The Precarious Life of the Parol
July 15 – 25, 2021
Does art have the power to alter the traumatic legacies of colonial history? Diane Williams addresses what it means to recover lost memories in, The Precarious Life of the Parol. Her work is based on her research of the Parol in Filipinx culture, relating it to colonial legacies and the disproportionate absence of the Filipinx in contemporary culture. The Parol is an ornamental, star-shaped Christmas lantern and believed to have originated from the Spanish colonial era but its true roots are unclear.
After tracing the history of the Parol, the endless search for its lineage became apparent as she could not find archives beyond travel websites. Williams was left with an amalgamation and fragments of historical accounts as she engaged in the search for “authenticity” and lineage, she was constantly reminded of the painful and disjointed sequences of the past. To address the discrepancies in the archives, the artist created several works that embody shared, non-linear collective stories of the underrepresented Other, illegible under legacies of empire. She weaves physical cultural detritus as metaphors for how the marginalized are often viewed as “detritus of society” while monumentalizing these embodied objects. Repeatedly integrating Spam cans, Santo Niño figures and other religious iconography, crocheted flowers, grocery bags from immigrant markets, her mother’s old dresses, and wrappers of her favorite childhood snacks in the Philippines combined with highly chromatic paint and fabrics that remind Williams of the Philippine landscapes. These items not only represent colonial histories but also carry collective memories of kinship. The collected materials/detritus cultivate cultural literacies wherein the audience is activated through a heuristic method by learning the plurality behind the codes, which contain multiple meanings. Her practice is not a prescription for repair but a pathway to integrate Filipinx identity and culture into contemporary art and historical practice.
Diane Williams is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and organizer based in Los Angeles, CA. In her work, she examines colonial legacies and the afterlives of empire.
Her work has been featured in select publications and radio interviews including Artforum, Hyperallergic, Los Angeles Magazine, LA Weekly, Artillery, Eastsider LA, Art and Cake and KPFK. Williams exhibited in several solo and group shows at the Armory Center for the Arts, 18th Street Art Center, Walter Maciel Gallery, Museum of Art and History MOAH, PØST, Cerritos College Gallery, Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art RAFFMA, California State University San Diego, Children’s Museum of the Arts New York, Berkeley Art Center, San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries SFAC and Grafiska Sällskapet Stockholm, Sweden among others. She has works in private and public collections at the National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles and Washington DC headquarters and Azusa Pacific University. Williams earned her MFA at University of Southern California (USC) in 2021 and BFA degree at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in 2013.