advocates of breast-feeding, and initially the idea was on
Orlina had access to studio glass big enough at least for
a bust and a suckling babe, the technical demands would have
been so complicated and the effort so Herculean as to rule
out a Madonna-and-child theme on practical ground. So baby
had to go. Studio glass is eminently more suited to simple
representational subjects, and what could be simpler than
a part of a woman's anatomy whose appeal is immediate and
breast Orlina exalts is no mere object of voyeuristic prurience
or macho fantasy. Though he makes no bones about its appeal
as an erogenous zone in his new works, there is more to it
than that. They fleetingly recall those stone fragments of
cracked bust, heads and torsos by Scopas, Phidias et al. from
the classical age displayed in museums around the world which
make one wonder whatever happen to their missing parts. In
Orlina's case the breast is no fragment of a larger whole
but the whole itself, and his handiwork stands out in flawless
show Orlina, whose art has heretofore been entirely abstract
and angular, coming to terms with a subject by being true
to its natural appearance - and he reveals it at its prime,
from glorious mound to areola to nipple. The result is all
the more seductive for being life like and life-size, or in
some instances bigger than life-size.
say it is "realistic" is to miss the point. "Idealized" better
describes what "Ning-Ning" is about: a hymn to every woman
generously endowed by nature. It is also a salute to the curve
and the sphere as with an eye to perfection of form and the
finish. The result is often astonishingly physical. No need
to harp on its erotic aspect: it is there verifiable by touch
with a palpable immediacy possible only in sculpture, which
affords a more satisfying illusion of life than painting as
Galatea's Pygmalion well knew.
of sculpture in fifth-century Athens would have had no difficulty
recognizing Orlina's prodigious skill in homage to a part
of woman's physiognomy. But he would have been bemused by
the way Orlina has opted not to take the whole nude female
figure as object of contemplation but to isolate instead a
part from the whole and make a fetish out of it. He would
have been equally bemused to see, in most cases, not breast
coming in pairs of equal size as nature intended but a breast
seen in splendid isolation or juxtaposed at odd angles or
back-back with a second or third breast in the same composition.
as it may, Orlina's breast are such buxom and robust clones
that the urge to touch becomes imperative, and not to touch
a venial sin.
as perfect a mimesis of nature as was humanly possible, the
classical sculptor used the ideal material to give body and
soul to the noblest Platonic objectives of classical art:
marble. Its mass, grain and texture are especially responsive
to the artist's mallet and chisel, contributing to that illusionism
highly prized in the Golden Age of classical nude statuary.
But to the classical artist, marble also had another expressive
dimension: its natural "coldness", which perception of the
spiritual in physical beauty. It was surpassed only by alabaster,
a translucent medium.
of its transparent light-reflecting qualities, studio glass
is perhaps a still greater medium in projecting the essential
body/soul dualism of classical nude statuary, enabling Orlina
to go beyond the sensuous into the metaphysical.
it succeeds in a lifelike representation of the female breast,
his art also aspires to another transcendent (the classical
philosophers would say "higher") plane of aesthetic vision
as well. Getting onto this second plane is facilitated by
the nature of Orlina's medium itself, which goes even further
than alabaster in embodying the classical aim mimesis and
spiritualization in sculpting the human figure in the round.
Its transparency dematerializes the subject with the one ambient
element with which the studio-glass artist intimately works
to create a "transcendental' effect - light. Fortunately,
the quality of the cullets the artist is able to get this
time from his one and only source - Republic Glass - is free
from "holes" or "bubbles", so that "Ning-Ning" comes pretty
close to the classical ideal of art as a means to contemplate
Ideal Beauty or Pure Form by cullets free from imperfections.
(If one wishes to nitpick, there are pinholes, but one must
have magnifying for eyeballs to easily spot them).
worldly effect of light striking through the glass combined
with finesse of craftsmanship is what lifts Orlina's idée
fixe from the mundane. The icy monochrome green of studio
glass also endows the mammary image with an aura of unreality,
just as do the abstract planes of concaves and convexes that
form its setting or matrix. Voluptuous as they are, the various
images of the artist's obsession seldom fail to project an
air of nobility or chaste composure.
"Ning-Ning" as a series of variations on a theme is a key
to its enjoyment. The breast rises from the glass block differently
each time. Noticeably only a part of each sculpture - front,
back, or both - is representational; the rest of it is abstract.
In each case, a supple balance is achieved between the image
and its image of irregular, asymmetrical geometric forms.
These forms curvilinear and smoothly rounded at their square
edges and beveled corners, don't clash with the image at all.
Subtly evoking a ridge of shoulder here, a swell of hip or
a ripple of ribcage there, they are made to blend elegantly
each breast may have been inspired by the same model, no two
are exactly alike, as they vary in size and shape ever so
ingeniously or subtly, depending on the refractive ways light
strikes and penetrates glass, as well as the angle from which
one is looking at them. Appreciating them circumferentially
presents surprises in optical illusion, especially in some
pieces that allow a rear view of the breast, seen as "hollow"
from the inside, as it were. Even the monochrome green of
studio glass varies in intensity, from light to deep-sea green.
And not all pieces are totally transparent: some are frosted
while others have both clear and frosted sides, creating different
effect. The image also varies in character or mood: proud,
shy, mysterious, perky, lugubrious, ethereal or whatever.
on the source of light and angle of vision, the first in the
series looks like a giant petal. The second is a back-to-back
double image, one marginally smaller than the other. The fifth
is the profile of a breast, reverse of which is a graceful
labial orifice. The twelfth is a frosted triple image, its
finely grained texture cannily approximating that of a porous
is another double exposure with exposure with a difference:
one is up front, an overt or "positive" image; the other a
covert or "negative" image, formed by the sculpture's concave
back seen through the "positive" side. The whole thing works
like a trick mirror: while the "positive" remains constant
in shape and size, the "negative" gets smaller or larger by
magnification according to how far or how near one is to the
sculpture, or whether one is viewing it frontally or laterally.
In any case, the overt image rising from the front surface
and the covert one submerged behind it undergo the delicate
changes of light and shadow that make studio-glass sculpture
the distinctive visual experience it is. The liquescent chiaroscuro,
ever changing with each shifting of the light source, is a
still photographer's dream.
of the pieces, however, are the epitome of timeless, classic
poise. Two depicting a natural pair of breasts show a touch
of Pop art and attempts at humor. The last in the series No.
XXXI (actually No.XXX, a result of superstitiously avoiding
the number 13 in captioning), is a bosom cupped in a bra (with
lacy embroidery etched on it - looking as it could use some
air) No. XXII is meant to offer comic relief in an otherwise
sober show: a third breast protruding from the back of a bosom
turns out to be a representation of an obscenely outsize rubber
nipple - a satiric poke at bottle feeding. Some may find in
both works perhaps a slackening of imaginative impetus, an
Orlina resorting to gimmickry in place of authentic inspiration.
Others may well think otherwise: both reflect an artist undaunted
to take risk and yet-untried expressive options.
whole, "Ning-Ning" shines forth a virtuoso performance by
an artist in full control of his formidable medium. It also
reinforces a previous assessment that Orlina's craft has reached
a level of excellence that is truly world-class.
September 16, 1990