Looming tropical flora hover above, shielding sculptures of sacred entities that are strewn across the backyard, sharing its home with live chickens that cackle around the land. Agnes Arellano’s workspace is immediately transporting—a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of the city that has been developed into the artist’s abode, a haven that seems to be built to nurture prayer, openness, and art.
Here, she casts her deities; borrowing texts of various religions, mythologies, and history, and cultivating these bits of information, processing it within a personal framework, and reinventing into a story that is truly Arellano’s own.
For her upcoming special exhibition at the Art Fair, she presents her Project Pleiades—a body of work named after the astronomical open star cluster called Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, referring to the seven divine sisters in Greek mythology born from their mother Pleione, of which the name of the star system comes from.
But in Arellano’s version of the narrative of Pleiades, she spins a tale that is inspired in part from a myth taken from Bicol, of the moon goddess Haliya, who loses her demigod child on earth and, for the child to be reunited with its mother, the child is asked by the king to identify its own mother among the king’s seven daughters, of whom all have the same face.
In Project Pleiades, Arellano brings to life these seven sisters, and gives each a personality. “I try to pinpoint archetypes in the collective unconscious, so that it’s universal,” says Arellano of the personas in her work.
One of the sisters is a reincarnation of a sculpture from her past exhibit—the Flying Dakini, the female embodiment of enlightenment. For the Art Fair, she reuses the live cast of her own body to create a total of four of the seven sisters in Pleiades. “In the past, I’ve been using my experiences, especially the traumatic ones, in my work. I express them and process them into sculpture. But with this one, I think it’s a spiritual aspiration for me, like a wish. I do [the sculpture] to my body anyway, and I know it does something for me. Through the sculpture I get to express it.”