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sight The Filipino painter Félix Resurrección Hidalgo’s 1884 painting, Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho (Christian Virgins Exposed to the Rabble) is a disquieting study of the male gaze. In his ekphrastic poem, Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. turns this gaze back on itself, to ask if it is the see-er or the seen who is truly exposed.

 

 

 

After Félix Resurrección Hidalgo’s Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho

I am in a cathedral
of light—no, I meant half
shadow, half light. The usual
drama of chiaroscuro,
how it begins
in medias res for the sake
of the viewer. I am nude
and your gaze is naked
as need, almost an affliction.
If I avert my eyes, is it out
of being drawn
forsaken, the spoil
and spoilage of an empire
about to be undone? I am subjected
as virgin, as soon
to be ruin, each hand yearning
to graze the tips of my breasts,
the fever in my skin.
My voice is walled
by other voices, clamorous
for attention. How blind they are not
to see the edge
I have become. I am a knife unsheathed.

Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. ’s poems have been published in Rattle, Likhaan, Kritika Kultura, SingPoWriMo, and other journals and anthologies. He has received prizes from the Palanca Awards, Kokoy Guevara Poetry Competition, British Council, among others. He is the author of two chapbooks, Requiem and Hymnal, and his first full-length collection, Aria and Trumpet Flourish, is forthcoming from Math Paper Press in Singapore.

Phyu Mon (1960- ) is regarded as one of Myanmar’s most profiled conceptual artists. The Mandalay-born artist graduated from Mandalay University with a BA in Literature and studied painting under U Ba Thaw between 1978 and 1979. She earned a Diploma in Photography from the Myanmar Photography Association, and a Photo Creation and Editing Diploma from the High Tech Training School. In 2013, she accepted a Post Graduate Diploma from Yangon Art and Culture University. She is one of the very few women artists in Myanmar who currently works with digital photography and visual art. Though Phyu Mon had exhibited her Symbolic paintings in group exhibitions since 1985 and became a renowned poet and writer, she developed a keen interest in conceptual art from her husband Chan Aye. During the 1990s, when it was quite rare for a woman artist to present a ‘One Woman Performance,’ Phyu Mon performed Human Being Object, followed by a number of shows both in Myanmar and abroad. However Phyu Mon is best known as a leading digital artist. At a time when feminine art practice in Myanmar could be termed as ambiguous, Phyu Mon’s broad conceptual art practice included not only her digital artworks but also performance, video, sound art and installations. Phyu Mon initiated the ‘Blue Wind Multimedia Art Festival’ in 2009 at Myanmar National Museum. Her art works have also been exhibited in Japan, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Denmark, Spain, USA, UK , Italy, and France. In 2016, she organized an art workshop at Aswara Art University in Malaysia.

The Transpacific Literary Project is a platform for writing from across East and Southeast Asia. Read work from our most recent project folio, Sight.

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