FEBRUARY 22, 2020

Our lips are sealed

BY FIEL ESTRELLA
PHOTOS COURTESY OF AYALA MALLS

From love confessions to self-affirmation, people of all ages and backgrounds shared their unspoken words — and Issa Barte turned them into art.

The thing that’s most complicated about love is that it’s hard to express — defining it is personal and arbitrary, and saying it out loud once you’re done trying to put it to words is even harder. It’s especially scary to put yourself and your feelings out there when there are consequences. You never know how a person might react, less so when they might leave your life altogether. The things we never got to say vary to many degrees, but in the end they’ll always amount to just one meaning: What if?

Ayala Malls asked shoppers to submit the unspoken words that they wish they could express, and the responses spoke volumes. Winners received cinema tickets and the chance to have their one-liners turned into visual art by Issa Barte, who has made a name for herself as an illustrator of as-told-to personal stories. The works have then been displayed in art exhibits, which are open to the public until February 23 in Ayala Malls Circuit, Glorietta, Greenbelt, Fairview Terraces, Ayala Malls Feliz, TriNoma, Ayala Vertis North, and Abreeza Mall.

In this interview, Issa Barte talks about the Unspoken Words project, recurring themes she’s found in the messages, and some unspoken words of her own.

Can you tell us about the Unspoken Words partnership with Ayala Malls and how it came about?

[They] reached out to me, and it was an obvious yes once I heard about the plans! I’ve strayed a bit away from the submission series because of my work with my non-profit project, but this was a way to get back to something I love. To give back to the people who have supported my work since the beginning.

You’re already quite known for turning anonymous personal stories into art. What sets this particular project apart from your usual work?

This is the first time anyone will see my work exhibited. All my pieces have only ever been online, aside from my clothing line with Human. But to see it in real life in all its simplicity is such a crazy dream. There is truly power in sharing our stories, so to see it in all its physicality is truly overwhelming.

What recurring themes and sentiments have you observed in the unspoken words people have submitted?

The most adamant piece have the sentiments of talking of something they don’t have — whether it be in missing the chance to have said something when they could, pondering upon a relationship that doesn’t exist, or wondering about a current relationship now. Unspoken for a reason, right? But this is why I try to tell people how powerful it is when you make that choice to be vulnerable. That vulnerability doesn’t necessarily mean giving your power away, but a narrative to show how you’re brave enough to trust someone with the most intimate and tender pieces of you.

What is it about the feelings and people we hold dear that makes them perfect for turning into art?

It’s truly in showing how anyone can connect. Strangers from oceans away can relate to each other just from a few lines and a stroke of a pen. How wild.

Do you have any unspoken words of your own?

It’s quite a funny thing that people believe I have all these things figured out — Instagram has made it seem like a life of glitter. But I’m still a kid who still has a lot to work on, I still need to find the balance between my communal and personal art. For unspoken words, I feel I’m on the right track, not yet at my destination. And that’s okay. It’s been quite a beautiful adventure.

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