It began as a way of relieving work-related stress. But before long, Desiree Llanos Dee’s doodling turned into a full-on creative passion, spawning punny illustrations on the subjects that most fascinate her: food, stories, the practice of mindfulness, love.
In 2016, in the wake of a bitterly divisive election season on social media, doodling became a way for her to cool the flames – and her Punny Food Series dished out much-needed positivity.
A love-struck, breath-cooling leaf tells the object of its affection, “We’re mint to be together.”
A pair of affectionate green fruits feature in a tight “avocuddle.”
A hyper cup o’ Joe greets everyone an exuberant, “Java good day!”
Last Sunday, August 5, Des launched her first solo exhibit, LET’S BE SILI TOGETHER – a meditation on the things that bring us together: food, laughter and stories. It is also a passionate plea for paying more attention, to become more present in an increasingly distracting and distracted world – to not allow life to pass us by unnoticed and, thus, unlived.
The current Climate Justice Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia and an ardent follower of Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Des calls mindfulness “the new superpower. It’s the tool that allows us to take back our day.”
Divided into three sections – How to Eat, How to Walk, How to Love – “The things we do everyday,” she says, the exhibit showcases watercolor and digital renditions of the pivotal experiences that have shaped her life: A 60-day, 1,500 kilometer walk from Rome to Paris as part of the People’s Pilgrimage – an interfaith initiative to bring attention to the climate crisis; falling in love during that walk with the Slow Food Movement in Italy, which radically transformed her relationship with food and inspired her to eat better and healthier; and encountering the poem Desiderata at an early age, which became her guide to living.
Like a picnic with our favorite humans, the evening was both playful and profoundly satisfying. Guests were greeted by a sign that read, “This is your chance to counter-flow” as an instruction for how to take in the framed art pieces – by mindfully moving through the gallery space counter clockwise. The food table, replete with just-plucked-from-the-vineyard hors d’oeuvres presented in a wild, lush set-up, consistently drew gasps of delight. Providing soul food were five of the artists’ friends, sharing their personal stories on learning how to eat, how to walk and how to love mindfully: Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and with whom Des walked the People’s Pilgrimage; Mench Dizon, tech entrepreneur and Six-Star World Marathon Majors finisher; Dhanvan Saulo, a born vegetarian and food entrepreneur; Mansy Abesamis, crafter and founder of independent store for locally made arts and crafts, Hey Kessy; and Tweet Sering, writer and author of Astigirl.
As if spirits couldn’t be any more lifted, Anj Angeles and Anjo Molina serenaded the crowd with gorgeous acoustic guitar music.
Clearly – and as Desiree had hoped – love was the immense river that ran through the night. “This is for everyone I’ve walked with, eaten with, laughed with. This exhibit is a continuous celebration of our journey and our stories.”
And, finally, “I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey. For every moment and every person who didn’t allow me to play small, but allowed growth to burst forth from every challenge that was presented,”, Des told the crowd of family, friends and colleagues. “It is my humble hope that tonight may soothe ‘yung mga anghang ng buhay na hinaharap natin. May we be reminded to walk, eat and love mindfully.”
LET’S BE SILI TOGETHER runs till August 30, 2018 at Aspace Gallery across Greenbelt, Makati.
Download Let’s Be Sili Together Catalogue.
Photos by Den Llanos Dee Photography