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Artist Geraldine Datuin's work reflects her cultural explorations – Pacific Daily News

Geraldine Datuin and Jude Cruz, who is depicted in the painting, pose at the opening night of the “Unknown Projects” group show at the Guam Museum in September 2022.
Artist Geraldine Datuin has open studio days on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday 4-8 p.m. at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Geraldine Datuin’s paintings in progress for an upcoming solo show in January 2023 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Geraldine Datuin poses with her paintings at the opening reception for the “Birds in Paradise” group show in January 2022 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Paintings by Datuin at the “Body Beautiful” group show in July 2022 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Jaco Cruz, Geraldine Datuin’s son, stands in front of “Ancestral Lands” painting at “Taiparehu Guahan,” a group show held at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in March 2022.
Geraldine Datuin paints a piece for her upcoming solo show in January 2023 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Geraldie Datuin and her family pose with her work that was part of the “Unknown Projects” group show at the Guam Museum.
Geraldine Datuin showcases her paintings and prints at the Ina Well Fest in June 2022.
Gerald Datuin’s painting was part of the “Unknown Projects” exhibit at the Guam Museum.

Geraldine Datuin and Jude Cruz, who is depicted in the painting, pose at the opening night of the “Unknown Projects” group show at the Guam Museum in September 2022.
Artist Geraldine Datuin has open studio days on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday 4-8 p.m. at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Geraldine Datuin’s paintings in progress for an upcoming solo show in January 2023 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Geraldine Datuin poses with her paintings at the opening reception for the “Birds in Paradise” group show in January 2022 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Paintings by Datuin at the “Body Beautiful” group show in July 2022 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Jaco Cruz, Geraldine Datuin’s son, stands in front of “Ancestral Lands” painting at “Taiparehu Guahan,” a group show held at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in March 2022.
Geraldine Datuin paints a piece for her upcoming solo show in January 2023 at the Lees-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
Geraldie Datuin and her family pose with her work that was part of the “Unknown Projects” group show at the Guam Museum.
Geraldine Datuin showcases her paintings and prints at the Ina Well Fest in June 2022.
Gerald Datuin’s painting was part of the “Unknown Projects” exhibit at the Guam Museum.
Geraldine Datuin is passionate about creating a contemporary art scene where CHamorus and local communities on Guam can see themselves and their stories at the center.
The artist recently created buzz with a piece that was part of the Unknown Projects “Freshman Class” show, which was on exhibit Sept. 30-Oct. 28 at the Guam Museum.
The show was organized as part of the Fanhita Manhoben: Music and Art Youth Conference and explores themes of decolonization through the arts.
It’s been one of Datuin’s dreams to exhibit in the Guam Museum.
“The title of that piece is ‘The endangered native plant is resilient. Growing, from the body of a strong Chamoru man. Resting, after a long day at work. Healing, alongside the bones of his ancestors. Seeking, a deeper connection with the land. His lands. Decolonize.’
“I thought it paired well with the event, and I honestly felt really honored to have that piece showcased alongside that special theme,” Datuin said.
Datuin drew intimately from her own life and inspirations for the piece.
“The figure is actually my other half, and the original position that he’s in was inspired by Renaissance painting, that specific angle. So my thinking with that is kind of to replace these dominantly white spaces and paintings with people that we recognize, that we grew up with,” she said.
With the piece’s poetic title, Datuin was intentional about describing how she sees the painting and how she wanted the community to interact with it.
“It is a native CHamoru man, that is a native plant and he’s resting in his homeland. It comes from a place of we need to see ourselves in contemporary art spaces, brown bodies and indigenous, migrant bodies replacing or in these spaces that Renaissance paintings are historically known for.
“It was one of my only pieces to align with the decolonization movement publicly, so I was really proud to do that with that special piece, of course with my other half. His whole family came, even his brother who never leaves the village,” Datuin added with a laugh.
Datuin is holding open studio days on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from 4-8 p.m. at the Lee-Reyes Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza.
She’s been hard at work preparing for an upcoming solo show, which will open on Jan. 7 at the gallery. Datuin also hopes to launch merch items for sale at a brick-and-mortar space, which will be announced soon. To keep up with Datuin’s work, you can follow the artist on Instagram @datu.sigwarz.
Datuin sees the local art community as going through a renaissance of sorts, as more opportunities for shows and creative gatherings are taking place now that pandemic restrictions are lifting. Her own creative process is deeply connected to her relationships with other artists.
“I’m not just trying to paint, I’m also thinking how can I grow the community, how can people respond to me so they go home thinking ‘oh, wow, I want to do something. I want to submit a piece to a show, or work on my project at home.’ Then it kind of multiplies and we have a creative space,” Datuin said.
She’s quick to point to an abundance of local artists who she draws inspiration from in her own work, including the music duo Microchild.
“I’ve seen them grow as musicians. The music that they put out, the album covers, the visual staging of their concerts. We don’t always have to be inspired by other painters, we’re an artist community — that is still a visual cue and an inspiration cue for me,” Datuin said.
She also cites fellow artists from Unknown Projects, including April Colitoy and Joshua Barrigada as close friends who help to drive and inspire her work.
For emerging artists on Guam, Datuin stresses the importance of building community and asking for help from others.
“Don’t be shy to ask for help. Take the time to sit with yourself and ask yourself what you need right now to get to the next step in your artist career, and figure out how to get it.
“You need to be very disciplined. I have an 8 to 5 job. I’m here at the studio from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. three times a week. I have the studio because of my relationships — I built trust with the people in my community, I asked for help, I shared my story,” Datuin said.
Datuin studied English and fine arts at UOG, but changed her path to study science after starting her family in order to better support them.
She went on to earn a master’s degree in science in England. Today, she’s grateful to her family for the sacrifices they’ve made and the support that they’ve given her to continue to pursue her work as an artist.
Datuin’s medium of choice is acrylics, which she said dries faster and allows her to more easily layer color: “In my paintings, I love to exaggerate movement and energy. It’s in all of those various layers that creates energy, I feel like I can only really do that with acrylic paint.”
Reflecting on her growth, Datuin sees her art partly as a conversation with herself. Her earlier work explored traditions and cultural elements within her Filipino identity.
“My old pieces have always been figurative and botanical, flower head figures where the face isn’t showing, sort of like masked figures,” Datuin said.
She notes that the faces in her more recent work are visible. “It’s almost like I was kind of experimenting and sort of hiding, not wanting to state my stance on things. Now with this decolonization piece, I want to make that stance of ‘this is important to me.’
“Having those faces up front and center, revealing them behind these masks, putting them alongside the land, alongside these native plants. That’s been the journey,” she said.
Datuin is excited to watch Guam’s art scene grow expansively enough to continue to support homegrown artists.
“I’m dreaming of a future for Guam where we really have that buzz here to hold more contemporary art fairs, festivals, more group shows, better quality work that we see out there, original work, original stories, unique stories where people will speak their own truths through visual art.”
Reach Samantha Barnett at
sbarnett@guampdn.com.
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