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Mar 24 — May 3

Mga kuwento namin (Stories we tell)

Filipino American artist Ria Unson portrays personal and historical representations of Filipinos within frames used by colonial powers—from Western Literature to World Fairs—to challenge the origin and scope of the stories spectators use to shape their identities: Where do stories of civilization and savagery come from? Why do many societies associate certain physical traits with either superiority or inferiority? How do we learn to perceive each other in the ways we do? Which language do we use to express ourselves and how does that language influence our thoughts and beliefs?  

For this exhibition, Unson delves into what it looks like to reclaim our narratives, whether it is by painting family portraits on Western books or creating composite imagery from present-day portraits of Filipino women and projected photos from the Philippine Exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair. Mga kuwento namin also includes a soundtrack that features stories from the women subjects, spoken in their historically suppressed mother tongues—a way of commemorating the Philippine pre-colonial oral history tradition. 

About the Artist: Ria Unson

Ria Unson (b. Manila, Philippines) is a Filipino American artist living and working in St. Louis. She was born in Manila and emigrated to the U.S. at age 13, eventually settling in the Midwest. Unbeknownst to her, her great-grandfather was assigned to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, following the American colonization of the Philippines. By sheer coincidence (or destiny), she moved to the historic neighborhood that once housed the Philippine Village at the Fair. It is still the occupied territory of the Osage Nation, the Missouria, and the Illini Confederacy.  

Ria studied fine art at Northwestern University. Her professional training is in graphic design. She has worked in corporate America and higher education. Her art practice centers the narrative of a mixed race, post-colonial Filipino American. 

Mar 24 — May 3

Mga kuwento namin (Stories we tell)

March 24, 2023 May 3, 2023

6880 Washington Ave
St. Louis, Missouri 63130
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Visual Arts

Millstone Gallery Programming

Gallery Talk: Ria Unson

APR 21 | 6:30–8:00PM | Ages 12+ | Free

In this talk, Ria Unson shares her artistic inspiration and research journey behind Mga kuwento namin (Stories we tell). Ria will discuss the intimate process of creating a portrait, the struggles of growing up with identity stereotypes, and the importance of reclaiming historically suppressed mother tongues. After the presentation, there will be time for questions from the audience.