I make three-dimensional works that function simultaneously as both beautiful artefacts and social commentary. My instinctive and broad relationship with scale has led me to create miniature sculptural works as well as site specific work covering a two-storey building. My works range from unique and precious pieces of jewellery, ready-made sculptures and enticingly intricate wall pieces, to museum collection interventions, artworks involving people, performances, and projects in the public realm.
I’m interested in tension; the type in old-fashioned fairytales, where the witch eats the kids instead of the candy. My works always harbour a deep connection to the visceral, and are often suggestive of the females that I grew up around. In this domestic environment, women would butcher chickens in the backyard for lunch. Minutes later, they’re walking down to the river to hand-wash dirty clothes, using soap homemade from recycled cooking oil. That female energy is sensual; tactile, doubled-edged, bursting with vitality and defined by alchemy. As if by magic, materials and objects are transformed, generating wonder every single time. Those powerful skills and crafts that I’ve inherited from my ancestors’ collective memories are now the sources of my inspiration.
I’m fascinated by the ways materials carry inherent meaning and how that meaning can be transformed; moulded; reshaped. I’m interested in the power of the object; the idea that matter can vibrate and communicate with us as human beings. A ring made from the metal of police-confiscated knives, or a clay medal depicting the profile of a woman and her unborn foetus, killed with exactly that same iron slur… These are examples of matter that matters.
I’m fuelled by a yearning for justice; a desire to address inequalities and to amplify the voices of the people falling through the cracks of the system. Creating art helps me to cope with the injustices of this brutal world we live in; to process humanity’s tragic histories of abuse, exploitation and inequality.
The language of craft – of highly skilful craftsmanship – allows me to seduce the audience and make complex concepts appealing and accessible. It scales my ideas down to a relatable domestic scale, creating an intimate dialogue. Channelling large social, economic and political agency through the medium of intimacy is really important to me. I aim to inspire change within the individual by making subjects relevant to them, enabling them to think about the world through the lens of familiar materials.
A very long time ago, my art teacher said to me: “Arabel, you indeed make art with the end of your fingertips.” I believe we can touch a thought and experience a physical response to a conceptual idea.
“El Rosario de la Abuela”. Performance/Exhibition.
Collaboration with Olga Parra Benavides. 2004. Lunâ Art Collective Gallery.
Cebu city. The Philippines.