Donnabelle Casis is a Filipina American artist living and working in Western Massachusetts. Her art is influenced by various sources, including Filipino tribal tattoos and textiles, facial recognition software, cosmology and the philosophy of metaphysics.
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Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: May is National, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And so in honor of that, today, we’re bringing you a profile of local artist whose work draws from, among other things, her AAPI heritage.
Donnabelle Casis is a Filipina American artist living and working in western Massachusetts. Her art is influenced by various sources such as Filipino tribal tattoos and textiles, facial recognition software, cosmology, and the philosophy of metaphysics.
Her most recent work is a 3D moving mobile art installation, and producer Dave Fraser brings us her story.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Time and space can be two important elements to a visual artist who wants to create innovative work.
For artist Donnabelle Casis, she had both recently at the Amy H. Carberry Gallery on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College.
Donnabelle Casis, Visual Artist: I’ve been lucky to use this space for the entire month of April, and since then I’ve created almost 20 pieces and counting.
Seeing my work up outside of my studio is always kind of an exciting aspect. I never really know what to expect. Especially with this installation, I’m working as I’m going, so it’s constantly a surprise whenever I make something and hang it up and see it in the space.
Dave Fraser: Trained as a painter, Casis used the gallery and studio space to expand on her mastery of two-dimensional artwork to include large three dimensional pieces. Mobiles made of random shapes, colors, and sizes hung from the ceiling. Materials included laser cut aluminum as well as fabric and Capiz shells that she had sent to her from the Philippines.
The other half of the gallery included her work area, a table with paints and materials, as well as a spray tent for airbrushing.
Donnabelle Casis: The message behind looking at my art is multifold. I think a lot of it is just take the time and look, because a lot of the work I do is based on visual perception, sort of how we take what we see and find meaning.
I created private commission — I created a hanging mobile, which isn’t actually far from here. And it gave me an opportunity to explore kinetic art and using my work in a 3D form. And so, I thought, why don’t I explore that a little bit more and do it large scale?
Dave Fraser: Fascinated by visual perception and how meaning is derived from what we see, Casis looks for hidden geometries that may connect discreet perspectives to form a greater whole.
Donnabelle Casis: I’m interested in markers of identity, sort of how we express ourselves in the world, be it through our patterns of thought, patterns that we wear, patterns in our daily lives, and markers of identity mean what you want to express about yourself without language, necessarily.
Dave Fraser: In her native country of the Philippines, these markers of identity are quite often found in the form of tattoos.
And Casis had an opportunity to experience this traditional tribal ritual firsthand.
Donnabelle Casis: I actually traveled to the Philippines for the first time since I was two years old — I hadn’t returned since — to go get tattooed by the oldest living tattoo artist, who is 103 years old. She is the last of the headhunter tattooers, and I had to trek 10 hours into the rainforest to meet her.
And these are official tattoos. They — they — they use the hand tapping technique with a thorn, soot from the fire, and bamboo sticks and tap the design into your skin.
Dave Fraser: This inaugural artist-in-residence opportunity was a unique experience for both artist and gallery. And since the pandemic, the gallery has been exploring ways to serve and support local and regional artists in nontraditional ways.
Donnabelle Casis: Having access to art is so important as part of our daily lives. It creates a certain perspective on the human experience. And once we have access to that human experience, it reminds us of how amazing we are and how creative we are.
So, the more access we have to these spaces, I think will enable other people to be equally inspired.