Interview, August 2021
ARCHITECTURES OF HIDING TEAMWhat was/were the inspiration(s) in the making of your piece? How did your work evolve?
JAN MAGHINAY PADIOSI consider drawing, and architectural drawing in particular, my earliest creative practice. When I was growing up, drawing and designing spaces helped me detach from the difficult circumstances of my childhood, and imagine something different. It was also a way for me to think about, feel, and analyze the forces shaping my family -- especially race, mental illness, and trauma. However, I stopped drawing completely when I was in my mid-twenties. Something like 12 years passed without me picking up a single drawing pencil.
In December 2018, I started my first semester in the MFA program in creative writing at Randolph College. My intention was to write autobiographical creative non-fiction. Within a few weeks, I began drawing again -- mostly plans and sections and isometrics of the house in which I grew up in Temple Terrace. All from memory, cross-referenced with family photos. Drawing became a crucial part of the memory work I was doing for my creative writing. It helped me dwell in the moments I was recalling, as well as craft my thoughts into essays, poems, and stories.
At the same time, I was intrigued by how orthographic images could convey the affective qualities of trauma, mental illness, and strained family life. I was inspired by the nature of orthographic drawing itself -- the detachment, the impossible points of view, and the analytic qualities inherent to them. And I wanted to understand how such drawings could convey other affective states, such as terror or melancholy.
I have been majorly inspired by the poets/writers/artists Renee Gladman, Lê Thị Diễm Thúy, and Diana Khoi Nguyen; sculptor Siah Armajani; cartoonist Chris Ware; and the work of a number of surrealists, such as Louise Bourgeois, Leonor Fini, Sonja Sekula, and Francesca Woodman. I've also found great motivation from design principle books, like Operative Design: A Catalogue of Spatial Verbs by Anthony Di Mari and Nora Yoo, and Wucius Wong's Principles of Three-Dimensional Design, which I pay homage to in the second piece in the exhibition.
AofHWhat were some of the challenges faced in the making of your work?
JMPOne challenge was letting go of the pressure to do something in particular with the drawings I started in 2019 (many of which are featured in the exhibition). When I started them, I immediately wanted to define what I was doing. That’s great in some respects, because I did begin developing an idea for what I’m calling an orthographic memoir. But I also needed to embrace what the drawings were doing with me. Working on a drawing, like working on creative writing pieces, gives me access to a kind of "third self" -- a part of me that does something surprising or strange or unknowable.
So, a second challenge was in bringing that surprise or strangeness to the drawings themselves. I knew I wanted to manipulate the basic plans or elevations, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do that, or how to combine them with the photos and other archival materials. That part took some time, but engaging with my sources of inspiration, reading books on design and architecture, and developing elements of my story all helped me try things and bring things together.
A third challenge was learning Adobe Illustrator!
AofHDoes your work/piece negotiate the tension between the hidden and shown, or a process of hiding versus revealing? What did your process of making the piece teach you about the nature of hiding?
JMPI would say my pieces negotiate the tensions, gaps, and continuities between sensing and knowing, intimacy and detachment, and boundaries of all kinds. I am interested in the ways people hide -- desire, memory, information, and so on -- from each other but also the way these things can be hidden from ourselves.
So, I think of my work as less about intentional obfuscation or revelations, and more about how our lives are or are not structured to produce intimacy or shared knowledge. I come from an immigrant Filipino family; my parents came to the U.S. from the Philippines in the early 1970s. American empire and exceptionalism always demand an obfuscation of war, colonization, racism, and state violence. So much of this gets hidden within the walls of immigrant homes in America, in turn entailing mental illness, trauma, and more violence -- which often get hidden or go unacknowledged, too.
So, my work asks how we can make these hidden experiences available to the senses. What creative tools -- drawing, diagrams, illustration, collage -- can we use to sense what is hidden, to examine the past, and to arrive at a shared understanding that allows for intimacy in the present?