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Feature: Devour: A Gallery Walk through Man’s Avarice

12/11/2017 09:09:00 PM Media Center 0 Comments

To eat greedily is to devour.

Katti Sta. Ana, through her ceramics and stone wares, illustrated how people consume flora and fauna, in her exhibit fittingly entitled “Devour.” She highlighted humanity’s relationship to flora and fauna, especially man’s greed, and eventually, abuse. She emphasized that these will lead to the diminishing number of flora and fauna, specifically in the Philippines.

SENOR KALAW. This sculpture of a Kalaw, an endangered species of a bird that can be found in the Philippines that symbolizes him as a hunter’s prize, is found on the 2nd floor landing of the UP Vargas Museum. Photo credit: Rachel Siringan
In the beginning of the gallery, an unglazed stone sculpture stands atop two stacked metal cages. The stone sculpture shows a kalaw wearing a business suit and a watch. The kalaw, an endangered species of forest-dwelling birds in the Philippines, is said to be a natural timekeeper of the farmers, as associated with the wrist watch on the sculpture. Due to deforestation and hunting, their numbers have diminished. The metal cages and the sculptures’ position relative to the cages symbolize how kalaws are hunted to be prized possessions, as well as a source of income. The metal cages can also be seen as an image of a skyscraper that symbolizes modernization and leads to deforestation in many parts of the country. The human phallus suggests a kalaw owner’s pride. The kalaw’s business attire also signifies how they are servants to businessmen.

MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Sculptures of three dogs in different positions show their different emotions towards each of their situations. Photo Credit: Hazel Romero

As you enter the second floor, you will be greeted with sculptures of three dogs in varying positions. One of the dogs lies on its back, waiting for someone to scratch its belly. This exemplifies a dog’s role as a pet and a family member in a household. Another dog is poised for an attack which indicates its role as a guard in Filipino homes. The last and most disturbing dog hangs on the wall like meat seen in markets. This hints on dog-eating culture in some parts of the Philippines and the festival in China called the Yulin festival where thousands of kidnapped, stolen, and captured dogs are eaten.

BON APPETIT. A dining set includes three different chairs and a glass table that exhibits “live” fish on the table similar to those in Chinese restaurants. Photo Credit: Hazel Romero

To the left of the second floor, you will find a simple dining set with a table and three chairs. Looking closely at the table, you will find ceramic fishes trapped in a maze-like aquarium. This artwork brings to life the atmosphere in a Chinese restaurant where diners can pick live fish to be cooked and served to their tables. This exposes the poisonous cyanide fishing technique used to catch these fishes alive, which causes a decrease in the population of fishes and the destruction of corals. The aquarium symbolizes a human’s small intestines where digested fish go through. Not only does it mirror the danger caused by cyanide fishing, but also the slavery that aquatic animals experience in the hands of humans.

Paintings and photographs of farm animals from Jorge B. Vargas’ collection hang as you stroll around the hall. This gives the feeling of being surrounded by animals and flowers used only for human consumption. Aside from being used as sources of food, farm animals, like chickens, pigs, and horses, also serve different purposes. Chickens are used for cockfights and horses are used in kalesas. This symbolizes the use of animals as mere objects for mankind’s convenience.

Lastly, as you enter the room at the end of the hall, you will feel intimidated by the peculiarity of Queen Devour, a life-sized sculpture sitting at the end of the room. She is made of ceramic and crowned with a reptile. She sits blankly on her throne surrounded by leaves. Her upper body is covered with roots and her skirt is made of peacock feathers. Upon her feet lies a dead sow. As you walk through the room, you will see her collection of elegant lady slippers. By looking closely, you will be able to observe ceramic orchids of different species in the form of slippers.

THE QUEEN. A life-sized sculpture of a “Royal Highness” made out of a ceramic that represents an avaricious queen. Photo Credit: Hazel Romero

Queen Devour is a representation of Imelda Marcos as implied by the collection of shoes. It vivifies how humans get a hold of flora and fauna to use as commodities. Soon, these species become endangered due to the exploitation of their commercial value.

These artworks do not have mere aesthetic value but also feed our minds with knowledge. They also serve as an advocacy or visual representation of what is happening around us. Aside from appreciating these works, let us never forget the message behind it.

Katti Sta. Ana’s Devour ran from November 3 to December 1, 2017 at the 3rd floor of the UP Vargas Museum.

Visit the UP Vargas Museum for future exhibits. //Aldous dela Pena, LM Gacad, Zach Jugo, Hazel Romero, Rachel Siringan

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