Katrina Bello, Petrified and Peeking, 2016, graphite on paper; 5.5 x 8 in.
Katrina Bello’s drawings from her Bato Bato Bato series build on Filipinos’ doubling words for endearment. Repeating bato (large rock) succors the loss of a landscape ruined by mining and urbanization, and Bello’s longing for her homeland after emigrating to the United States. She grew up on Mindanao Island, in the Philippines, where only three percent of the rainforest remains. When she was young, her family enjoyed Davao River known for its massive rocks. In September 2019, the river was found to be contaminated with the polio virus.
Petrified and Peeking parlays smudgy colored graphite into a welcoming, but distant, atmospheric abstraction. Though palm-sized, the work encloses and immerses, perpetuating the memories and loss the landscape holds. The viewer is transported to a busy swamp where white stumps and hillocks dive, fall, swim, and protect delicate reeds, sedges, and grasses. The piece wraps the pleasure and danger of a frolic within the hugging arms of interconnected wetlands.