Walk in Closet

Iya Consorio

June 1 - July 1, 2023


Iya Barrioquinto’s recent collection of works manifests the unique narratives that form within the intimate confines of one’s inner self. It depicts our secret conversations with ourselves and the comforting embrace that one finds in the quiet arms of solitude. As the title deliberately suggests, “Walk-in Closet” characterizes how a woman’s inner world would house and protect a manifold of beautiful stories and memories hidden from the mundane reaches of the world. Each dress is a treasured memory, a fleeting splinter of herself floating in the comfortable void of her own personal space. Each of them contains a hidden narrative—perhaps a smile, a fresh wound, or in some instances, an unerasable scar. Within each dress, we can find an unseen world, a living landscape of stories with plants that breathe and bloom in the rhythm of their owner’s heartbeat.


Iya uses meticulous impasto applications on canvases shaped like women’s clothing to express the raw depth of her emotions, showing a restrained battleground of both playfulness and control in each stroke. Each landscape of color depicts a facet of herself, a notional gesture of changing seasons or the struggle between daylight and the nocturne. Perhaps all is but a symbolic act of blossoming into age, visual reiterations of how the self successively matures when exposed to time and constant struggle. One of the paintings shows a lurking skull, a constant reminder that all things that bloom also wither. There is no form of beauty that is immune to death, and even images and concepts are of no exception. From beggars to kings to even empires, it is an inescapable force that exists as a part of life’s enduring cycle. This work also reflects the artist’s resolute fear of death, a common structure of anxiety that we all share and struggle with. The artist perceives the movement of her life through this series of paintings quietly unfolding, like the transitory progression of a graceful symphony that writes and drives itself to life. The dress-shaped canvases are depictions that capture the shapeshifting quality of fabric, which could transform into any dress that the maker wants. It could be modified to hide or reveal things if need be. It is a symbolic indication of both our desires and fears and how we wear them in public, almost like a second skin. Sometimes, a dress takes on a life of its own and takes over the identity of its wearer, projecting a camouflage of disguised confidence and strength.


A dress has long been a sociocultural signifier of one’s stature in society. Slaves would wear rags, just as monarchs would be clothed with expensive robes. Throughout history, it has also been used to reinforce gender stereotypes, as specific types of clothing have been expected from the traditional notions of what is feminine and masculine. As children, our parents choose what we put on, and as we grow older, we gain the privilege to wear what we really want. In essence, we can simply deduce that a dress can be a gesture that defines nonpictorial concepts such as the distinction drawn between control and freedom. In this exhibition, the artist embraces her femininity and sees it as a symbol of strength. She accepts her whole self: her vigor, her persistence, and even her momentary states of fragility. Her frequent junctures of unease and self-doubt are the moments that drive her towards the comfort of isolation. From this act of exile springs her ability to paint honest, relatable images that speak straight from the confines of her own heart.


Words by Dave Lock