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The creative women of Guam

Art Therapy By Donna Hope Blas

For centuries, women were deprived of the chance to become professional artists or to study under famous artists. It wasn’t until a father taught his daughter art in the late 16th century and the rest is history. Thank you, Fontana family.

Women have since flourished artistically.

In CHamoru, “imbentibu” means “inventive” or “creative,” and famalao’an, “woman.” Hence the title of the all-woman art show at the Lees-Reyes Art Gallery in Tumon Sands Plaza.

The Imbentibu Famalao’an II art show ran from June 4 to 28.

Featured artists include Alliyah Ducay, Andrea Borja, Cheyanne Atole, Chie Numano, Devavani Lawrence, Donna Birn & Julia Birn, Donna Perron, Dorathina Herrero, Elena Jackson, Gleannie Pere, Gretchen Sagan, Jamie Masangkay, Jannette Samson, Kanani Crisostomo, Linda Frank, Madison Orland, Maila Pujol, MJ Wolborsky, Maria Sol Duenas Marques, Mar-Vic Cagurangan, Nanette Senior, Olivia Newman, Olympia Terral, Rose Marie Siguenza, Sylvie Pool Alvarez, Tara Sood, Tatiana Lupik, Tonya McDaniel, Ubeng Fabro-Torres, Veroni Sablan, Vikki Fong, Yeon Sook Park, Tejrina Kelly and Dawn Lees Reyes, the gallery’s owner.

From left, Ubeng Fabro-Torres, Julia Birn, Donna Birn, Vikki Fong, Sylvia Pool Alvarez, Tara Sood, Nanette Senior, Olympia Terral, Rose Marie Siguenza, Tonya McDaniel, Dawn Lees-Reyes, Madison Orland, Yeon Sook Park, Jannette Samson.

I met some of these beautiful souls at the opening. The work selection covers a vast array of art forms such as paintings, sculptures, assemblages, found objects and natural fibers.

Let me tell you about some of the artists.

Donna (Borja) Birn and Julia Birn are the mother-and-daughter tandem in the show. Donna has the largest paintings on display. While in California, she painted Jinapsan Beach from memory. Julia Birn studied biology in college but her heart is in art. Well, I’m not going to spoil it, but her wood carvings are a must-see.

Dorathina Herrero is a magical soul. Her artwork is heartfelt and whimsical. I cannot say enough about her art.

Elena Jackson is a self-taught artist. You would never believe that she just picked up a brush and started painting. Her color-blending technique is phenomenal. She’s been painting for only a couple of years.

Jamabeva "Jamie" Masangkay specializes in portraits and naturescapes. She captures our favorite island scenes in her acrylic paintings.

Tejrina Kelly discovered a love for ceramic art and sculpture in 2014, and continues to refine her style and techniques.

Ubeng Fabro-Torres’ watercolor artwork is intricately done. I especially loved her floral paintings. She is an art teacher at Bishop Baumgartner Memorial School.

Jannette Samson wants to be an art teacher, too. She created a cool signature design that she puts on canvas, accessories and clothing. Her paintings are divine.

Rose Marie Siguenza is a talented local photographer, who captures the beauty of people and our island landscape She even created her own flower headdress, indigenously known as “mwarmwar.”

Sylvie Pool Alvarez is a three-dimensional artist, specializing in sculptures and ceramic work. She is from the Seychelles Islands. Her sculptures are very realistic.

Tonya McDaniel creates dreamy paintings— rendered in gouache—with flowers and folk themes. Simply magical!

Yeon Sook Park’s artwork is displayed throughout the island. At the art opening, she wore a colorful traditional Korean dress, worn for special occasions.

Tara Sood’s oil paintings document the Japanese traditions of clay art. Her style looks European. You’d think you were back in a period of time when the great artists walked the earth.

I would write you to the moon and back about all these women, but I’ll stop here and encourage you go to the Lees-Reyes Art Gallery to walk through the Imbentibu Famalao’an II art show.

Donna Hope Blas is a restoration and 3-D artist. She is a certified therapeutic art life coach and entrepreneur. She was born and raised on Guam. Send feedback to

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