aside “Art as an expression saves, heals and mends” Filipino Artist Clarisse Pastor-Medina talks to ASLI about her art and exploring subjects related to women

Artist Clarisse Pastor-Medina

Clarisse Pastor-Medina, 42, currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

Clarisse was born and raised in the Philippines and had established an adult life before moving to America for love.  Living in California with her husband and has a full-time job at a nutraceutical research company. Enjoying archery, running, dancing, hula-hooping and healthy cooking as hobbies when not inside her “cave” painting and creating.

Clarisse has not been art-schooled, “I am always proud to say I am not art-schooled but I have been heART-schooled all my life.” However art had always been  a part of her life since being a child, having so many natural-born artists in her family the inspiration was all around, Clarisse’s uncle who made art between performing surgeries and her father who was a banker before retiring and who is still making amazing art to this day.  Clarisse reminisces on how her Father patiently drew with her as a child. Now The Father and Daughter artists compare notes and get into interesting conversations about projects they are working on. “Art is the invisible thread that ties our hearts together across miles”. Clarisse is also grateful to her Mother who sent her and her sister to art classes in the summer when they were children, since then there has been no stopping this artist from creating and sharing her art to the world.

Clarrisse caught ASLI’s eye when we saw he work first on Instagram where Clarisse had used our hash-tag #artsaveslivesinternation and shared her stunning paintings with us. Feeling drawn to her colour use, emotive subject matter and her surrealist interpretations of her inner and outer world captivated the team and we had to include her in this first issue of ASLI Magazine in celebration of women.


 What motivated you to deal with the subjects in your art?


“I always say that “my art is a way for my heart to speak, so please don’t just look, listen.” My art is like a journal.  Hence, my usual subjects are mostly women, children, my personal memoirs and explorations of culture and identity. I can say that my works are self-portraits and representations of myself because I am the subject that I know best, my life, my thoughts, feelings and my own truths. I have a tendency to use symbolisms in my art to make the statements I wish to make.  Ultimate satisfaction comes from being able to express myself while at the same time uplifting and inspiring people and creating works that they can identify with.”


Tell us why you chose this submission? 


“I chose to show and submit my pieces featuring female forms and exploring subjects related to women as my contribution to the Celebration of Women Month.  Through them I reveal issues, feelings and emotions that run deep in the hearts of women while on the same plane I also plant motivation and inspiration that can spark change, growth, strength, resilience and independence.”




Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?


“I normally paint using coffee (or wine and other natural stains).  My current “life project” is a series of coffee paintings called “BIAK: Explorations of Filipino Heritage, Identity, Immigration and Assimilation”. Coffee is my No. 1 medium of choice because it is easily accessible, practical, non-toxic and natural. I particularly enjoy the challenging and stubborn unpredictability of this medium on the surface much like the randomness of life. It requires and hones proper timing, intuition, patience, letting go, coping and sometimes even forgiveness and undoing. Most of all, coffee can conveniently present many beautiful shades of brown, just like Filipinos, and it gives a painting an overall sepia effect which is the colour of nostalgia — something I’m constantly flooded with.

 I also paint with acrylics and other mixed media for my “Artistic Upwellings” (aka ARTWELLINGS which is an amalgamation of symbolism, expression, intuition, magical realism and a little apophenia). This medium suits my busy lifestyle and my process which involves a lot of short and quick creative spurts, movement, hand painting, drips, textures, layers and symbolic under-paintings.”


Mandirigma in Stilettos (Warrior in Stilettos) by Clarisse Pastor-Medina A coffee painting done in collaboration with Rex Gatdula (tattoo design) This is part of my coffee painting series called  BIAK: Explorations of Filipino Heritage, Identity, Immigration and Assimilatio
Mandirigma in Stilettos (Warrior in Stilettos) by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
A coffee painting done in collaboration with Rex Gatdula (tattoo design)
This is part of my coffee painting series called
BIAK: Explorations of Filipino Heritage, Identity, Immigration and Assimilatio


What is your process when creating?


“I think I have a love/hate relationship with process or rather it probably love/hates me.  While I am very much attuned to my heart and muse, I am a little slow in giving an immediate follow through because I wear many hats and juggle many roles and responsibilities outside the studio (I am a woman!). I usually have no choice but to wait long and far between for a perfect time to execute an artwork without any distractions.   Life gets very simple once I ease into the zone.  Usually it starts with an idea I want to express or a random image that pops up when I’m doing mundane things like driving, running, washing dishes or while I’m in the shower.  These visuals sometimes present themselves as mash-up versions of the world inside me and around me.  That’s my starting point.  Then I usually play music and dance.  Sometimes I play some white noise when my mind needs it as I have attention issues. And then I practice spontaneity and paint intuitively throughout the rest of the process.  I usually let my artwork direct and create itself to finality.”


SILENT GUILT, QUIET ACCEPTANCE: The Story of a Stillbirth Survivor by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
SILENT GUILT, QUIET ACCEPTANCE: The Story of a Stillbirth Survivor
by Clarisse Pastor-Medina


Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?


“One of my favourites is Vincent Van Gogh although his work does not directly influence mine.  I’m always drawn to the affective aspects of things so I am in love with his works and deeply touched with his life story highlighted by his state of mind and unique take on the world.  I recognize a little emotional connection of some sort each time I look at his works.

 Another favourite artist which perhaps influenced me in some way although it might not be obvious in my still-evolving style is René Magritte, a Belgian surrealist.  I adore the simplicity of his paintings and how they can arouse many complex meanings without being too cluttered.  He puts ordinary objects in an unusual context thus giving new meanings to familiar things.  This paradigm inspires me the most and it is exactly what I try to employ in the context of my art – delivering a punch without being too complex or highfalutin.

