On Exhibit: her name is Mary Jane

Lani Maestro, her name (2024). Canvas, wood, paint, 12” x 32”

By PANCIT Art Collective

At the exhibit HOHOL (Hang Out Hang Out Lang) curated by young artists Patrick Cruz and Christian Vistan are  artworks by 10 Filipino artists “from across the diaspora”. The exhibit opened last June 15th at the grunt gallery, an artist-run centre in east Vancouver and runs until August 17, 2024.

One of the featured artists is Lani Maestro. Her artwork her name is the hand painted “Mary Jane” on canvas. Beside the artwork is the little square with the QR code, which invites the viewer to scan the code. Who is her name, who is Mary Jane?

Maestro’s artwork her name is also dispersed throughout Vancouver, as part of the HOHOL exhibit, at several cultural and community spaces. These off-site spaces are at St. Mary the Virgin South Hill -Anglican Church at 808 East 50th Avenue, the Community Office of Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver Kensington at 6106 Fraser Street, Bahay Migrante at 4794 (basement) Fraser Street, and at Pampanga’s Best Cafeteria at 4279 Fraser Street.

Maestro’s artwork in these spaces provides the public with more and direct access, the appreciation, and connection/interaction to her artwork, in addition to that offered inside the grunt gallery. Off-site art helps remove the barriers to viewing and interacting with art, helps bridge social divides, and facilitates conversations around the artwork. Maestro’s her name does that.

QR Code to Free Mary Jane Petition

Mary Jane is Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina migrant worker, then 25 years old, who was trafficked by illegal recruiters with the promise of a job abroad in 2010. Her traffickers gave her a suitcase for her clothes but Mary Jane did not know that they had hidden illegal drugs in the lining of the suitcase. She was arrested in Indonesia, charged with drug trafficking, and sentenced to die by firing squad. In 2015, on the day of her execution, the Indonesian government ordered a last-minute reprieve for Mary Jane because of the global and overwhelming demand to stop her execution.

Mary Jane, the victim of trafficking, still languishes on death row, even if her traffickers have been arrested, convicted and imprisoned in the Philippines already! She has been a prisoner in Indonesia for 14 years. She is 39 years old and should be reunited with her children and her elderly parents who have relentlessly campaigned for her release.

If strong international pressure and support for Mary Jane was strong enough to spare her life on her execution day, then the pressure and support for the campaign to free her from jail and bring her home to the Philippines must continue. We can all help to free Mary Jane and bring her home.

Tairone Bastien, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Art at Ontario College of Art & Design University and independent curator, described  that “Maestro is well known for minimal yet provocative text-based works that are site responsive, unearthing a place’s resonant histories and narratives.” This was in response to Maestro’s public art in Vancouver which was later selected by the Urban Art Projects (UAP) as one of the best public art of 2023.

We believe that to be true. her name is a testament to that as well. Minimal.Provocative. Responsive.

Check out the HOHOL group exhibition at the grunt gallery.  See the artworks by Christopher Baliwas, Trisha Baga, Patrick Cruz, Ella Gonzales, Ramolen Laruan, Lani Maestro, Manuel Ocampo, Christian Vistan, Thea Yabut, and a text by Patrick Flores.

From the grunt gallery,  walk over to see an offsite extension of the HOHOL exhibition, Lani Maestro’s STILL, which is screening on the Emily Carr Urban Screen at the Wilson Arts Plaza. The screening runs until July 14,2024. STILL  is presented in partnership with Libby Leshgold Gallery.  STILL brings the work, originally commissioned for a poster billboard in Toronto in 2002, into a new, digital context.”

#freemaryjaneveloso #bringhomemaryjaneveloso