Maia Cruz Pailileo’s oeuvre are gestural reflections on both familial oral history and colonial documents. Heavily influenced by photographs and stories related to her family’s migration from the Philippines to the United States, Palileo’s work initially explored her own personal archives. She dressed her figures in patterns drawn from her aunt’s shirts and decorated interiors reminiscent of the house her grandmother grew up in. Several paintings, such as Afterward (2019), take place in classrooms, referencing both American re-education campaigns and Palileo’s maternal grandmother’s occupation as an English teacher.
Palileo’s scenes, rendered in broad and loose brushstrokes, imagine Manila as her ancestors would have experienced it and parallel the fragmentary nature of memory to present an alternative history. Existing between figuration and expressive abstraction, the worlds she creates embody what the artist has called her hyphenated or malleable concept of home.