Wawi Navarroza’s Self-Portraits Contain Multitudes


What defines a woman’s image? I recently visited Silverlens to see Wawi Navarroza’s exhibition of self-portraits — her first in the United States — aptly called The Other Shore. The show’s title reflects on her home in the Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,000 distinct islands. But Navarroza also plays with the notion of an “other shore” as a mirror and metaphor for self-portraiture: it is both you and not you. The artist’s commanding, color-saturated images brave a genre that is often fraught with doubt, traversing the lines between value and vanity, symbol and self-representation.

This collection of photographs, made between 2019 and 2023, crystallizes the vast transformations that occurred in her life during that time. She moved into a new studio after a fire ravaged her previous one in 2016, became a mother, and moved from Manila to Istanbul. Both the large scale of her images and directness of her gaze demand attention. Her ornate orchestrations at times reference historical artworks — recasting them in the guise of a female, Filipina artist. “The Fire You’re Made Of (Ignis Mrabilis, Self-Portrait After the Fire)” (2019), for instance, recalls Goya’s “Duchess of Alba,” echoing the complicated history between the Philippines and Spain.

To clarify that she is not documenting a slice of time in her photographs, but instead inventing her own reality, Navarroza leaves behind crude anomalies from the editing process that allow viewers to peer into the construction of each layer.

Installation view of Wawi Navarroza: The Other Shore at Silverlens, New York. Center: “Rosas Pandan (Volviendo, Self-Portrait)” (2023), archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Lustre, cold-mounted on acid-free aluminum; artist’s frame: glazed and colored frame with blue fabric, green lace, and artisanal patadyong textile wrapped on wooden mat board, 60.5 x 47.5 x 2 inches, edition 1 of 7 + 2AP

The exhibition space is divided into two thematic areas. While one wall predominantly explores Navarroza’s cycles of reproduction (in both life and photography) the opposite concerns the artist as transnational: how memory and identity are redefined with migration from place to place. Most of the elements are collaged in situ, blending local fabrics, patterns, and objects into a mix of distinctly Southeast Asian, Catholic, and American Pop aesthetics. A celebration of crafts typically considered “women’s work” is central to the artist’s tableaus. Patadyong textiles are mixed with commercially available fabrics. Embroidery, lace, basketry, and weaving are all part of her rich visual lexicon.

“Rosa’s Pandan (Volviendo)” (2023), centered in the gallery and framed by a lush lavender fabric, shows the artist in an opulent filipiniana terno dress, celebrating a festive folk song from the Visayas. Many colorful patterns extend beyond their frames, giving the images the sculptural presence of a more permanent fixture. Her scenography invites the viewer into the space of imagination, of entering private, well-tended home. Its interiors could be summarized as “Tropical Gothic,” a term coined by Filipino writer Nick Joaquin, pointing to a particular pastiche of ornamentation, baroque Catholic architecture, and bright, romantic palettes that artfully merges East and West.

Of course, women have been portrayed through so many contradictory lenses across history: icon, mother, goddess, virgin, seductress, martyr, heroine. By capturing herself with her own lens, the model is granted the dual awareness of the self as both subject and object. Navarroza’s creative power lies in her ability to approach this duality with such grace and tenderness, giving us insight into the strong sense of self that can emerge from multiple identities and cultures.

SPIWN 048 2 7 image
Wawi Navarroza, “Portals / Double Portrait (Self-Portraits)” (2022), archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle Photo Lustre mounted on dibond; artist’s frame: glazed, colored frame with wooden mat board 51.5 x 45 x 2 inches, edition 2 of 7 + 2 AP
WAWI NAVARROZA The Heap Viva La Vida Portrait of A Female Artist at 40 Self Portrait 2019 SPIWN 012 002
Wawi Navarroza, “The Heap/Viva La Vida (Portrait of A Female Artist at 40 (Self-Portrait)” (2019), archival pigment print on Hahnemühle, cold-mounted on acid-free aluminum; artist’s frame: wrapped fabric on double wood frame custom-tinted to artist’s skin tone, 47.5 x 60 x 2 inches, edition 2 of 5 + 2 AP
SPIWN 042 4 7 image
Wawi Navarroza, “La Bruja II / Vagus (Self-Portrait Rebirthing the Self)” (2022), archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle Photo Lustre mounted on dibond; artist’s frame: glazed, colored frame with wooden mat board, 58.5 x 45.25 x 2 inches, edition 4 of 7 + 2 AP
WAWI NAVARROZA 2 Rocks 2023 SPIWN 185
Wawi Navarroza, “2 Rocks (Atlantic, Pacific)” (2023), archival pigment print, cold-mounted on Hahnemühle Photo Lustre cold-mounted on acid-free aluminum; artist’s frame: glazed, colored frame with wrapped fabric on wooden mat board, 39 x 31 x 2 inches, edition 1 of 7 + 2 AP
SPIWN 041 4 7 image
Wawi Navarroza, “The Weightlifter Orans / Auit at Gaua (Self-Portrait with Blue Ribbon)” (2022), archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle Photo Lustre mounted on dibond; artist’s frame: glazed, colored frame with wooden mat board, 58.5 x 45.5 x 2 inches, edition 4 of 7 + 2 AP
SPIWN 040 4 7 image
Wawi Navarroza, “New Pleasures” (2022), archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle Photo Lustre mounted on dibond; artist’s frame: glazed, colored frame with wooden mat board, 36.75 x 29 x 2 inches, edition 4 of 7 + 2 AP

Wawi Navarroza: The Other Shore continues at Silverlens (505 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through March 2. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top