When the whole world stopped at the height of the new coronavirus disease pandemic, Brazilian model-turned-artist Ciane Xavier saw it as an opportunity to reconnect with herself. Pondering on her life’s purpose and direction, she came up with a concept for a virtual reality (VR) exhibit which explored the subconscious and the search for self-identity. She worked in isolation in her Makati studio, molding bodies and painting faces.
On view at Modeka Art Gallery, “When Everything Stops, Nature Keeps Going” is a collection of oil portraits of women with powerful expressions and sculptures of females accessorized with rabbit ears. The paintings depict faces that are aghast, dreamy and livid. Made of nylon and epoxy resin acrylic, the sculptures of women are either stripped naked or down to basic T-shirt and shorts. Their nakedness symbolizes the removal of the labels of class, creed, achievements and beliefs about themselves and their reputation in the eyes of the world.
The message becomes clear when the viewer puts on the VR headset. The experience is that of being submerged in water. The naked mannequins, which are 28 to 33 inches in height, become life-sized, bobbing their heads and moving their hands. Furniture, fish and a deformed head that is half-animal, half-woman float in space.
In front of a painting of a woman lying down with a faraway look, a voice-over repeatedly says, “What if you dreamed of heaven and woke up with a flower in your hand.”
The painting of a naked woman with red marks and exaggerated legs is accompanied by a pleading voice, “What is love? Please help! Please tell me.”
Xavier also created a three-dimensional version of the exhibit for the gallery website. Applying her interior design education, she used the gallery’s blueprint to recreate the spaces, including the stairs and beams. The video transports the viewer to the site which looks like an aquarium with moving sculptures and bubbles over the artworks.
Both the VR and the website version give the viewer the impression of looking into the subconscious stripped of everything except of one’s thoughts and sensory perceptions
Xavier said she wants the viewer to be provoked into asking, “Who am I?”
The question of identity was born out of Xavier’s experience as a model. In her teens, she traveled to several countries for assignments, adjusting to different cultures. Since 2006, she shuttled between Brazil and the Philippines for commercial modeling work until she married Filipino businessman-contractor Jose Paolo Calma.
As she was painting her new home, she started to draw pictures and play with lines and colors and discovered her true passion for art. In the past five years, Xavier has presented exhibitions in the Philippines and abroad.
The influence of modeling is echoed in her penchant for unmade-up faces and nude figures.
“Nakedness is the natural state of the human being,” she said.
Her subjects defy the conventional norms of beauties—hence the distortion of proportions or facial features, imperfections and red lesions on the skin.
“I experienced body shaming when I was a model,” she said. “They’d say you’re not good enough or skinny enough. These reflect in my works. I don’t want to show sexiness. I exaggerate to draw people’s attention to other parts of the body,” she added. “I want to show beauty that is not perceived by other people.”—CONTRIBUTED
Modeka Art: Warehouse 20A La Fuerza 1 2241, Don Chino Roces Ave., Makati.