Artist Offemaria reimagines the Catholic ‘urna’
Christianity is a religion filled with and built on significations. The Bible and the Eucharist, for instance, two among the religion’s most central traditions, hold and employ narratives and rituals, which resist from being understood at a superficial level, as they reveal deeper and sublime meanings.
It is in this metaphorical tendency of the religion that Wilfredo Offemaria Jr. couches his latest solo exhibition on. Titled “Urna 2.0,” the exhibition reimagines the retablo—the grandiose centerpiece of the church interior, and refigures the urna—similarly an altar, but used in smaller and more intimate traditions, sometimes at home.
The exhibit formally opened at Museo De La Salle of De La Salle University-Dasmariñas (DLSU-D) campus in Cavite last Feb. 14, also Ash Wednesday. The artist was joined at the opening reception by DLSU-D vice chancellor Myrna Ramos, museum director and Southern Luzon Association of Museums president Cecille Torrevillas-Gelicame, Resil Solis of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and exhibition curator John Delan Robillos, head of the NCCA National Committee on Art Galleries and the vice head of the NCCA Subcommission on Cultural Heritage.
“Museo De La Salle is committed to the preservation and promotion of the country’s cultural heritage by bringing in possibilities for engagements that can provide support for the holistic learning and development of our museum audiences,” said Gelicame. “Offemaria’s “Urna 2.0” tackles a seemingly traditional religious subject, but hints a mix of popular culture. His style and symbolisms, which appeal to the critical eye and interest of young viewers, easily convey various messages. To traditionalists, however, it can stir quite a reaction.”
In the exhibition, Offemaria, a graduate of the old UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts (now College of Fine Arts and Design), cultivates the metaphors proffered by the urna as the door, frame and pedestal of the saintly life; but instead of replicating the tradition fully, he dares to transform it.
The urna is shorn of the ornate elaborateness of its materiality, to foreground the very gestures it fundamentally performs: that of exhibiting, of upstaging and of framing. Utilizing this fertile and tradition-rooted platform and invoking imageries from the contemporary highly-commercialized world, the exhibition attempts to examine and engage the different and differing perceptions on faith, and the traditions that build it and build from it.
“‘Urna 2.0’ also afforded an opportunity for Museo De La Salle to highlight, at the same time, some of our own traditional urna and relleves (bas relief) collection in another gallery, majority of which came from the DM Guevarra Collection. This is an attempt to deliver a contrast that will urge audiences, especially the youth, to be more critical of the purpose of art and their varying approaches,” Gelicame said. –CONTRIBUTED
Offemaria will conduct an artist’s tour on March 13. “Urna 2.0” runs until March 31.
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