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Raya S.


Curatorial Rationale

In many ways, skin unifies the human race. It is our outermost layer that we cannot escape, holding stories of where we have come from, and what we have experienced. As I have worked on this exhibition, I’ve explored the various facets of skin, literally and figuratively. An overwhelming amount of time spent isolated in my room resulted in an obsession with my biggest insecurity: my skin; its blemishes, its texture, its excess, all the bumps, and discoloration that I strive to conceal daily. This was expressed through the subsection of my exhibition regarding Skin Imperfections, which includes works such as “Morning Routine” and “Everything Is Under Control” revolving around acne and fixation on appearance. While sharing skin imperfections may be one form of vulnerability, another is exposing skin to a fellow human being. Inspired by depictions of lovers in art by Picasso, Utamaro, and Toulouse-Lautrec, the subsection of Skin & Intimacy encompasses a series of works dealing with physical closeness within and beyond the realm of romantic relationships.

When drawing inspiration from external sources, social movements played a key role in my work. The Black Lives Matter movement prompted me to consider the concept of skin color, and how it dictates perception. I acquainted myself with a number of social constructs regarding skin color such as colorism and racism and provided commentary through the works “Girlhood Interrupted” and “The Filipina”, which fall under the subsection of Skin Color. As a challenge, I transcended past the physical characteristics of skin for the last subsection entitled Skin: The Outer Layer and explored an allegorical perspective of skin through works such as “Underneath It All” and “Sonder”. The order of pieces in the exhibit is just as significant as its subsections. The topics begin with personal experiences and gradually transform into more broad ones. This is captured through how “Morning Routine”, the opening piece, contains a literal close-up of skin while “Sonder”, the closing piece, is zoomed out, only containing silhouettes, and focuses more on a figurative perspective of skin. The first piece is also meant to greet the viewer with references to the morning and waking up, while the last, provides a strong conclusion, due to how in darkness, the piece resembles a contrasting nighttime scene.

I’m most comfortable with painting as a medium. Six out of ten works are paintings. I relied on a medium I was experienced with to create realistic depictions of people and scenes. However, as I traversed through more aspects relating to skin, it was only appropriate to engage in a diverse array of media. When focusing on blemishes and imperfections, colored pencils provided the precision needed for such detail. The fluidity and texture of fabric allowed me to represent the more physical traits of skin and its many layers. It’s clear that the concept of skin is multi-faceted, taking many forms, throughout all my pieces.

Most of my works are all relatively medium in size. Throughout my exhibition, detail is a key element. In many of my works, a story is revealed as the viewer looks closer and pays attention to subtle features. An example would be the repetition of motifs that support the meaning behind the work “Protection, Enhancement, and Sustenance”, wherein objects found in all stages of the triptych, hint at the growth of an individual. In “Girlhood Interrupted”, symbolic details unify the two figures as one character. This level of detail was more meaningful and subtle with small to medium-sized works.

The creation of an impactful exhibition required a great deal of vulnerability to portray my own personal experiences with skin, but also required me to consider the experiences of others. Skin is embedded in our life experiences, protecting us, breaking apart, shrinking and stretching, composing our identity, and growing along with us. My hope is that individuals that come across my exhibition can see a part of themselves represented, whether it may be through the overall message of a work or a thoughtful detail they can relate to. As I examined a wide range of topics relating to skin in both a physical and conceptual manner, my exhibition can resonate with viewers of all ages, genders, and cultures.



Everything’s Under Control

Oil on Canvas

50.8 x 63.8 cm

The hours we spend grooming ourselves is precious time we will never get back, yet I choose to make this sacrifice in exchange for a boost in my self-esteem. Whether it be a dash of concealer, some mascara, blow-dried hair, or a pretty, shiny dress, it is such that provides me the pockets of confidence to get through the day. In this work, I aimed to portray the addictive sense of control we indulge in during the process of attempting to look our best in order to feel our best.

Morning Routine

Colored Pencil on Paper

27 x 40 cm

This is what my mirror is greeted with every morning as I run my daily face-checks to see what new zits, blemishes, and unknown creatures have decided to inhabit my skin. The piece is a scarily accurate and unfiltered self-portrait that’s very personal to me but is also representative of a familiar experience for many who struggle with acne and self-confidence. In vulnerably depicting my own imperfect skin, my viewers can feel less ashamed about whatever skin-related insecurities they may have.


