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Academic Level at Time of Creation
Date of Creation
Paper is a material that is all around us and has been telling stories for centuries, blurring the line between dimensional planes. I began using paper for its obvious function – to draw upon and express thoughts and ideas. Communicating is a vital part of the art process, and the more I drew the more the images and ideas created took on a new function, a new language. I’ve come to realize that drawing is a highly fluid process that resists categorization. I cut and layer paper, drawings, mixed media materials, and 3D elements within my large-scale works, maneuvering multiple drawing techniques and approaches to discover parts of my identity.
When thinking about my identity, I realized an aspect of myself I never felt allowed to be connected with was my Filipino heritage. I am bicultural, being half white and half Filipino. Initially I was disinterested in making work about my culture as I felt like I was participating in the exotification of the Philippines, especially as someone who has no experiences being there. However, it now has become important for me to make work about being Filipino-American because I never knew how to define it and I thought the best way to do so was through creating images I could relate to. The questions of, “Am I Filipino enough to be this? Who am I to know anything about what it means to be Filipino?” constantly arises. Therefore, I’m currently exploring Filipino culture through researching and speaking to those within my family and out who are born Filipino American. Through this, I am able to begin to understand my own identity. I do not want to seem like I am trying to speak for all Filipinos and say, ‘This is what it means to be Filipino!’ I’m only speaking from my experiences and drawing out personal and Philippines/Fil Am history that I find interesting when thinking about bicultural identities. With my drawings and installations I want to both validate who I am to myself, while also creating a form of representation for other FilAms who have trouble with molding into one strict category.
I incorporate references to details and symbols familiar to Filipinos such as food, fashion, family, and folklore. I incorporate aspects like textiles, assemblage, real food, and using found objects to further push the conceptual ideas in my body of work. Depending on the conceptual idea behind a piece, I use colors to represent specific ideas or historical and cultural aspects. For instance, in one of my recent pieces I reference the border from a manuscript called Boxer Codex that was made by the Spanish in the late sixteenth century in the Philippines. This manuscript was made during the late eighteenth century when the Spanish colonized the Philippines, so I reference the flat, bright colors they used in combination with the way I draw and collage contemporarily to give back that power to the Filipina posed within. When it comes to composition, I try to arrange objects and forms in a way that is complex but still accessible to the viewer; so, if I include real food for the viewer to consume or an object to physically take from the work, I position it in a way that they have to get closer to what I want emphasized or they have to look up to a figure while they bend down to pick something up. I also arrange figures and elements so my work has visual movement and a lot of details to look for, as if the viewers must follow along to a map of Filipino culture and discover it as I am doing at the same time. I use a lot of implied lines with where figures I incorporate gaze towards, or with the direct lines and paint marks I apply for the viewer to follow along to. I gravitate to creating large-scale drawings and I do this to focus on the effect that line, color, and negative space have on an idea and how this can be manipulated and directed to successfully relate to the figurative subject matter.
The figures I draw are representational and often include members of my family or myself who pose and interact narratively. I have begun to use myself as a main “Filipina American” character, and ended up developing a bit of a mythology around who the Filipina American is. I’m interested in the idea of including different womanly bodies who personify my American side and my Filipino side, and referencing old photographs to flesh out new meanings. I also use my mother often presented as a woman with a carabao (water-buffalo) head, who represents the positive characteristics of Filipinos as hardworking, strong, and graceful. Additionally I investigate my ancestry through my assemblage drawings and have this belief that the more work I make about family members I never met, the more I can piece together the kind of person they might’ve been. Being aware of my relationships or lack of, with certain family members, definitely impacts the way I view my identity as someone who holds responsibility towards sustaining culture and tradition.
Interaction with the viewer is imperative, as, especially when thinking about my audience where I live in rural America, I want others who are unfamiliar with this culture to feel a connection as well. An artist that influences my work is Leonard Suryajaya who creates installations and large scale scenes that he records and takes photos of. He often puts himself in these pieces as he is also Asian American. I take inspiration from how he sets up his installations to have multiple symbols that relate to both his cultural dichotomy and his sexuality. Another artist I take inspiration from is Maia Cruz Palileo. She is a Filipina American artist who makes large scale interactive installations and paintings. Her installations are often scenes from her childhood or scenes based on stories she heard from her family about migration, and viewers can sit and experience the memories she illustrates. These artists both push me to think about making drawings that incorporate more 3D elements in a way that is accessible to my audience, which I am experimenting with now.
Todd Herzberg, Timothy Martin
A collection of drawings, mixed media pieces, and installation works. Each piece uses charcoal and conte and elements of 2D and 3D assemblages.
Pullen, Kerrie, "Kerrie Pullen ART 399 Digital Commons" (2021). Professional Practices (ART 399). 117.