My husband lives behind a mask of mystery. Out of my gazillion friends, only a handful have ever met him and from that handful, very few have ever sat down and actually talked to him. I affectionately call him Snuffle-a-pagus. If you’re a child of Sesame Street, you’ll know what I mean.
Orley is a complicated man. On the surface he seems very solid, very level-headed. He doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical artist. In short he doesn’t have “the look.” No dreadlocks or weird expressive hair (well, kasi no hair na); no surly, brooding, unsmiling, silent and weird personality – only this quiet, and actually quite jovial Cebuano, who’s lived more half of his life in Metro Manila and never lost his “punto.” And he never will. Underneath his “normal” facade is the swirl that powers his art. It’s like a permanent whirpool at sea, always churning, always moving, and its this constant movement under the surface that gives him the illusion of calm and cool.
One thing I had to understand about being married to Orley is this: I will always be the other woman. Art is and will always be his first love. To him it is not a hobby, or something he happened to be interested in and decided to get into – Art is his life, his heart, his soul and his air. In our relationship, Art is a living, breathing entity, and I’ve learned to live with her. Sometimes I’m jealous, because she’s all my husband ever thinks about and is the first thing that comes to mind even in the most important of life events.
For example, when I went into labor, Orley had it in his head to make me sit for an excruciating ten minutes, butt-naked, so he could get nude reference pictures of me and my swollen belly, before he would even take me to the hospital.
We never go on a family vacation to a place where it is not “scenic and paintable.” Never.
When Basti was born, his expression of his joy was to paint. No spouting of flowery words or tears running down flustered cheeks for my husband – a blank canvas and tubes of oil paint will get his blood going more than anything in the world.
I joke about it, but it’s this same drive, this passion for Art that made me fall in love with him. His discipline is amazing. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, being married to an artist is far from romantic. There is no languidly lying around in drapery inspiring him, being a muse, bathed in perfect natural light while soft music plays in the background. It’s hard, hard work; physically draining, mentally challenging but life-fulfilling in so many ways.
We make a good team. We have a good YinYang thing going on. My extrovert complements his introvert, my animation makes up for his perpetual happy-sad-angry-fascinated scowl. He’s not very good with small talk, while for me, it’s an artform in itself. I’ve done his public speaking engagements and I talk to most of his clients and answer most his email.
My husband may not be articulate in words, but he talks to people in other ways. This is the way he communicates struggle:
This is the way he communicates peace:
And this is one of the ways he interprets joy:
People look at his lack of academic art training and say “It’s a miracle! It’s truly a gift!” Yes, it is, but I believe he was given this gift because the Father knew he was not going to waste it. My husband took this talent and hones, works and bleeds for it, and he will never ever take it for granted. Orley is always studying, studying, studying. Even now, when he himself is a teacher, he will never stop being a student of Art.
For a painter’s family, life is not always the easy road. There is hardly any stability for me and Basti, and I’m talking about a lot of aspects – where we live, the money we earn, the emotions we have to deal with and so on. One thing is strong and stable though: my unwavering support for my husband. I believe in his art and I believe in him. It’s really absolutely disgusting how proud I am of Orley.
Yes, Art. As jealous as I am of you, I know you and I have our own space in my husband’s mind and heart. And I know you like me, too. How do I know?