© Cherisse Alcantara

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Cherisse Alcantara

San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia

Artist Statement

In my paintings, I make sense of home by acknowledging the past and the history one carries in my search for meaning and positivity amidst the multiple and shifting in-between spaces. I ask myself what is it like to think from the mind and body of an immigrant; as an Asian and Filipina-American woman in diaspora coming a post-colonial society; and lastly, the adoptee experience which is often unacknowledged. These are overlapping and confusing experiences which I make sense of in my art and continue to reassess through the years.

My present series of paintings and works on paper, "Porta"l and "Borderspace," explores the non-linear remembrance, memories and changing concepts of homes, and the fluidity of identities which one occupies throughout a lifetime. My practice is informed by my fragmented cultural and familial identities, as well as my experiences emigrating to California’s Central Valley from the Philippines during my early adolescence, and moving to the Bay Area in 2011. In these works, it is significant that the images are located in the Bay Area, my home of many years, while embracing the multiple cultural, historical and artistic influences one carries.
Collective and ethnic memory and belief systems are important in my art which includes the re-imagining of native amulets, ancient trees and caverns that are important in pre-colonial Philippines. For instance, the “Grove” paintings and works on paper (Grove 1-4) are inspired by the Redwood trees of Marin County while portaling back to the ancient Acacia trees of my ethnic culture. We are superstitious about them as they are known to house spirts and serve as portals to the unknown. In addition, the negative spaces in my works are inspired by native "Lingling-o" amulets, where through ethnic memory, one may find grounding and esteem in a displaced or erased past.

The recurring abandoned architectural spaces, caverns and trees all carry a sense of time and erosion by the elements. As I paint them, they are filtered through affect where feelings of loss, melancholy and alienation are projected through the colors and composition. The architectural spaces ("The Lookout" and "Borderspace 1") from the military sites in the Headlands, become vessels to reflect upon the melancholic process occupied by diasporic and adoptee experiences.
I am inspired by various scholars, namely Gloria Anzaldua, Bell Hooks and Leny Mendoza-Strobel, who gave voices to my lived experiences. They called them the margins and the "borderlands" which are the psychic spaces that the woman of color navigates. The liminal space may be a place of alienation, but also of transformation, decolonization, and personal and collective healing. In "Liminal space 2: bodily landscape," I am interested in the transformation of rock formations into something visceral and felt in the body. Whereas, in "Liminal space 1: shifting grounds", the changing perspectives, and the inversion of positive and negative spaces allude to my investigations of how spaces can simultaneously be familiar, magical and unstable.

My recent MFA visual thesis (ASE Installation photos) is driven by my dream to present these multiple spaces together, creating narratives and spatial experiences for the viewer. Color serves as bridges where through associations, memories are made present. In "Liminal space 3:archaeological sites," the color purple is inspired by the color of taro or "ube" from my native culture, which was also my favorite childhood ice cream. The color spaces are like the opening of a window or a creation of another realm which one can re-imagine. As I am living my everyday life, I get sudden insights or recollections of the past—the personal and the historical, the past and present intertwine, while giving them new forms of expression.

© Cherisse Alcantara

Cherisse Alcantara's Portfolio

© Cherisse Alcantara

Artist Biography

Cherisse Alcantara (b. Philippines) is an artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia. She received her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) this Spring of 2021 where she is the recipient of the Murray Dessner Travel Award. She completed her B.A. Art Practice at the University of California-Berkeley (2013) and the recipient of the Sussman Prize in Painting. She has shown in numerous galleries and art centers including Vessel Gallery (Oakland, CA), the Berkeley Art Center, Arc Gallery (San Francisco, CA), Pence Gallery (Davis, CA), the Piedmont Center for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum. Her most recent residency award is the Jentel Artist Residency (Wyoming). In her ongoing and parallel series, "Portal" and "Borderspace," Cherisse reflects on belonging, identities, and the shifting concepts of home through liminal spaces and landscapes.



© Cherisse Alcantara

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