EXCLUSIVE: When Heart Evangelista And Brandon Boyd Met
When the movie star meets the rock star, and it’s all about art and creative harmony
“There’s something about the look in your eyes
Something I noticed when the light was just right
It reminded me twice that I was alive
and it reminded me that you’re so worth the fight
“My biggest fear will be the rescue of me
Strange how it turns out that way, yeah
Could you show me dear
Something I’m not seeing
Something infinitely interesting.”
—“Echo” by Incubus
They couldn’t be more different. One is a fashion star, an established actress, and an art world darling who is never ever out of the public eye. Another is a rock star/surfer who defies the stereotype of the party-hard rocker. Heart Evangelista was a teen star turned young dramatic actress whose every heartache has played out in public like a nationwide soap opera; but whatever controversies may assail her, she is impeccably turned out and flawlessly fashionable. Brandon Boyd is a certified rock star and has been the lead singer and one of the songwriters of the legendary Incubus, but without the rock star tabloid fodder; his fashion signature is a loose white singlet. Perhaps the closest he came to a celebrity cliché was dating supermodel and Estée Lauder spokesperson Carolyn Murphy, but their relationship was so scandal-free and low-key that most people probably found out about it when it was over.
So when it was announced that Heart Evangelista (or Love Marie Ongpauco-Escudero, as she is known as a painter) and Brandon Boyd were set to collaborate on an art project, the internet went viral but most people were puzzled. And the images of Brandon giving Heart a piggyback ride just like in a classic K-drama intrigued people even more. What was really behind this odd couple?
In the Moonlight
We all know that many people dealt with quarantine and being cooped up with arts and crafts projects. So when the Moonlight Arts Collective , a congenial and collegiate approach to collaborating on art projects, was launched in mid-2021, it may have appeared to be a pandemic passion project. But Brandon has always traveled with sketch books and art supplies when he tours with his band Incubus, and has even released several collections of his works. Eliza Jordan of whitewall.art wrote: “As a musician, he may seem to most as a master of lyric and language, sound and tune, but he’s long since been expanding his vocabulary to communicate with more than just words… Boyd has been a practicing artist for as long as he was a musician, if not longer. This act of expression through multi-faceted channels bled into his personal and professional lives, leading him to create emotionally intelligent songs and artworks that resonate with millions around the world. Some of Boyd’s early works from his twenties and thirties were sketches and paintings in journals created while touring, in anthologies such as White Fluffy Clouds, in 2013, From the Murks of the Sultry Abyss in 2007, and So The Echo, in 2013.”
Moonlight Arts Collective seeks other artists who “moonlight“ as visual artists while keeping full-time careers in the entertainment industry, and its mission is to provide signed limited edition prints at an approachable price.
When Heart and Brandon sit down and chat with us, it is revealed that both of them began their art practices as children. (It turns out they are not that different, after all!)
Brandon recalls, “I remember being a kid and not being able to talk about what I was feeling, and my mom would give me a pad of paper and crayola and say, draw it. Draw what you’re feeling. My mom was a singer, she was onstage too but she was also a painter, and now I see it in my brother’s kids and my sister’s too, so it must be genetic. They are so creative.”
Heart shares her own childhood artistic adventures. “I remember the movement from frustration and anger to pride and joy. My mom would be mad at me, and I would get a red crayon and draw all over her walls, and instead of her getting more mad, she would end up saying, ‘Wow, it’s so nice!’”
“You can really tell that you’ve been painting your whole life. There’s a confidence and effortlessness in your work that I see,” Brandon says reflectively and earnestly. Heart affirms, “Oh yes, I’ve been painting since I was a little girl.”
They also share the experience of art as both refuge and spark of the creativity that underlies their more public showbiz careers. When asked to speak more about the juxtaposition of the solitary nature of painting and the chaotic and collaborative nature of the entertainment industry, both are eloquent and effusive of how art keeps them sane.
Asked to recall the journey behind their shared artwork, Heart says, “I was not expecting someone to message me about my art. People always call me about what I wear. Nobody really asks me what my soul is for. I was really surprised and as artists, I think it’s so beautiful when we can invite people to express their individuality.”
Brandon then chimes in, “I don’t remember who told me about your art, oh, my girlfriend Sarah (recently retired ballerina and actress Sarah Hay) recommended that I look at your work.” Heart then coos, “Oh Sarah, you’re my best friend!”
“And initially I was really blown away at how effortless your work is; it looks like you’ve been painting your whole life to me and at the same time, I could see some influence of the Art Nouveau of the turn of the century,” enthuses Brandon. “Which I really love and that’s why I was attracted to it. I saw some of the same influences, the flow, and I was really enamored of your color choices! Really, really gorgeous, yup!”
Visibly touched, Heart goes, “Aww, you really appreciate it.”
They then elucidate on what the balance of art and showbiz does for them.
