Journey as an artist
Glenn’s art is fundamentally grounded on the principles of the Christian faith, due in great measure to his being raised in, as he would say, “my old folks’ religion”. Much of his work is permeated with religious symbolism reflective of a deep personal piety. His early paintings dwelt on commonplace objects infused with Christian symbols and images.
But while he started as a painter of portraits and religious subjects in the mid-1960s, Glenn through the years has produced works that explore diverse themes, forms and media. They bear marks of his sojourns, either to remote places in the Philippines or farther westward to the US, Spain, Germany or other parts of Europe, or inward to his inner light.
The turning point in his journey as an artist came in 1964 when, at the young age of 17 and encouraged by his father, Glenn participated in the International Christmas Art Competition sponsored by the New York-based World Literacy and Christian Literature organization. Submitted artworks were to be exhibited at the 1964/1965 World’s Fair in New York. Out of 64 entries from all over the world, Glenn's The Event was declared winner.
Soon afterward he received his check for the prize money and boxes of printed Christmas cards all bearing his artwork. Glenn never looked back since then. He knew painting would be his vocation, and he pursued it with a passion and dedication characteristic only of an artist destined to be a master.
The Event served as the seminal work of Glenn’s art. In his biography, art critic Alice Guillermo writes: “Although Glenn Bautista later turned to other subjects and themes, there always lingered a trace of the religious in his paintings, either visually, as a solitary Christ figure in unfamiliar landscapes, or as a mood in mystical or supernatural atmosphere.”
Many of Glenn’s early artworks dealt with historical subjects, some of which developed from his school plates in UST and UP, produced between 1963 and 1965. One of them is The Complete Poems of Dr. Jose Rizal Monument (1966), a pen-and-ink drawing composed of the complete 39 poems of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and one song, “A Orillas del Pasig”, which was translated into English by Glenn’s late friend, Alfredo Veloso. Rizal Monument was on exhibit for about six years at the Jose Rizal Shrine at Fort Santiago in Manila at the behest of the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
In 1967, Dean Jose Abad Santos of the UP College of Law, together with Atty. Israel Bocobo, commissioned Glenn to do a mural in honor of the late Justice Jorge Bocobo, the fifth president of the University of the Philippines. The mural is on permanent display at the university’s Bocobo Hall where the UP Law Center is located. The Bocobo Mural was reproduced as Philippine postage stamps (15-centavo and 1-peso denominations), now considered rare stamp collector’s items.
In 1968, Glenn represented UP in the 18th Shell National Students Art Competition, where his Fort Santiago bagged the first prize in “On the Spot” Painting. In 1969, Glenn joined the art competition sponsored by the General Emilio Aguinaldo Centennial Commission. His Aguinaldo Mural Portrait won the first prize in the painting contest, which was open to both professionals and students.
Following years of painting religious and historical subjects and a string of group exhibitions, Glenn finally had a chance to mount his first one-man show at the Ateneo Art Gallery in Quezon City, courtesy of curator Emmanuel Torres. Entitled Inscapes, the exhibition was held in August 1969 after his graduation from the UP College of Fine Arts.
Dealing with commonplace subjects, Inscapes marked a new stage of development in Glenn’s art, paving the way for one of his more important works, the Inner Light Series.
A year later, in 1970, Glenn went to the United States as a Crusade Scholar of the United Methodist Church. There he continued his art studies at the Brooks Institute School of Fine Art in Santa Barbara, California.
After two years of study, and upon the invitation of curator Ronald Kuchta, Glenn joined John Cushing and Stephen Samerjan for a Group Art Exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Their show coincided with the retrospective exhibition of Impressionist master Childe Hassam. Glenn's works, which received critical praise, consisted of abstractions in diptychs and triptychs done with the airbrush, one of which, entitled Diptych, is now part of the museum’s art collection. His participation at the group exhibit earned him a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (major in Painting) with honors.
Subsequently, he held shows in New York at the Philippine Consulate and at Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville, he was commissioned to do the “Laskey Mural” in honor of Scaritt College founder, Virginia Davis Laskey. The Crusade Scholarship of the United Methodist Church in New York also commissioned him to do a mural entitled America.
Glenn held shows in Manila upon his return in 1971. His exhibit at Rustan's Galerie Bleue, whose guest of honor was former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, featured “Abstractions” (1970), a wall-size painting executed with the airbrush.
In 1974, Glenn was one of the recipients of the Thirteen Artists Award, a triennial recognition given to emerging artists by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
His 1975 show at the Lor Calma Gallery in Makati marked the beginning of his Inner Light Series, which consisted of 40 artworks in oil, each on a square format of 50.8 cm x 50.8 cm canvas. The Inner Light Series, an extension of his first show dealing with commonplace subjects, explored images of wood, tree trunks, and tree rings. Included in the series was one big piece entitled Woodscape which won the Critics' Choice, an annual selection sponsored by the Ma-Yi Gallery under Susan Calo-Medina.
In 1976, he exhibited yet another series entitled In Search of the Divine at the Sining Kamalig. The presentation was highlighted by a night of music with the Madrigal Singers and poetry readings by Virgie Moreno, Larry Francia, Bobby Cuenca, Betsy Romualdez and Henry Francia.
From 1980 to 1985, Glenn lived in Düsseldorf, Germany where he studied lithography under Professor Rolf Sackenheim at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the Arts Academy of the city of Düsseldorf. Under the able tutelage of a Polish teacher, Maria Buras, Glenn mastered the lithographic process of printmaking. Kunstakademie also accorded Glenn the rare opportunity to spend time with and learn from the distinguished and influential, yet controversial, German artist Joseph Beuys.
While in Germany, Glenn also produced other works outside the walls of the arts academy. The Philippine Consulate in Düsseldorf, through Honorary Consul Karl Heinz Stockheim, commissioned him to do a mural entitled Pilipinas. He also became a guest artist of Galerie Art204 in Rethelstrasse, Düsseldorf where his series entitled Cut-Outs in Paper & Wood, produced in 1985, is on permanent display. Part of the gallery’s permanent collection features works by the masters Feininger, Ernst, Chagall, Dali, Miro and Beuys.