In her more than thirty-year career, the itinerant painter Pacita Abad was known for her colorful paintings, mixed media collages and assemblages. After briefly studying painting in Washington, DC and New York, she traveled the world to more than 80 countries. Abad's journeys and experiences living in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean had a major impact on her artwork, and her subject matter was largely drawn from her personal experiences. In the 1970s and 80s, influenced by Social Realist painters like Ben Shahn, she created figurative political and social documentary paintings of refugees, rural villagers and urban street scenes, and later, mixed media paintings of tribal masks.
Abad’s style changed continuously as she experimented with painting on a wide variety of materials, including prints, pulp paper, bark cloth, ceramics, metal and glass. During the last two decades of her career, she explored abstraction in her three-dimensional “trapunto” paintings. These sculptural painted works include hand-stitched fabric and embellishments, incorporating traditional designs, fabrics, shells, buttons and mirrors. Her last major work, a 55-meter long pedestrian bridge in Singapore which she covered entirely with colorful circle patterns, was completed just a few months before she passed away at the age of 58.