Michael Arcega

Contemporary Filipino American Art Exhibition




Michael was born in Manila, Philippines, and migrated to Los Angeles at ten years of age. He relocated to San Francisco to attend college where he currently lives and maintains a studio. He is an Associate Professor who teaches in the Sculpture and Expanded Practice area. He is a member of the curatorial boards of Root Division Gallery and the Recology Artist in Residence Program.

Arcega has a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from Stanford University. His work has been exhibited at venues including the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Asian Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Cue Arts Foundation, and the Asia Society in NY among many others.

He is a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, Artadia grant, Joan Mitchell MFA Award, Murphy Cadogan Fine Arts Fellowship, among others. He has been an Artist in Residence at the Unicorn Centre for Art, Beijing; Yuyuan Lu Residency, Shanghai; 18th Street Art Center, LA; Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga; Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito; the Fountainhead Residency, Miami, Artadia Residency at the ISCP, NYC; Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha; Al Riwak Art Space, Bahrain, and the Recology Artist Residency Program, SF. Arcega’s work has been discussed in publications including Art Forum, the New York Times, Art Practical, Art News, X-TRA, SF Chronicle, Artweek, Art Papers, and Flash Art among others.

Artist Statement: 

As an interdisciplinary artist, I work across media to create art that is informed by language, history, and geography. In current gallery works, I adopt methodologies used in the anthropological study that emphasize “otherness.” By making the strange familiar and the familiar strange, I make situations that ask for deeper investigation and curiosity. My work also has a playful element, providing familiar entry points to alternative ways of thinking about objects and people on colonized the landscapes.

The work collapses fiction and myth with certainty and empirical facts from research. Folktales and memories intersected with current and historic events creates a logical rift that can be exploited poetically. The question of authenticity becomes fugitive and the lines of truth are blurred. I reimagine familiar forms that conjure historic parallels from my colonized past while looking for remedies in the colonizer’s present landscape.

Anting Anting | Magic Objects

Anting Anting | Magic Objects is a series of sculptural works that play on mysterious practices from artist Michael Arcega’s Filipino culture and experiences.

These handmade objects explore the indigenous Filipino concept of anting anting, a belief that everyday items as well as handcrafted amulets etched with symbolism can heal, bring prosperity, protect and strengthen. The possessor of the object performs rituals such as a prayer to impart its power. After Spain’s colonization of the Philippines, anting anting appropriated imagery from Catholicism. It is still practiced today by many.

As a child in the Philippines, artist Michael Arcega encountered anting anting and the practice of the albularyos and Hilots, seers and healers. The artworks he has created for this exhibition draw from that experience and examine mystical power, objectified-strength, safety and protection from the challenges of contemporary life and politics. These art objects act as functional and decorative items as well as spiritual guides. They guard from the looming threats that surround us and empower those who believe. Each is a starting point to create conversation and explore the possibilities of transformation and hidden power.

With Anting Anting | Magic Objects, Arcega draws from memory to recreate commonplace objects that have special meaning in his own life. When in distress, comfort and relief can be found in items we hold close. Merging fine arts practices with an anthropological sensibility, he invites viewers to consider the power of belief and truth of ordinary objects in our lives.

Below are three works from the series:


Beisbol Club: Headhunter’s Broom, 2018
(Ceremonial cleansing)
Pyrography on wood and hay
6’ x 2’ x 2’
A type of smudging ritual tool, this object cleans spiritual and corporeal bodies at the same time. This early multi-purpose tool is mostly for spiritual use, but can easily be used to sweep the ceiling or deliver a painful blow to an adversary.
Beisbol Club: Fahyerbatte, 2018
(Incendiary Device)
Wood, phosphorous, and grip tape
34” x 6” x 6”
It is rumored that the wielder of this tool can manipulate a large group or mob.


             Next Artist >