Lee Paje once again takes inspiration from children’s books, this time using as nucleus popular tales from Disney and recreating these into alternate configurations.
Entitled Unexpurgated, this is a continuation of her work in the 2013 group show Childhood Games People Play in Singapore. Through paper sculptures and oil on copper paintings, Paje reworks heteronormative narratives to personally fit her own experiences. Familiar Disney characters are used to shed light on the complexity of gender as well as contemporary lifestyles rarely visible in popular media. The goal is to hopefully transform the audience by fostering respect and understanding about the nuances of identity.
From the catalogue essay by critic Tessa Marie Guazon (2016): “While young girls and even grown up women (and men) are fed representations of seemingly empowered women, these comfortably fall within the ambit of the acceptable (the princess while claiming her right to find love/a prince on her terms is subdued into marriage, assured by fatherly love, comforted by the familiar). Little wonder we remain entranced by images of heroines finding succor in the arms of her beloved and discovering that however wide she traverses the world, her destination is the warmth of hearth and home. Perhaps, this is the reason Lee Paje situates the freedom of discovery in private spaces; in closets and dressing rooms (where one disrobes to reveal the body), or above ground on a magic carpet (where one can be another Aladdin). She speaks of palpable reality challenging to navigate, more so confront.”
At a time when gender identity remains restrictive instead of liberating, when deviations are still considered as anomalies, and when roles remain rigidly fixed and divided between male and female, Paje’s “Unexpurgated” decides to and dares engage this state of affairs. And by using Disney characters as points of both criticism and departure, this exhibit can only generate a discussion about how we are conditioned into our identities, and towards what end.
‘Unexpurgated’ runs until October 29 at the Tin-aw Art Gallery, Upper Ground Floor, Somerset Olympia Building Makati Avenue.