Brandon answers, “I would just like to say that there’s something wonderful about having a career where lots of people pay attention, lots of people sing the words of your song, and want to come to the concerts over and over again, and grow up with the music but with that there comes the awareness that there’s a lot of scrutiny, a lot of eyes on you all the time. I think that, just for me, I needed that respite. If I didn’t have a creative practice that was quiet, and kind of like insular, in a room that was just me, I’d probably go a little nuts. And I was painting [ever] since I can remember since I was a child but when more things got more busy but more chaotic and more successful with our band Incubus, the more and more I wanted to paint, the more I needed that respite from the noisy part of my life, the busy part of my life. As much as I love it, I also need time away from it. And so painting and expressing myself on canvas became really necessary, and I learned to love them both for different reasons.”
Heart agrees completely and adds, “For me, aside from the fact that in the Philippines, everyone is really conservative—it’s very strict, lots of rules and parental guidance—and also being in showbiz where people feel that people own you, I was never being able to do something just for me, to express myself. I mean, I’m not complaining but I lived between the words ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ and that was pretty much it for the longest time. You can’t cut your hair, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. And when I was going through this really bad time in my life, [dealing with] anxiety and depression, everything was under construction and I was on reset, and I realized, [art] was my saving grace.”
In losing herself in art, she found herself; and her art has even become a pillar of her mental health advocacy. “I was able to rediscover something that I knew I had but wasn’t able to put much attention to. And when I started to paint openly and not care about what people said, even if they did appreciate my art or not, it was pivotal for me. I just permanently changed. I changed how I look at my work, what’s work and what’s not work, what I can do for myself. I feel that I am at peace, and I have this secret world, like a back door that nobody can go to. It’s just me and my art and how I want to express myself and that’s very magical, in a way. With social media, everything is out there. Plus I have my YouTube channel. But I think it’s important that everyone has their own world. I love talking about it now. Lots of people out there are depressed and anxious but they don’t know much about themselves but they think they do; so it’s time to step inside and rediscover yourself even before you launch yourself out into the world.”
The art of making art
The curse and the blessing of art is that it’s never done. When asked what new media and fields of art are the most intriguing for them, or that they are longing to explore, Heart and Brandon are on a roll.
Heart goes first and reveals, “I want to try sculpture. I know it’s hard, you have to massage it and make sure there are no bubbles inside so it doesn’t crack and bubble. I really want to do that. (To Brandon) You can do that here!” (She is referring to Brandon’s yurt/studio.)
Brandon doesn’t need to be convinced, “Yes, I want to do that. I plan to do that. I’ve also always been interested in film. Growing up in Los Angeles, I'm just surrounded by the industry my entire life. My dad was a struggling actor, my mom was a painter, too, and a singer so she was on stage as well. I grew up in that kind of environment. It just never happened for me. I always thought that if I were to end up in front of the camera, I would be that interesting old man but now it’s sort of shifting towards production and music supervision. Film is an art form that is potentially transcendent, potentially life-changing. When you see the right film at the right time in your life, it can knock you into a different direction. Similarly, when you encounter the right music at the right time in your life, it will change your brain. So that’s another interesting art form to me, among others.”
Heart, the showbiz veteran at such a young age, admits, “There was a time when I wanted to do film. I love being an actress, but I started so young. So when you start young [as you evolve], you want to do something really different. I would like to accept roles that maybe people don’t expect me to.”
Turning the conversation towards their creative processes and how they would begin to characterize them, Heart says, “I think we’re opposites, I like to be extreme.”
Brandon then clarifies, “I hear what you’re saying, and it’s not that I don't create in the extreme but I’ve become fascinated with the interim. Why do we only create in the extreme, when there is so much time in between those poles? There are obviously times when I’ve been inspired or blocked but it’s also a fascinating place because every creative person experiences that; they want to paint or they want to write a song and they just can’t and sometimes you just forget and you get lost in that moment. So for me, it’s become something like not getting lost in that moment. Or I’ll read someone else’s work or go jump in the ocean. I’ve been learning, at 45 years old, that inspiration is ever present, that it’s always there, it’s almost divine, it’s everywhere, all the time, all at once. It’s us that gets in the way. Our perceptions of it get in the way. That’s what I’ve been kind of obsessed with.”
“Well, I have to learn that. I still have to learn that,” Heart admits.
When asked what they thought was the most surprising aspect of the collaboration, Heart admits: “I never thought I would jump on a plane smack in the middle of a pandemic. I feel very blessed and privileged to see his work in person. And I was very excited and happy to see him put his magic on my painting.”
And we are the ones surprised when Brandon confesses, “When I first unrolled it, there was a certain nervousness. That moment of, ‘This is really beautiful, what if I mess it up’ kind of a feeling. I just had to start moving, just start pushing paint around. I do quite love where it landed. It still feels like it’s your piece, and I just sort of put a little dance on it but it's still very much your work.”
Heart then has a spontaneous idea, “You know what I would do? I would cut up captions and put stuff on it.” Brandon gets exactly what she’s saying and says, “Like, give it some dimension? Yeah, yeah, we should do it, we should do more.”
