Artist Profile: Pollyanna Dee

By Matthew Burgos

White and blue flowers bloom in the cracks of the woman’s face in ‘Daydream’. Split in half, her left face rests upon two hands that console her while her right face detaches itself from the commotion. Her eyes glisten with melancholy that her parted lips mirror. Her emotions overflow, consuming the way she commands her life and placing her into a state of reflection, a realm Pollyanna Dee knows by heart. “Art has always been my way of expressing what and how I feel, the depth of my state of mind. I often convey emotions that I cannot put into words through art. I think that there is true beauty in embracing your vulnerable self because that is what makes you human and brave; that is what may complete you,” the artist tells Our Culture.

A graduate of Visual Communication from the University of the Philippines, the Manila-based visual artist leans on abstraction and surrealism dotted with lines and shapes, distorted figures, and varying hues. “Most of my works are drawn with charcoal, ink, and through mixed media. I recently started playing with digital art because I think that there is a wide array of possibilities that digital can do. It also allows me to elevate and experiment with the textures, compositions, and colors of my artworks to tell a story,” she says.

Emotions epitomize Dee’s art language. At times, she dabs the eyes with tears; other times, she muddles her characters’ faces to signal disruption or disharmony. Whatever sentiment clouds her creativity, she defines her works as a visual diary, a volley of images rather than texts, layered with elements of self, life, and ruminations. “Most of my works are inspired by the strength I find and exude at my most vulnerable times, a journey towards self-acceptance,” she shares.

Shonna Waters, BetterUp’s Vice President of Alliance Solutions, notes in her article about the path to self-acceptance how the lack of it hinders a person’s ability to achieve their full potential. “People with high self-acceptance are more resilient to criticism. They understand that it is okay to accept themselves while also working for continuous self-improvement,” she writes. “Self-acceptance is the act of accepting yourself and all your personality traits exactly as they are. You accept them no matter whether they are positive or negative. This includes your physical and mental attributes.”

Dee’s quest for self-acceptance through art touches on women empowerment and mental health. She carves a path for those who find themselves in the same boat as hers, a battle against anxiety and depression to see through one’s value and worth. “My artworks convey the importance of recognizing our feelings with bravery and without shame, thus also focusing on mental health. They reflect the intimate and entrenched struggles within me, showing the essence of our ability to process and let go of what harms us to fiercely show on the outside who we are, that we are strong despite our flaws. Our vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but of strength and self-love. There is nothing wrong with that,” she says.

The woman’s face in ‘Headspace’, perhaps an indication of the artist’s portrait, floats in the air along with smokes. Inquisitive eyes peek through the slit of her split head. Her hands appear in the back and foreground, reaching out for help, for connection, for a renewed life amidst the chaos. Above the canvas, a yellow moon glimmers and shadows a tiny ballet dancer tiptoeing on the woman’s nose. It gestures a climb towards rebirth that Dee affirms. “The feeling of isolation, loneliness; of slowly drowning but still fighting our individual battles; of still hanging in there while hoping for a brighter tomorrow,” she explains.

Tears spring from the fought battles in ‘Breathe’. The woman lifts her chin up as she faces to the right, her skin and hair enveloped with tears. A black smudge censors her mouth, trapping the oxygen in her lungs. “I thought of capturing that the release of emotions that, in the end, feels brave and freeing. Through the good and the bad, we are brave in our own, honest, and beautiful way,” the artist shares.

The narration peaks as ‘Rise’ enters the trilogy. The battle has eased off and a fleeting moment of rest has leapt. The woman soars on the horizon, marked with scars through the foliage, marble-like swirls, red desert, and white sun tattooed on her skin and body. Creeping out of her mouth, pink flowers blossom. As Dee tells Our Culture, she drew the piece from the quote quiet strength is still strength. “During these hard times, when everything seems uncertain, may this be a reminder for us to be kind to ourselves, to pace into each moment and know that it is okay to be vulnerable. In the quiet, slower moments, we are strong.”

Pollyanna Dee employs art as a medium of self-acceptance and embraces sentiments as they come, extending her practice to those who seek a haven of enlightenment. As smokes cloak her characters’ faces and flowers grow as an emblem of valor, the artist embodies courage against adversity, freedom from fear of emotions, and congruence with self, hoping her audience will follow suit.