An old bible, I found at a thrift store, is what me got started on “The Word”. It had the same thin, onion-skin-like pages that my mom had in her bibles back in the day. The paper was so light and fragile that it almost floated in the air. The edges of the pages were coated in gold so that the whole book would shimmer like a golden brick when closed.
I thought about how something so beautiful could also be so dangerous. I then grabbed my sharpest X-Acto knife and began cutting the pages away carefully for days until I had hundreds upon hundreds of this gorgeous paper.
I thought that Leviticus 20:13 would be a good place to start, “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
What major gap do you intend to fill or even address with your work “Gap”?
“Gap” is about celebrating sexuality without being vulgar. I was interested in transforming pornography into a work of art that someone could put up in their living room.
I thought to myself, “How can I take something that is “lewd” or “indecent” and turn it into something decorative and abstract. It’s still very sexually charged, of course, but they’re really just blocks of color and a whole lot of white paint.
For “Indulgences” did you have a particular audience in mind or is it addressed to all and let them take what they may from it?
The artworks I’m most proud of are the ones that I do for myself, and nobody else. I didn’t make “Indulgences” for a specific audience, at least not intentionally.
It’s meant for everyone and anyone. It’s just my own way of telling my story visually because I find it so much more fun than writing an autobiography.
What are some of your guilty indulgences in art?
Guilty indulgences… hm…the use of sexual imagery in my work. “Sex sells,” as the saying goes and I realize that I can be criticized for taking advantage of this power but at least I’m honest.
I happen to really enjoy sex and I don’t ever want to be ashamed of that. Hopefully people can also see past the graphic nature of my work because there is so much more than what meets the eye.
“Impossible Shapes” & “Skin” – the importance of the shock value, is it essential to your work or are you interested in a lot more than that?
It was never my intention to shock people with my artwork. I just happen to be more sexually liberated than most people in the U.S. I guess.
I believe that sex, in all its different forms and kinks, is still just sex and everyone has the right to what feels good so long as they’re being responsible. That’s mainly what “Impossible Shapes” is about. You don’t have to fit in a plain old regular box and sometimes things don’t always have to make sense.
My other work, “Skin,” is something completely different. It was never really meant to be erotic; in fact it was quite the opposite. I was more interested in how I can make nudity look as natural as possible. It was about letting go and being comfortable in our own skin among others.
“Oath/Panatang” – pledging loyalty to dual realities. Is this the main struggle you confront with this work?
Yes, you’re right on. I migrated to the U.S. from the Philippines with my mother after finishing high school. It wasn’t easy but I adjusted to the culture pretty well.
It wasn’t until I had to go through the last part of the naturalization process that it really hit me. I am abandoning my home country by pledging to the United States of America. I was very conflicted because even though I’ve acclimated to this environment, I can never really let go of where I came from.
Settle was the direct result of a failed long-term relationship. At the time, I was broken and I kept obsessing over the little things that I missed about him. Things like waking up next to him or watching him lounge in our front porch or brushing our teeth together in my tiny bathroom – these seemingly mundane moments became so powerful all of a sudden. I thought, why not make art out of this. So I created video installations that tried to replicate them. I used myself as the subject partly because I wondered if he also missed me. But more importantly because he is now a part of me, even though he is gone, I will take these experiences with me wherever I go.
Even though it is an extremely personal piece, a lot of people can identify with this sense of longing. Everyone’s got a certain someone they miss and I hope I was able to encapsulate that feeling with these installations.