Protection, Enhancement, and Sustenance

Mixed Media - A: Marker and Colored Pencil on Paper, B: Oil on Canvas, C: Graphite and Charcoal on Paper

30.5 x 30.5 cm each

Skincare is a constant in all stages in our life and can come in a number of different forms. As we get older and our skin warps and ages, we require different means of caring for it with various purposes such as staying healthy, appearing desirable, or retaining one’s youthfulness. Three stages of life are represented in each part of this triptych and the change in products serves as a testament to the growth and the physical changes that come with it.


Girlhood Interrupted

Oil on Canvas

35.5 x 45.7 cm

In being mindful of the struggles other communities go through in relation to skin color, this piece focuses on the phenomenon where young black girls are perceived to be more mature compared to counterparts of other races, resulting in discrimination. Their childhood is cut short and they must face the realities of the world at an uncomfortable pace. The piece presents an older version of the young girl that she is already perceived to be due to society's harsh expectations and stereotypes.


The Filipina

Oil on Canvas

50 x 64 cm

Colorism is a prevalent issue in the Philippines as our beauty standards have favored fairer skin for centuries. Taking visual inspiration from Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossips”, I painted 13 women who volunteered to be featured to celebrate Filipina beauty in all shades. Taking cues from vintage science posters, I used a spiral pattern so all figures integrated harmoniously. I hope my Filipina audience could recognize their skin color being represented in a work that regards it as beautiful.


The Commuters

Oil on Canvas

45.7 x 35.5 cm

While some displays of intimacy are extravagant, others you miss if not paying attention. I captured subtle forms of intimacy such as mundane moments in day-to-day life that we overlook. There’s something very intimate about enduring the boring humdrum of life with a person you care about, whether it be running errands or commuting. I was inspired by strangers in public, showing affection in discreet ways, such as a couple holding hands, to feel close to one another while in a jeepney

The Kiss

Clay Sculpture and Yarn Assemblage

28 x 20 x 12.7 cm

Inspired by how Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Utamaro depicted romantic intimacy, I created my three-dimensional representation of a kiss. A romantic kiss is a gravitational moment in one's life, bringing rushes of complex emotions such as euphoria, confusion, or even disgust. The loud imagery created by the yarn captures the sensation of it all. The abstraction exhibits emotions that feel 'larger than life’. It serves as a way to bridge the gaps in my  experience in intimacy as a young artist.


Tali ("Tie Hair")

Mixed Media-Ink, Watercolor, Colored Pencil on Paper

33 x 28 cm

Inspired by Utamaro’s works, I approached intimacy in sibling relationships with a Japanese print style. Using pen and ink, I experimented with lines and textures. Beyond romantic intimacy, there is a special closeness formed through sisterhood. While lovers can be vulnerable by exposing skin, siblings are forever bonded by the skin that they share. My work illustrates sisters braiding each other's hair, which seems ordinary at the moment, but will be a treasured memory once old and grown.


Underneath It All

Mixed Media - Fabric, Yarn and Thread on Mannequin

160 x 35.5 x 40 cm

Exploring the concept of skin as an outer layer, metaphorically and literally, I experimented with the movement and distressing of materials. Anatomically, skin is composed of multiple layers, concealing our inner organs and protecting us. Figuratively, this can represent our daily efforts to appear composed and hide our flaws. The title refers to grotesque feelings that are concealed by an outer layer and how literally, underneath the top layer of skin, there’s a complex, gory system of organs.


Mixed Media- Cardboard, Paper, LED Lights

45.7 x 18 cm

When encountering strangers, we are exposed to a tiny sliver of their story. Similar to the physical skin we wear, there is an even thicker, tougher, facade, hiding away complexities of our lives. Beneath this, there are layers of secrets, struggles, aspirations kept away from the naked eye. Using the literal meaning of ‘facade’, I constructed a building, only revealing a portion of each character’s life. The dynamism created by lighting mirrors the relationship between the known and unknown.

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