Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/btrtoday/master/wp-content/themes/btrtoday2017/functions.php on line 3693
Paint a Photo’s Story
Paint a Photo’s Story

Paint a Photo’s Story

by | Life & Times | Jan 27, 2015

By Tanya Silverman

Dog Pillow. By Maia Cruz Palileo. 2013. Oil on canvas.

Our conversation keeps turning to tunnels.

However, we’re well above ground, in NYC’s Cuchifritos Gallery, situated in a cozy corner of the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Market. Surrounded by several of her solo show’s colorful oil-on-canvas paintings, multidisciplinary artist Maia Cruz Palileo alludes to her power animal: the woodchuck.

But we don’t just discuss the earthly tunnels that this brown critter digs–or the calming power its humble essence provides her when she’s busy–but also the fascinating figurative ones that Palileo probes into with her paintings.

The artist’s technique often involves excavating mental-image artifacts she holds from looking at family photos while growing up in the Midwest. A Filipino-American child, she plowed into her roots, studying her kin’s depictions of their old life–aunts embracing on the street, uncles drinking beer, and other slices of the distant, tropical land.

The Woods. By Maia Cruz Palileo. 2013. Oil on canvas.

“What did they bring over with them? Nothing,” says Palileo. “My grandma brought over a frying pan that she didn’t think she‘d be able to get in the States.”

Years after Palileo’s grandmother established her American life in Montana, she bought a knitted couch, adorned it with an embroidered throw pillow of two dogs, and took a flash photograph of her homey living room. A rendition of this ‘70s domestic scene, based off of a flimsy old photo, hangs as an oil painting at Cuchifritos.

“There were only parts of the photograph I was working from… where I could actually see patterns of the couch” admits Palileo. “So, I ended up repeating whatever I could see because the quality of the photograph was so bad since the flash was so strong and parts were are just blacked out.”

The fuzzy ambiguities of memory and the holes that the imagination fills is another theme exhibited in Palileo’s art. A separate painting presents a seated extended family poised around a stone patio amidst the backdrop of a densely vegetated, verdant jungle environment. Palileo’s mother sits among the scene–a warm, familial one that never factually existed, but was fabricated from speculated visions.

For years, Palileo’s acted as an ancestral archivist from the third-party information she could gather. Last year, she finally flew out to the Philippines. The journey brought her to the house where her father was born and the home where her grandmother grew up, so these places finally became concrete to her. However, the trip also introduced Palileo to unfamiliar relatives who narrated new stories, which only left her “exploring more tunnels.”

Palileo’s recent portrait paintings at Cuchifritos.

“I think that’s why I’m still working on isolating these figures,” she says, pointing to her newest series of three smaller, lighter-colored portraits, “[they’re] a little more specific about the narrative, but there’s still vagueness.”

From whatever tunnel a woodchuck may enter, and for wherever it leads, many depths may still be dug.

‘Lost Looking’, Palileo’s solo show, will be on view at Cuchifritos until Feb 8, 2015.

All photos courtesy of Samantha Wrigglesworth.


10/10/17 // “Jesus Lived In A Motel Room” by Hyukoh

Hyukoh is a juggernaut of the Korean indie rock world. Taking on K-Pop and proving that rock n’ roll and other international sounds are welcome in the pop culture scene best known for sugary sweet… | watch

10/13/17 // Ep 27 // Torah Talk / ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Torah Talk with Matt Ruby & Charles Gould. Jacqueline Soller and Charles Hinshaw on ‘Blade Runner 2049.’ Molly Knefel on Trump’s attack on birth control mandates. Sloppy Heads’ BTR Live Studio session. | listen

10/17/17 // Elizabeth and the Catapult

Elizabeth and the Catapult is New York musician Elizabeth Ziman, a critically acclaimed and incredibly talented singer/songwriter with an impressive musical resume of collaborations and credits. With… | listen

10/12/17 // Molly Knefel // Trump Attacks Birth Control

Molly Knefel gives her take on the intended rollback of the Birth Control Mandate, introduced by President Obama, which provides birth control coverage at no cost to approximately 55 million women.… | watch

10/16/17 // Keeping It Reel: Tape Collectors Explore New/Old Modes of Hi-Fi Perfection

If you thought vinyl collectors are over the top, prepare yourself for some next-level high-fidelity vision-questers. | read

10/13/17 // Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Ai Weiwei's latest exhibition will be on view at more than 300 sites across New York City until February, 2018. | read