Self Portraits from “Fil-Am Road” Exhibition

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This self-portrait is titled, “Stand in My Place: A Guerrilla Self-Portrait” (24 x 36 in., oil, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2018).  It is both a repudiation and a provocation the cheap currencies of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny peddled by the Trump regime from my perspective as a person of color, an immigrant , and a woman, specifically a Pinay (Pilipina American).

This self-portrait is titled, “High Line Dreaming: A Portrait of Crossings” (24 x 30 in., oil, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2019). It is a meditation on the state of impermanence and in-betweenness—temporally and spatially, physically and metaphysically—that I occupy as a 1.5 generation immigrant and Pilipina American.

“Stand in My Place: A Guerilla Self-Portrait” and “High Line Dreaming: A Portrait of Crossings” were part of the exhibition “Fil-Am Road” at Karenderya in Nyack, New York in 2019 and represent my personal perspective of an external object at a specific point in time.

Echoing the exhibition’s themes, both portraits reflect the inextricableness of my personal history and identity from Pilipino American history and postcolonial legacies. Among the recurring signifiers are the native flora (gumamelas, sampaguitas, orchids, and birds of paradise) that emerge from a collage of American brands ubiquitously consumed for generations in the Philippines, from Del Monte, to SPAM, to Coca-Cola, to Ivory soap (also signifying the persistence of the “white ideal” and our continued mis-education in the white supremacist tradition).

Streets paved with gold represent one of the legacies of colonialism—reducing us to a nation of exporters (of the raw materials and labor demanded by the empire) and ardent subjects who persist in believing America’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, despite generations of nuanced experiences in this country.

Finally, the Apayao tapis skirt I wear in both paintings is a depiction of one that was gifted to our family by the grandmother of one of my yayas, Manang Esby. It serves as a reckoning for the international mining concerns that have driven out Philippine indigenous peoples from their tribal lands, as well as for upper middle class families like mine who relied on the domestic labor of impoverished and displaced Cordillera peoples and were often complicit in a system that concentrated power and wealth in the hands of the few, perpetuating the same winners and losers in society.

For further reflections on (post-)colonialism, immigration, and activism, head over to medium.com/hyffeinated and read the essay, “The Art of Change: A Portrait of a Belated Activist.”