“My ultimate goal is not to specifically share my own stories, but to encourage others to revisit their own memories and examine their meaning and impact on their lives.”
Rizzhel Javier (San Diego, 1983) is a San Diego based artist and educator. Her work explores topics in identity, memory, culture and human relationships. As a first generation Filipino-American, Rizzhel uses her art practice to dissect her identity, and that of the larger Filipino-American community through the research and creation of art projects. Her art is grounded in social practice, with the intent to engage the public and build a dialogue on topics that are often difficult to discuss or understand. For Rizzhel art is a way for people to build communication skills and a sense of community.
“You are chasing a history that doesn’t belong to you.” It was the year of her thirtieth birthday, and Rizzhel had just told her Dad that she wanted to go to the Philippines for the first time. She didn’t really know how to process what he said, but understood that familiar feeling of life in between. Was she Filipino? Or was she American? Where do those identities intersect and how does one come to that resolution? It brought her back to the same frustration she felt growing up, and in that moment she realized as an adult, that she had never truly connected with her Filipino identity.
Through sharing her stories, Rizzhel hopes to encourage viewers to recall their own memories, personal experiences and reflections. Her recent work focuses on the Filipino-American community and the archiving of their stories on migration, travel and home. Trained in darkroom photography, in the last ten years her work has become interdisciplinary, integrating digital photography, video, sculpture, installation, fibers and other experimental materials. Her pieces often require the viewer to become an active participant or physically engage with the work. She works autobiographically, using art to explore personal, community and global connection.
Her service to the community is a testament to social art practice; with projects that engage the public and their own questions about identity. Events like The Balikbayan Project take a closer look at the tradition of Filipino gift giving. Each participant shares a story about the different types of gifts they give and receive from family members. From my research, I have learned there are several traditions related to the diaspora that have been designed to provide Filipinos living between America and Philippines with comfort from their distant family. It is my goal to address the needs of this community, and as resident of San Diego, and build a dialogue with other communities that faces their own challenges with migration.
Rizzhel’s recent work is influenced by migration, travel and family origin. Through intense archival processes she is reclaiming her own history. Her practice is transborder with themes and partnerships that stretch into Tijuana and the Philippines. She is currently working on a photographic projects called Three Spaces Home, which explores the similarity and histories of Mexico and Philippines. These combined landscapes explore the meaning of family and intuitive need to be home. Rizzhel explores social and historical issues of displaced identity, ideas of misrepresentation and impermanence.
Rizzhel has exhibited nationally at Arena 1 Gallery in Santa Monica, CA and internationally at Tijuana Institute of Technology and Centro Estatal de las Artes Tijuana, Baja, CA. An exhibition Viaje Ida y Vuelta, took place on a 757 Boeing airplane on the Tijuana Institute of Technology campus where she installed sculptures embroidered with phrases of what people say to each other when they say goodbye. She uses multiple languages in her work to emphasize the separation as a universal experience, and prevalent in the mass commuter city of San Diego and Tijuana. It is her goal to make art accessible to the public to underrepresented communities and those needing a safe space for dialogue.