Birthdays bring both a feeling of joy and fear. It’s a time of celebration but also a moment of solemn reflection. Adding a brings Questions already begin to materialize in the mind: What have I achieved? What is there left for me? What can I still do?
Turning 50 is a daunting notion for most, especially for women. Leslie Castañeda is definitely no exception from this. It doesn’t help when people make quips about being “half a century.” But she never faltered—or at least she never let doubt entrap her, despite how life seemed to be an endless dark cave.
As the eldest among four daughters, Leslie was a worker before she was a child. Even if she had dreams of exploring her creativity, she had to set down her art materials to pursue marketing. Because of the country’s inefficient government and economy, she had to become her family’s financial benefits and source of health insurance coverage.
It’s not unfamiliar that most Filipino children unwittingly become retirement plans for their parents. At a young age, they are grilled into becoming a lawyer, doctor, or enter companies that pay the best. But when he was a young boy, Leslie framed and hung her son Alphons’ amateur coffee-stains paintings and charcoal sketches on the walls of their house with pride.
Alphons was never pressured to give up on his art dreams and went on to study Visual Communication at UP Diliman and build a career as a Creative Director.
Despite Leslie unable to pursue any artistic dream, with hard work and great sacrifice, she crafted a torch and navigated her way through life’s dark cave to lead her family. As the years passed, despite the wounds from the rough surfaces, she herself became light. Even if the pandemic hit their household in its own pernicious way, and the burdens nestled on her back like Sisyphus’ boulder, she still kept a firm grip on the torch. But the years in the cave were catching up to her. Quarantine and isolation made her think about the tick of the clock. What have I achieved? What is there left for me? What can I still do?
Eventually, Leslie decided to take a turn into a different tunnel. With a child’s dream, a small white canvas, and a few bottles of acrylic paint, Leslie started her first-ever painting at 48 years old. It was unfamiliar territory. But soon, she realized she was not alone as Alphons helped her hold the torch for this new learning journey. Soon, mother and son would shine on the new possibilities for both of them and the entire family.
Art became Leslie’s light in the cave as she made her way to 50. And even if it was her way of finally pursuing her own personal dream, she still held the torch for others. Leslie thought of how her art could also benefit the people she loved. Thus, Leslie Galerie was born—an online platform for anyone to engage with and purchase her work, to which all proceeds go to her sister’s cancer treatment and medication.
For Mother’s Day this 2022, Leslie Galerie hopes to honor all mothers—from those a little bit lost as they start their own personal journeys to those who want to look back to look forward. A mother’s journey is precious, like a gemstone that glistens amid the rocks.
Every year is a chance for self-exploration. Every year is a chance to find the treasure in our caves. It will never be easy, but we try and try. But the failures and triumphs are what make life a golden journey.
Phonsie: My Golden Universe
As a young boy, Alphons Castañeda had always been surrounded by art. Having grown up with a watercolor artist grandfather, he eventually found himself walking down the creative path and took up Visual Communications in the College of Fine Arts at UP Diliman. Exposure to art early one had its own dilemmas. Alphons was exposed to the different mediums and tried his hand out with most of them—from the familiar watercolor paints to the much more modern digital art. He found himself afloat and exposed to infinite possibilities.
My Golden Universe follows Alphons and his journey through the vastness of art, to realms fresh and exciting. Despite his already abundant creative knowledge, there is still so much for him to see until he finds that signature style—that world he can call his own.
Leslie: My Golden Era
Leslie Castañeda came into the art scene quite late at 48-years-old. Already with a growing sense of creativity, she decided to try her hand in the fluid painting medium. Through practice and effort guided by her son, Alphons, she honed her skills. This newfound passion eventually became a way for her to meditate through the trying times of the pandemic. With much encouragement from her family, Leslie Galerie was soon established, an online platform for her to further learn and grow as an artist.
To showcase her personal evolution, Leslie—after two years—reflects on her journey as a mother, woman, and artist. My Golden Era presents a mother at 50-years-old finally pursuing a childhood dream and artistic catharsis.
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