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Beauty from the Refuse

by | Dec 26, 2018

Cat Chiu Phillips's childhood growing up in Manila, Philippines has informed the public art pieces she creates today.

Growing up in Manila, I experienced and witnessed the overwhelming amount of pollution, poverty, over population, and constant battle against natural disasters. I have always explored these ideas in my work because of my admiration for the population’s ability to rise against constant tragedy. Though I use various found materials in my work, discarded items became an interest to me because of its contextual value. Who did it belong to? How did it get there? What will happen to it later? What is its story? This narrative richness inevitably intensifies the visual arts product.

At the same time, the battles with nature gave Cat the opportunity to learn traditional handicraft methods such as embroidery and crocheting.

In creating works of art, I revert back to methods I have learned during my childhood. I became skilled at traditional handicraft methods because of the learning opportunities growing up. I think back at the time when there were rolling “brown outs” consistently in the afternoons, as well as typhoons and flooding becoming common occurrences in the streets of Manila. The tedious and laborious traditional methods such as embroidery and crocheting are important in my artistic process, because it ties it back to these childhood memories of art making.

Nowadays, Cat uses those traditional methods to weave together beautiful public art pieces using discarded materials. Much as she learned in her childhood, beauty can emerge from the most unexpected places and things.

The William Male Foundation awarded Cat an art grant so she could participate in a textile residency in Peru and explore the local culture and traditional textile handcrafts. We're excited to see how her art grows from this residency!

Here are a few of Cat's public art installations. Visit her website to see more.

for Nashville International Airport
VHS magnetic tapes

Installed at Lancaster, PA Train Station
Electronic waste

Installed at Millard Sheets Art Center for Los Angeles County Fair
Plastic bottle caps and dry cleaners garment bags

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