Architectures of Hiding

Jan Padios

If These Walls: An Orthographic Memoir

Drawn by hand and composed with Adobe Illustrator, the images on display are part of the artist/writer’s creative practice of orthographic drawing and creative writing. Whether writing prose or poetry, Padios grapples with Asian American experience, especially the violence, mental illness, and trauma that pervaded her early family life in Florida. If These Walls: An Orthographic Memoir translates the silence and detachment of these experiences into the visual and design language of architecture. Part family photo album, part design textbook, and part instructional manual, the work demonstrates how orthographic points of view—which rely on separation, hovering, disassembly, and cuts through objects—can speak to and about emotional life. In showing not what is hidden, but the shape and organization of the hiding itself, this presentation offers viewers a new way of sensing and rendering memory, trauma, and untold family histories.

As part of Jan’s creative practice, the drawings have aided in the development of If These Walls: A Novel. A literary thriller, the story centers around Gil Santos and Lena Wynter, adult sisters whose father murders their mother and kills himself in their home in Temple Terrace, Florida. Gil’s recounting of the family history in the wake of her father’s homicide-suicide reveals the racism, trauma, violence, and mental illness underwriting this Filipino immigrant family. If These Walls: A Novel grapples with the Asian American model minority myth; histories of U.S. colonization and white supremacy; and race, gender, and sexuality in Filipino American experience. The novel meditates on Yudell, Moore, and Bloomer’s claim, in Body, Memory, Architecture (1977), that “the action and judgments of an individual may be impaired by a damaged or distorted body boundary” and thus “the activities of a household may also be impaired by the jamming of its doors and windows.”

Keywords: Creative nonfiction, graphic novels, domestic architecture, trauma

DR. JAN MAGHINAY PADIOS is a scholar, writer, and artist whose work has been published in Indiana Review, Construction, Cultural Studies, The Center for Art & Thought, and Zócalo Public Square. Her first academic book, A Nation on the Line: Call Centers as Postcolonial Predicaments in the Philippines was published by Duke University Press in 2018 and won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Social Sciences from the Association for Asian American Studies. Jan has a BA in Architecture from Columbia University; an MA and PhD in American Studies from New York University; and an MFA in Creative Writing from Randolph College. She is an Associate Professor in the American Studies Program at Williams College.

See the If These Walls: An Orthographic Memoir exhibit →