Brenda Fajardo works as a professor in the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines and serves as a curator at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipinas Research Center. As an artist, she searches for an emergent in both material and advocacy. Using the techniques of the graphic artist while allowing an element of chance into her work through freehand drawing, she crosses the gap between academic training and visual folk culture. She sustains her capacity to discern alternative realities not only by choosing unconventional surfaces like grass paper, but also appropriating the popular visual logic of illustrated storytelling, with its carnivalesque imagery and ebullient color traditions. Fajardo's pictorial scape is peopled by characters from indigenous and urban mythology and the dramatis personae in the theater of Philippine colonial history. The sense of gesture and dress, icon and event, myth and social comment, tableau and anecdote emerges from a contextual awareness of the nation's changing fates. From her early dreamscape prints to her recent Tarot Card Series, Fajardo displays a vigorous commitment to her art, cultivated through her roles as cultural worker, grassroots organizer, art teacher, theater artist, and curator.
In Fajardo's Tarot Card Series, the cards serve as transcripts of collective imagination and experience, as the diviner of history that is not all karma, but rather transformable as people intervene in the process of its constant remaking. In the hands of Fajardo, the creation of social conditions and personal identity assumes ideological and spiritual forms: the cleansing of self, the will to reinvent the world, and the sharing of a seer's gift to see through reality and presage changes beyond it. Her tarot cards reveal social fortunes as the artist-shaman plays the role of ancient priestess, who reinscribes predictions and premonitions within the schemes and surprises of history. She spreads out the full deck of possibility and chance. Ultimately, however, the artist can only herald the truth that fortune is not written in the stars, but is actively read and made in the cards of changing historical memory.
The Pilipina series presents the conditions of female overseas contract workers. These OCW's are at once held as the new heroes of the Philippine economy whose work abroad pours dollars into the country, but at the same time mourn by the people as sacrificial lambs of globalization, "women of lesser cost" who tread the shaky ground of migrant global labor. Fajardo's cards depict the roles of Filipinas abroad: entertainers in Japan, domestic helpers in Hongkong, undocumented entrants in Taiwan, and maltreated workers in West Asia. As the artist deals the cards of the fool, the devil, the magician, the tower, the wheel of fortune, death and justice, so does she survey scenes of factory workers assembling toys, a maid sleeping on cold bathroom tiles, and relatives grieving for a loved one who has returned in a casket. This juxtaposition of cards and conditions disrupts the poignant poses the women strike, postures of estrangement with an affinity to the forces which do them in and bail them out.
Fajardo shuffles the card to shape certain outcomes of historical events, political issues, and everyday material culture. Saturated in gold leaf and folk colors, the cards read like fables of life, flashing the images of kinship, power relations, human conditions, and spiritual systems, at once indicting and affirming, subverting and coming to terms with weakness and virtues.