Elito “Lito” Ballesteros, an acclaimed and well-loved Filipino painter and one of the founders of the New York-based Society of Philippine-American Artists (SPAA), died of congestive heart failure on June 7 at Park Manor Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Middletown, N.Y. He was 68. The grandson of Fernando Amorsolo, Ballesteros grew up with the world-famous Filipino painter in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. He was also an active member of Mason, Gramercy Lodge No. 537. A multi-faceted talent, he had numerous solo and group exhibits in the US.Born on Nov. 24, 1940, Ballesteros had been battling bone marrow cancer for the past year and a half, and was in and out of the hospital for blood transfusion. He was a retired US Navy personnel who served in the Vietnam War from 1960 to 1967 as a steward to a military general. Interment is scheduled June 13 day at Orange County Veterans Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., following an 11 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph Church.
what i learned today:
When i was eleven years old, i wanted to be a painter, a punk rocker and a psychologist.
The summer of that year and several years to come, i spent every wednesday with an older Phillipino man. His name was Lito Ballesteros. Even though he didn't paint stuff i thought was cool, you could see/feel the emotions exude from a still life, you could follow a path of swirling colors to your own heart from an enormous dragonfly. i will probably never express what a hippie i am about painting with emotions again.
i painted some weird stuff when i was in his classes initially. like he'd bring in his old army jump boots. i still have the painting. why i painted disproportional plaid behind it, i will never know. but the boots came out alright. i felt they were perfect at the time. like i felt like i was done painting them. he told me it wasn't finished. IN FACT the plaiddish mess was probably my easy way out. the same way i STILL DO. it honestly just makes it hard to stare at anything other than the boots. it's been in my closet(s) for the better part of 15 years. it's embarrassing how far i've come and i usually keep it hidden, but i had always kept it, b/c it was his boots i'd painted and someday i'd planned on passing it back to him, when i was famous or huge, or even had a minor cult following, just when i'd felt successful maybe, maybe just an 18x24 thank you card.
He taught me what it meant to express myself without blatantly painting how i felt. i didn't need to paint angry images, i could paint angry colors or relieve it through making it symbolic and letting it go, no matter how long it took to complete something. I could paint the full 5 hours just listening to him tell me stories about how he'd traveled and learned more about himself from other people than he could ever realize on his own. He would document movements in his life with symbolism, and color. certain feelings, certain people all had their own representation. amazing logic to let everything go and give it all up on a canvas. like vomiting without all the mess.
Truth is, i've seen him since his classes. which were more about catharsis and army stories and about the funny things he'd seen over the years, than they were about skill building... but anyhow, i'd see him around town, about the supermarket, in the deli, never having the hours i'd needed to catch up. but he'd always nodded to me, the weird little girl who painted fire and chains, and something resembling the little bic guy from the pens, other weird people with weird haircuts. i'd been planning on contacting him about my shows that have now passed, and even 6 months on, i'd always hoped to see him again, never thinking i might not see him, i mean he had to be in his 60's, and there's no way he would move into another plane.
sadly, to my surprise in my search for his email tonight, i find this:
really just punched me in the chest right now. and probably every time i read it.
i'd really meant for so many years to stop by and at least say hello.
maybe get in a couple words of thanks, or even for advice.
but i never did.
i never wanted to intrude.
i would really like to stop by now.
maybe say hello to his wife and tell her how much her husband had inspired me to do what "felt right".
but i think it's a devastating loss, and i wouldn't want to make someone relive that.
i plan to contact the tutubi gallery partner and relay how much he's meant to me over the years.
he was really crazy about these goddamn dragonflies.
maybe that'll be my next animal totem adventure.
after all the dragonfly is the light and color of transformation and the message carrier of wisdom and enlightenment.
thank you mister for allowing me to express my emotions and see through my bullshit.
ps. i have been on a bone marrow donation list since October, 2009.
never one hit on my profile to make me a donor.
i feel a bit like i could have been a matched donor and saved him.
when i read this, i cried. a lot.
fuck you, irony.
Posted by J. Schrufer at 20:46