“Whether you experience heaven or hell, remember that it is your mind which creates them.”
-The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964)
The current quarantine had indeed brought about our personal heavens and hells, as well as realizations how we have come to define them. Artists, on the other hand, have used this to create: refining their craft, reliving passion projects, or producing works for a cause. But whether or not the art presents their version of heaven or hell, their works will continue to reflect a present dilemma, and in closer inspection, an interpretation of their character.
Painter and ceramicist Genavee Lazaro, however, creates a multitude of characters. Yet despite their quantity, they appear like episodic self-reflections of the artist herself–completing her in her temporary isolation.
For her second solo show entitled “Stay In, Drop Out”, she takes a playful approach on isolation brought about by the recent quarantine, where she and her “cactus friends” journey into their own world while venturing on mundane things. She presents more than 20 pieces of small “evolved” cactus stoneware sculptures performing common activities. Yet the humdrum is essential: it speaks of how the ordinary becomes alive when it is done by an extraordinary (in this case, cacti with limbs).
Lazaro contemplates on this period of quarantine as well, saying that though she has been used to living in isolation, an institutionalized need for it makes the feeling different. Inspired by psychologist Dr. Timothy Leary’s “Turn on, tune in, drop out” psychedelic anthem, Lazaro tries to point out the dynamic ways of how humans deal with isolation, with “staying in” as a requirement instead. Keeping Leary’s “drop out” definition, her acrylic paintings magnify that her “cactus friends” continue to impose uninhibited yet subtle chaos within an interior, mirroring a psyche of the new behaviors brought about by the quarantine.
The artist likewise presents herself as a literal product of self-reflection with a 36 x 48-inch acrylic on canvas artwork entitled “White Ghost Guide”. Being her first time to exhibit a self portrait, Lazaro shares the need for a clear correlation between her and her isolation saying that “the idea of time is distorted”. Here we see a myriad of her “cactus friends” surrounding her in her potter’s wheel, distinct and animated, as if conversing with her. And she, knowing their non-existence in reality, take them as subconscious companions who lead her into self-reflection, or to put it better, like “white ghosts” who guide her to look deeper into herself.
And perhaps that is really what the isolation pushes humans to do. The pandemic may have pushed us to have less contact, our individuality and the human in us continue to thrive in its reality. That in the time when the world asks us to “stay in”, we take time to listen to our own white ghosts and drop out the worldly commitments we have that detach us from our own selves.
notes by Grace Micah Oreiro