My work explores psychological and socio-political themes surrounding liminal identity, cultural assimilation, and the Filipino/a diaspora, tempered by my experience as a Filipina immigrant living in the United States. Since childhood, I have moved repeatedly within my native and adoptive country. These migrations created not only geographic shifts, but also an intricate familial and personal disconnect interposed with cultural fusion and perplexity. As a result, I explore themes of transition, variant multiples, repetitive layer, and inexplicable ruptures. Interlaced within these notions, oxymoronic concepts play significant roles: assimilation and repudiation, reductive and additive, permanence and temporality, and the complicit relationship between colonizer and colonized.
In my current work, I navigate through the colonial history of the pineapple in the Philippines, the native’s appropriation of piña fiber, and its relationship with the idea of “Maria Clara” (a mestiza character from Jose Rizal’s novel, Noli me Tangere). Originally, Spain introduced the pineapple to the Philippines (from another colony); now, the Philippines is the world’s largest pineapple producer. Piña fiber—extracted from leaves and woven with organza—became an ingredient in traditional, upper-class Filipina women’s clothing known colloquially as “Maria Clara.” The “Maria Clara” evolved into a symbol of Philippine ideals of beauty and status, accompanied by stereotypes of chastity, demureness, light skin, and passivity. Today, popular Philippine concepts regarding beauty and status center on the normalization of skin-whitening products and championing of imported goods. My work presents and challenges the displacement and inferiorization of native ideals by the colonizer, signified by clothing made from a foreign fruit. Through the process of repetitive layering and a palette evoking skin tones, I utilize the tactility of specific materials such as image transfers on synthetic organza to extract and repudiate these imposed ideals and stereotypes—material remnants intertwined with cultural legacies.