Influenced by the oral history of the artist’s family’s arrival to the United States from the Philippines, as well as the history between the two countries, Maia Cruz Palileo investigates larger questions pertaining to identity, history, migration, and concepts of time. Infusing narratives with both memory and imagination, Palileo translates diverse materials into a novel formal language to describe a new world of their own making.
This exhibition of new paintings and sculptures stems from research Palileo conducted at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which has one of the largest collections of Filipiniana in the world (comprising the collections of Edward E. Ayer, an American who assembled a vast trove of Phillippine 17th and 18th-century manuscripts upon US victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay in 1898; and the photographic archive of Dean C. Worcester, an influential and controversial figure in the early years of American presence in the Philippines). These varied documents, spanning centuries and cultures, offered a kaleidoscopic vision of the Philippines as seen through numerous eyes, and recalled by Westerners.
Palileo recontextualizes these stories, portraits, and images in an attempt to resuscitate these figures from the exploitative gaze of these ethnographic images. Inspired by Damián Domingo, Palileo’s expressive, gestural paintings imbue a sense of humanity and dignity to the subjects. Palileo integrates historical narratives from the colonial past of the Philippines with stories and memories of life as a Filipinx American growing up in the United States, producing paintings that possess dream-like qualities that hover between fact and fiction. Combining Palileo’s extensive research with narratives of American Imperialism, beginning with the Filipino-American war, and the artist’s own understanding of a fractured and complex past, the work evokes nostalgia and romanticism while critiquing the ramifications of colonization, past and present.