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artist statement

As a conceptual artist that works across media, I think critically about how ideology shapes narratives and vice versa; to reimagine the archive as a tool for understanding the world and my own lived experience as a migrant and post-colonial subject.Through painted portraiture, assemblage, projections, and audio installations, I continue to illuminate how constructions from the past impose themselves on the present and future. I am committed to creating artifacts for histories that have been erased, misrepresented, altered, or excluded; and to engaging viewers in conversations about how the colonization of minds is not limited to those whose land has been colonized.


Ria Unson (b. Manila, Philippines) is a Filipino American visual artist living and working in St. Louis, Missouri. She was born in Manila and emigrated to the United States at age 13, eventually settling in the Midwest. Unbeknownst to her, her great-grandfather was assigned to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, following the American colonization of the Philippines. By sheer coincidence (or destiny) she moved to the historic neighborhood that once housed the Philippine Village at the Fair. It is still the occupied territory of the Osage Nation, the Missouria, and the Illini Confederacy. 


Ria studied fine art at Northwestern University. Her professional training is in graphic design. She has worked in corporate America and higher education. Her art practice centers the narrative of a mixed race, post-colonial Filipino American.


2023 "In the beginning was the word" curated by Denise Douglas, Messing Gallery, MICDS, September 1-October 6

2023 "Mga kuwento namin (Stories we tell)" curated by Karla Aguilar, Center for Creative Arts, March 24-May 3

2023 "Stories we are told" curated by Steve Hartman, The Gogh Getters, January 20-February 26

2022 "Stories we are told" curated by Vanessa Rudloff, Angad Arts Hotel, June 3-August 27


2024 Lunar New Year Exhibition, Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri

2023 CARE, Red Gate Gallery, curated by Adrienne Outlaw, St. Louis, Missouri

2023 Ann Metzger National Memorial Biennial, juried by Molly Moog, St. Louis Artists' Guild

2023 Small Works Invitational, Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri

2022 Tell Me A Story, juried by Caitlin Winner, St. Louis Artists' Guild

2022 Belonging: Cross River Art Exhibition juried by Allena Marie Brazier, Lewis Collaborative-TechArtista,
     St. Louis, Missouri

2022 The Art of Technology, an online exhibit juried by Andrea Coates, St. Louis Artists' Guild, St. Louis, Missouri

2021 Migration - 2021, international juried online exhibit

2022 Ann Metzger Memorial National Biennial Exhibition juried by Jade Powers, St. Louis Artists' Guild

2022 Curious? 5th Biannual Exhibition curated by Vanessa Rudloff, Angad Arts Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri,

2019 American Conversations juried by Yvonne Osei, Art St. Louis


2024 "A St. Louis Museum Revisits a Famous but Complex World's Fair," The New York Times, April 23, 2024

2024 "Updated Exhibit Addresses 1904 Pageantry — and Painful History — with Fresh Perspectives," Gazelle magazine, March 29, 2024

2024 "History Museum is set to reopen 1904 World’s Fair exhibit," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 28, 2024

2023 Featured in Scientific American’s Lost Women of Science podcast, December 14 episode

2023 Featured in Positively Filipino, December 6 issue

2023 Featured in “Filipino math teacher Emma Rotor helped develop crucial WWII weapons tech,”
   Science News, September 12 issue

2023 'St. Louis Artist Reclaims Her Story by Challenging Colonial Stereotypes," Gazelle magazine, March 2023

2023 Made in St. Louis: Her art stems from research on World's Fair, American imperialism,
   St. Louis Post-Dispatch

2022 New American Paintings, Issue 161

2022 HEC-TV

2022 The Santa Clara Review, Issue 109.2

2022 In Their Own Words,


2024 Featured Speaker, Midwest Filipino American Summit

2024 Featured Speaker, Decolonization in Asia Teach-in hosted by WashU Asian Multicultural Council

2024 High Noon at the High Low, "Exploring legacies of the 1904 World's Fair with Ria Unson, Filipino
   American visual artist," St. Louis, Missouri

2023 Annual Meeting Speaker, Cole County Historical Society, Jefferson City, Missouri

2023 Americanist Dinner Forum: Moving Stories: Migration, Advocacy, Art, and Scholarship in Conversation,

   Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

2023 Featured Speaker, NASPA APIDALA, Washington University in St. Louis

2023 Featured Speaker, Fall Speaker Series, Washington Public Library, Washington, Missouri

2023 Featured Presenter, Day of Dialogue and Action, Washington University in St. Louis

2023 Guest Lecture for Stories Culture Taught Me class, Washington University in St. Louis

2023 Guest Lecture for Mixed Mediums: Gender in American Visual Culture class,
Washington University in St. Louis

2022-2024 "Filipinos at the 1904 World's Fair: a legacy of race and empire," Missouri Speakers Bureau

2022 Guest Lecture for Monumental Anti-Racism class, Washington University in St. Louis

2022 "Filipinos and the 1904 World's Fair: a legacy of race and empire," East Central College, Union, Missouri

2022 "Filipinos and the 1904 World's Fair: a legacy of race and empire," Center for Diversity and Inclusion,
   Washington University in St. Louis

2022 Artist Talk Discovery Tour: Women and Art, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

2022 "Filipinos at the 1904 World's Fair," St. Louis County Libraries Speaker Series

2022 Artist Talk, "Stories we are told," Angad Arts Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri

2021 Guest Lecture for Archiving St. Louis: The City as the Crossroads of the World class,
   Washington University in St. Louis

2020 Panelist, "Good Words and Broken Promises," American Legacies of Manifest Destiny,
   Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri


2023 Ann & Edgar Metzger Memorial Award

2023 Best of the Net Anthology

2021 Ann & Edgar Metzger Memorial Award


2021 Artist in Residence (virtual), Cel del Nord, Orîsta, Spain

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