Kill Choy is an American living in Mexico creating woodblock carvings and street art, situated in a very localized scene in Mexico City. Given this context, you might not guess that she’s actually Filipina. Until recently anyway. A lot of her new works delve deeply into Philippines history and mythology, unfolding in epic battle scenes and tales of lore.
One piece tells the story of Mount Mayon and another the battle of Battle of Mactan. “I’ve become very familiar with Mexican culture and art since moving here five years ago, but realized I don’t have that familiarity with the Philippines because I was born in the US,” she says over Skype, a batok-style tattoo snaking out from under her shirt collar. “So as I made this series revolving around Filipino art, I was teaching myself my ancestors’ history.”
During this stage of her life, she’s also started reaching out to Filipino artists and organizations across the US and within the Philippines. But for now, the majority of her audience is based in Mexico and the US. Despite the distance between these worlds, her work still resonates where she’s living: “I’ve noticed a lot of cultural similarities between the two countries. For example, I made a print of a kubo, and oftentimes when people see it here, they think it’s an image from Mexico. And reed boats are one of the oldest boats in the world, so people from both countries find them familiar.”
Choy’s introduction to Filipino culture has been a little disorienting for her though. “I’ve only been to the Philippines six times throughout my life. And I don’t speak Tagalog. It’s common for Filipino Americans raised in America to be able to understand their parents but not speak the language themselves,” she explains. “But I’ve learned to speak Spanish now. And the fact that Spain conquered the Philippines makes for a weird mental conflict.”
At the moment, she’s taking time to reflect on things she’s learned. “My job right now as a human being isn’t to only make art. I definitely enjoy it, but I want to explore all the things that it means to be alive.”