Artist’s exhibit at EdCC asks: What’s the meaning behind a name?

“Vassal Republic” at Edmonds Community College challenges viewers to check their assumptions.

“Jamal When He Loved Me” is part of an exhibit by Seattle artist Romson Regarde Bustillo at Edmonds Community College’s art gallery.

“Jamal When He Loved Me” is part of an exhibit by Seattle artist Romson Regarde Bustillo at Edmonds Community College’s art gallery.

The works by Seattle artist Romson Regarde Bustillo, now on exhibit at Edmonds Community College, asks its audience to consider: What’s in a name?

“Art is information as much as it is something inexplicable,” Bustillo said. “When we look at it, we have an emotional and a visceral reaction, but it is not removed from the way we’ve been conditioned to process information.”

His work entitled “Jamal When He Loved Me” is one example. It’s tied to how names can be interpreted depending on their context, he said.

That name — Jamal — is not uncommon in the Spanish-speaking and African-American communities and is relatively common and popular in Muslim communities, he said.

“It’s a masculine Arabic name meaning ‘beauty,’ ” he said. “In my childhood, I knew numerous people who were Jamals.”

But the meanings associated with a name can shift depending on politics, what’s in the news or in a movie, he said.

“And that in some cases can have rather dramatic impacts on how they’re perceived — good and not so good.”

Bustillo was born in the Philippines. In 1978, he and his family immigrated from Mindanao Island to Seattle.

Now 47, his studio is in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood. He teaches at the Pratt Fine Arts Center and the Seattle Art Museum.

He has travelled widely, including trips through western Europe, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central America and Kenya.

He said he feels gifted to have his name, which he said he’s often asked about. Romson is a shortened version of Romero’s son, Regarde is his mother’s family name and Bustillo his father’s.

The 13 works in the Edmonds Community College gallery exhibit will remain on display through Dec. 7, some recent and some dating to 2011.

The name of the exhibit, “Vassal Republic,” continues this theme of word, mental and visual associations.

“Among a list of considerations, I’m exploring the role of homage and allegiance in our lives,” he said.

Citing the Magna Carta as one example, he said when the vassals have managed to assert themselves, “then change does happen.”

Bustillo said he hopes that the exhibit can affect those who see it and that they reconsider their thinking.

“One of the things I would ask is that I hope people consider how they translate information,” he said.

An artist’s reception is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 16.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

If you go

What: Romson Regarde Bustillo’s “Vassal Republic”

When: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 7

Where: Edmonds Community College’s art gallery, Lynnwood Hall, 20212 68th Ave. W, Lynnwood

Cost: Free

More: 425-640-1459 or

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