Maia Cruz Palileo reinterprets pre-colonial history in solo exhibit

The artist. Photo by Jeremy Tauriac

The artist. Photo by Jeremy Tauriac

“Meandering Curves of a Creek” is Maia Cruz Palileo’s first solo institutional exhibition, comprised of a selection of recent paintings and drawings that continue the artist’s ongoing exploration of her personal identity, cultural heritage and feelings of multiplicity as a Filipino-American.

This body of work traces a direct lineage to the ethnographic photographs of Dean C. Worcester, an American zoologist turned Secretary of the Interior who traveled to the Philippines at the turn of the nineteenth century. Palileo unearthed Worcester’s dehumanizing images in Chicago’s Newberry Library during the summer of 2017, and in turn used these photographs as a point of creative departure for transposing a bygone past into an intimately imagined world where history, myth, and superstition intersect.

In creating these works, Palileo also looked to Damián Domingo’s watercolors of people living in Manila during the 1820s, and Isabelo De Los Reyes’s 1889 manuscript “El Folk-lore Filipino,” a collection of texts which debased the fraught assertion that the Philippines lacked civilized culture prior to Spanish colonization. Domingo and De Los Reyes, two important figures in Filipino culture, presented a mindful image constructed through native eyes.

Palileo’s balance of influences—between external projection and native introspection—mirrors the disjointed hybridity that she feels when asked about her Filipino-American identity. Although the narratives within her paintings and drawings do not portray real events, they marry the past and the present via a subdued unveiling of mysterious legacies. In this way, the exhibition reflects an attempt to shed light on the stories lost to colonialist erasure and subsequent waves of migration.

‘Lover at Woodland Creek (Bat's Land),’  2018 Oil on canvas over panel, 52 x 62"

‘Lover at Woodland Creek (Bat’s Land),’ 2018
Oil on canvas over panel, 52 x 62″

Equal parts magic realism and historical record, “Meandering Curves of a Creek” weaves a poignant history that meanders between fiction and non-fiction. The artist’s acid greens and yellows symbolize the lush tropical landscapes of the Philippines, while her deep hues of blues and reds capture the sun slipping into nocturne. Palileo literally cut and drew her depicted figures and objects from Worcester’s photographs, prior to placing them into various arrangements that are then recorded through graphite rubbings. This process not only allows for a potentially infinite number of newly composed visual narratives, but more importantly liberates Worcester’s subjects from the contexts that were forced upon them. By producing these works, Palileo reinterprets the past while harnessing the essence of oral stories passed down from one generation to the next.

Palileo is a multi-disciplinary, Brooklyn-based artist. Migration and the permeable concept of home are constant themes in her paintings, installations, sculptures, and drawings. Influenced by the oral history of her family’s arrival in United States from the Philippines, as well as the history between the two countries, Maia infuses these narratives using both memory and imagination. When stories and memories are subjected to time and constant retelling, the narratives become questionable, bordering the line between fact and fiction, while remaining cloaked in the convincingly familiar.

Maia is a recipient of the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Program Grant, Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, NYFA Painting Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Award and the Astraea Visual Arts Fund Award. She received an MFA in sculpture from Brooklyn College, City University of New York and BA in Studio Art at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts.

The solo show features new paintings and drawings, and will be curated by Vivian Chui. It runs from May 17 to July 8, 2018. It will be on view in the second floor gallery at Pioneer Works at 159 Pioneer Street, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

(C) The FilAm 2018

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