MANILA, Philippines -- As an artist, Marissa Gonzalez creates stunning visuals but instead of painting on canvas or paper, she works with jusi, the material woven from silk and pineapple fibers commonly used by fashion designers for barongs and gowns.
The granddaughter of the late President Elpidio Quirino and the sister of Louie Quirino-Gonzalez, the former husband of singer Kuh Ledesma, the artist was born in the Philippines but later settled in Europe where she formally studied photography, drawing, watercolor and oil painting.
When Gonzalez began to seriously pursue her art, she tried out different materials -- including silk -- until she seized upon the idea of using jusi for her paintings. It was very challenging for her as an artist.
"It's not without its challenges. You have to really have experience, and I've been painting for 20 years, and this is where I'm at today," Gonzalez told ABS-CBN News during the opening of her local art exhibit last week.
"I think I'm breaking ground here, because nobody else has thought to explore this medium, and it's so exciting," she said.
In an interview with Cristina D.C. Pastor of Filipinas Magazine in 2005, Gonzalez described the process of painting jusi. "As a fabric, it is delicate, but is actually very strong. It's made for us to wash, starch and iron. When painting, you just have to work very fast because watercolor dries very quickly on jusi. Sometimes you have to work while certain parts of the fabric are still wet," she said.
Gonzalez has traveled around Europe and the United States, exhibiting her work and sharing this unique art form with others.
She said this is also her way of paying tribute to her grandfather, who, unknown to many, was an artist himself.
"For me, this is a carry over from my lolo. He used to paint butterflies' leaves to augment his income. Mahirap siya. He used to paint -- that's where the talent comes from. It's a tribute to my grandfather and his humble beginnings," she told ABS-CBN News.
Now home in Manila, Gonzalez is presenting a solo exhibit of her hand-painted jusi wall hangings entitled "The Road to Silence" at the Ayala Museum in Makati City. The exhibit runs until February 13.
Gonzalez has built up a big collection of works and continues to share these with people. It has become an advocacy for her to showcase not just her own talent as an artist, but also how versatile this traditional Filipino fabric can be.