for the concluding Third Part of this series after the grand costume ball in September 28!)