Paolo Arao (b. 1977, Manila, Philippines) is a Brooklyn-based artist working in painting, textiles, and collage. Arao experiments with ways in which to explore the elastic and open-ended concept of queerness through sewn paintings, fabric collage, and textile constructions. He combines geometric abstraction and bold color with textile media as an alternative to depicting bodies to address queerness – both queer meaning strange and queer meaning gay. Made with secondhand clothing, commercial fabrics, and used canvas drop cloths, the works resemble flags or quilts alluding to people and places as a coded visual language is woven into them.
He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999 and was a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2000. Arao has shown his work in numerous group exhibitions both nationally and internationally and has presented solo exhibitions at Franklin Artworks in Minneapolis, Jeff Bailey Gallery in NYC, Barney Savage Gallery in NYC, and Western Exhibitions in Chicago. He has been awarded residencies at The Studios at MASS MoCA, the Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Residency, Vermont Studio Center, Wassaic Artist Residency, The Millay Colony, BRIC Workspace Residency, and the Fire Island Artist Residency. He is a recipient of an Artist Fellowship in Drawing from The New York Foundation for the Arts. His work has been published in New American Paintings, Maake Magazine, and Esopus.