Prodded to reveal if there are any more collaborations coming, Heart replies almost coyly: “It’s a process, we have many years to live, so we can’t say we’re not doing more.”
Knowing that both artists do have a public platform, we wanted to know if they would consider becoming advocates for art therapy or for being advocates for arts issues, such as more public funding for art, placing more arts teachers back in public schools and other causes or arts adjacent activism.
Brandon’s eyes light up and he quips, “Did you say arts adjacent activism? I’m not exactly sure what that means! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it but I love the idea of art as therapy. I know that for me it’s been very therapeutic and I never intended for art to be therapeutic. I’ve always just done it and it felt right, like walking in the same direction as the wind. I think there’s been a happy byproduct of learning how to paint. It feels like I’ve come out of a trance when I’ve been painting for many, many hours!" Heart knows the feeling and adds, “And you don’t even feel like you’ve been painting for many, many hours!”
Brandon elaborates further, “It’s like you’ve gone nowhere but you’ve also traveled really far and you’ve done something and you went off into the ether for a while and you came back and you brought a diamond, and where did this come from? It’s a wonderful feeling. So personally, I’ve seen the effect on people who don’t even consider themselves artists to just have the permission or opportunity, the space or the resources to move paint onto canvas.”
Heart then says with conviction, “Everyone is an artist, they just don’t know it yet or maybe they’re just too shy to say it. Like, people might think that they’re just saying it to be cool.”
More than a woman
The most obvious parallel in Heart and Brandon’s work is that their subjects are mostly women. But they both claim that there’s no real deep reason behind it.
Brandon says, “I’m sure there are echoes of cultural happenings and cultural upheavals in my work. But I rarely know what I’m trying to say while I'm doing it. Even with songs, you just go for it.”
Heart doesn’t choose to overanalyze her work, either. “There’s just this rush. I care about what’s going on (in the world) but I don’t really let it affect what I do. I just paint. I love painting women. And I feel that empowers women,” she confesses.
Brandon does admit, “There’s some corollary to that divine feminine, and understanding that complexity, and [I am] attempting to understand that.”
“Oh, women are very complicated,” Heart remarks. “I am trying!” says Brandon.
Trying to investigate further, we ask the basic question of who their biggest influences as artists and creatives are.
Brandon says, “There are countless artists who have inspired me. I do remember very clearly being very young and falling asleep on the floor, listening to my grandfather play his guitar, and it was mesmerizing. He would be gently plucking his nylon string guitar and singing to us in Spanish and I remember being fascinated that he knew how to do that. And I know that it did something to me and my brothers. My mom painted and sang, I know that had an indelible effect on me… and I could go on forever and ever. Those are the inception moments for me.”
On the whole pandemic experience, Brandon reveals, “As weird and hard as the last year has been, it feels longer. As weird and as hard and as complex as it’s been, there’s a part of me that has learned to cherish the inability to go anywhere and sit still. I do have a very busy mind and I like to plan and make things and love to travel… and that stuff I do miss. But I have learned to cherish being still. And be kind of quiet. And that has intersected with thoughts of having a family and growing my own food and homesteading in a way. Definitely still want to tour, I love doing music live but I don’t think we can physiologically travel the way we do. The music we are doing is better, it’s more informed, the concerts we do play, they mean more. So it means more.”
As the interview winds down, and it’s time to move on to taking photos, we eavesdrop some more on the two artists. Brandon tells Heart, “I almost didn’t want to touch it. There were parts that I knew were so beautiful and I couldn’t touch it. So, I saw some faces without eyes and I just went in there. More eyes, more lines, and just let it evolve.”
He then has a flash of genius, and proposes an idea, “At some point, let’s do a paint trade! You do something for me and I’ll do something for you!”
Heart is still staring at their shared canvas when she almost whispers, “It’s so beautiful! I would love to do that, paint something for you! Tell me what you want. I’ll paint right now, if you want.”
They both laugh and Brandon starts to roll up the canvas. Heart then says, “You can really tell how someone feels about your art by the way they handle it.” Brandon then smiles and as he is about to put the canvas into its container, he signs the tube with flair and flourish, with love and care.
“There’s something about the way you move
I see your mouth in slow motion when you sing
More subtle than something someone contrives
Your movements echo that I’ve seen the real thing
“Your biggest fear will the rescue of you
Strange how it turns out that way, yeah
“Could you show me dear
Something I’m not seeing
Something infinitely interesting.”
—“Echo” by Incubus
Cover story by Leah Puyat
Photography by Martin Romero
Videography by Bria Cardenas
Art Direction by Raff Colmenar
Sittings Editor and Styling by Kat Cruz-Villanueva
Hairstyling by Ghil Sayo
Produced by Justin Convento and Raul Manzano
Special thanks to Jen DiSisto and Pietro Truba of Moonlight Arts Collective