 I have eclectic preferences: I also adore the works of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, contemporary Filipino artist Antonio Leaño as well as a little Art Brut like Jesse Reno.”


“Laya” (Freedom/Free) by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
“Laya” (Freedom/Free)
by Clarisse Pastor-Medina


What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?


“The thing with feminism, there are many areas that it touches such as civil rights and liberties, political, economic, and social equality, liberation from patriarchy.  There are many varying perspectives and categories.  We each have our own definition of feminism, what may be appropriate to someone may not be to me.  For me personally, aside from the importance of equality in many settings, it is more about the EMPOWERMENT of women and uplifting situations concerning the welfare and status of women around the world including the smallest unit of society which is the family.

 I believe in the goal of doing in my life what is important to me.  I believe in being strong, independent and results-oriented. I believe in life-advancement, achieving and realizing full potential.  I believe in open and equal opportunities.  I believe in the freedom to make choices and being respected for and despite those choices yet in the same breath I also respect my religious beliefs and strong cultural grounding such as being pro-life which is a controversial issue to many as well as the sanctity of marriage. It is therefore a huge balancing act for me.”


What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?


“Art is a gift that delivers the purpose we appoint it for, it is a voice, a vehicle for expression, communication, awareness, motivation, inspiration and change.  This is a concept I strongly believe in and so I try to get involved every chance I can, especially when it concerns the causes that I support. One of my biggest goals is to have my art serve as an instrument in making the world a better place for anyone who needs it.”

Struggle  by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
by Clarisse Pastor-Medina


Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?


“Based on what I see, yes.  But based on what I believe in, NO.  Not necessarily.  For many decades now, we have been on our way in breaking some barriers, if not all.  But it is a very difficult and complicated topic which also has roots from natural anatomical and biological make ups, traditions and different cultural beliefs and practices etc. It has always been perceived that women are more fragile because they on the average have smaller body structures and have a naturally delicate nature and are supposedly less strong, that a woman’s natural reproductive function is to give birth and nurture, which follows that they need to maintain the household and so forth. In my own experience (and culture), it is probably the pressure of being expected to bear my own children after a difficult and failed pregnancy.  I am a still birth survivor.  But I am over that and the issue certainly doesn’t affect me any more.  It doesn’t make me any less of a person.”



Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?


“No.  Many try very hard to fight for equality and when it comes to civil rights, liberties, economic and employment opportunities, it looks like that has been achieved in some parts of the world.  But not everywhere.  It is a highly convoluted thesis.  Let’s look at a very simple example, women in America have broken out of the mould of the 50’s and 60’s housewives.  Women, just like men, are now part of the workforce and are both holding full time jobs outside the house yet some households have not outgrown the notion that at the end of the day, this same fully employed woman, who worked the same number of hours as the man, is still expected to make a wonderful home cooked supper and do chores.   This resonates with me but it is also something I have succeeded in defying by making amicable arrangements with my husband.  It is rather interesting though that the “ideal housewife expectation” was actually something that I have put upon myself, and which no one else did.

 To go back, it is not equality but perhaps, equal respect that has been achieved thus far.”


The Secrets of the Forest by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
The Secrets of the Forest
by Clarisse Pastor-Medina


What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?


“I come from the Philippines and one of the issues that is closest to my heart is poverty, especially since it affects the children.  I have a soft spot for the “street children” in the Philippines, especially those who are forced to work in order to survive (sampaguita flower vendors etc).  I am also an “Artist for Autism” and I support Autism causes whenever I have the opportunity.  I support Breast Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer Research causes very passionately because my parents are both warriors and survivors.  The one I most recently participated in is the Canvas Peace Project, an art auction made possible through the joint efforts of Valentino Achak Deng (VAD) Foundation and Hope for Ariang.  This benefited education and women’s projects in South Sudan.”


What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?


“Art as an expression saves, heals and mends.  It can be used to restore oneself and also others. Yes, I believe in it. I can attest to it.  I live to tell how it helped in many ways in my life while dealing with issues of migration, isolation, assimilation, anxiety, self-actualization as an artist and so much more.”

 My recent experiences also proved that art can be used as an instrument to support and benefit causes that resonate with me and so far it has been effective.  Because of this, it is saving me again.  I have found my ultimate purpose.”


Change is Beautiful by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
Change is Beautiful
by Clarisse Pastor-Medina


How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?


“Yes.  As much as possible, I employ symbolisms and imagery to make a statement or advocacy to uplift and inspire love and change.  I also share my art with organizations that I support.”


What are your goals as with your art?


“Out of sheer curiosity, I want to see how far I can take my “non-art-schooled art” although I have plans of taking some formal training to help my raw gifts.  I want to further solidify this voice, to be able to show more and share much more.  I want to continue communicating my heart as well as important messages and advocacy through my art.  ART = INSTRUMENT.  I want to live that purpose with all my heart.”


What is your next project or piece that you are working on?


“The project I’m currently working on completing is a series of coffee paintings called “BIAK” (meaning “split”).  These are explorations of Filipino Heritage, Identity, Immigration and Assimilation.  I know there are already so many clichés and voices of the diaspora in the field of art but I am not afraid to put my own voice out there.  After all, this is my own journey and I am proud of it.  If it matters to one or two, then I know I’ve done my job.”


Queen Different by Clarisse Pastor-Medina
Queen Different
by Clarisse Pastor-Medina

Find out more about Clarisse Pastor-Madina:








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