Having been born in the Philippines and immigrated to California as a child, I have found it difficult to clearly define an identity, like many others before me. For the last three years, I have been exploring an intersection of my identity as a Filipino-American woman through several disciplines: painting, photography, sculpture, and textile design.
My submission for Age of the Bimbo, titled “Maria Clara/Whore,” is a self-portrait that is photographic in medium, but also encompasses soft sculpture and embroidery. From the non-traditional material of holographic PVC, I have constructed a traditional Filipino dress called a terno. It is the national dress for women in the Philippines, worn to important functions and gatherings, and symbolizes traits expected from a Filipina: feminine, graceful, demure, modest. This re-imagined dress, however, challenges those expectations. Its translucency reveals the nude body underneath and invites the male gaze. For this image, I have also constructed a hand fan–a once-ubiquitous accessory of the Spanish colonial period that was sometimes used to demurely communicate female desires to potential suitors–that instead more plainly signals the desires of the holder with an embroidered graphic of an eggplant emoji.
As a culture that prizes beauty (which is evident from its obsession with beauty pageants), but is also majority Catholic, Filipino women have long known how to harness their looks and sexuality to gain power, without ever explicitly revealing their desires. Born from these ways are privileges, but also harm: the standards of beauty are often Eurocentric and can be so high that many Filipino women suffer from low self-esteem and negative body image. It’s unsustainable and exhausting. So, I say let’s take it further. What would happen if we just embrace our bimbo-ism, in whatever shape or color we come in, and voice our desires plainly?
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jaana Baker is an artist and photographer based in Southern California. She works primarily as a painter and photographer, but her work also delves into installation and soft sculpture. She earned her B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting from California State University Fullerton in 2020. Having completed her B.F.A. as an older student, she is a full believer that life is not a straight line. After riding some of the twists and turns life has to offer, she is now pursuing her dream of a full time fine arts career, and she is currently working from her studio in the arts district in Santa Ana, California.
Being born in the Philippines and having moved to the United States as a child, Jaana’s art encompasses the experience of “1.5 generation” immigrant, wrestling with tradition, colonialism, gender, and all the intersections in between. In 2021, she was selected to be the solo show artist at the Brea Gallery’s “Made in California” exhibit, a spot awarded to her from an esteemed pool of 150 California artists. There, she exhibited “Poppies and Sampaguitas,” a body of work which focuses on exploring her identity as a Filipino-American woman. The exhibition was featured in an article in the TimesOC and LATimes.com. She was also invited to show at the Brea Gallery’s “Drawn to Paper” show later that year, exhibiting a large pastel piece allegorizing the labor of Filipino women. Outside of her personal work regarding social issues and identity, Jaana also loves to paint en plein air, and considers it to be an integral part of her practice.
In addition to being an artist, Jaana is also a mom, a role she considers a joy and an honor, that ultimately influences her art and the way she looks at life.
© Jaana Baker