Maia Cruz Palileo

Courtesy of Monique Meloche gallery.

This body of work is as much about history as it is about memory, and one’s discovery of a colonized personal and cultural identity.

—  Maia Cruz Palileo's quote about her theme on "Artist Maia Cruz Palileo reclaims U.S. colonial images of PH", by Walter Ang on Inquirer. 2019.

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Studio visit.

Growing up as a second-generation Filipino-American, Maia’s glimpse into life in the Philippines came through conversations with her family about their childhoods. Through the constant retelling over the years, these narratives start to blur between memory and imagination to create a rich family mythology that was uniquely hers. In contrast, during her research for photographs of life in the Philippines in the 19th century, she came across the work of Dean C. Worcester, an American zoologist-turned Secretary of the Interior. Through Worcester’s eyes she saw imagery of Filipinos subjugated and dehumanized without agency for their own representation. It became a means to justify US’ mission to “civilize” the area.

The contrast between the stories she grew up on and the sterilized ethnographic depictions spurs her practice. Through her thoughtful and intimate portraits, she reclaims agency from the historically white gaze, and acknowledges them as worthy of stories, desires, emotions and dignity. As she says in her interview with Artform, “I wanted to take them out of this fixed, colonial context and create a new vision of my ancestors, my family, and my culture.” Through her eyes, Maia presents an alternative image to Western audiences, one not of the colonized and subjugated, but of people who command our attention on their own terms. 


The Duet. 2019.

Related Content


Movements: RELATIONS – On «Painting»

Aug 2020


Interview with Maia Cruz Palileo | RELATIONS: Diaspora and Painting

Jul 2020


Maia Cruz Palileo's "Afterward" at Fondation PHI's "RELATIONS: la diaspora et la peinture"

Jul 2020


Maia Cruz Palileo on Memory and Myth



Finding my Filipino identity in Maia Cruz Palileo’s art



Grant Recipient: Maia Cruz Palileo


Y — A — 2020