Solenn Heussaff issues apology after backlash over art exhibit promo

Actress and artist Solenn Heussaff apologized Thursday morning, March 4, following criticism over a photo she released to promote an upcoming art exhibit.

"I’ve been thinking a lot about the comments you guys left on the photo I posted. I know it sparked some debate and there were both good and bad takes on it. While I appreciate the encouragement some shared, I also want to apologize to those I have hurt," she said in a post.

In the controversial photo, which has since been deleted from Solenn's social media accounts, the painter is sitting cross-legged on a wooden chair with a massive painting of leaves and plants behind her and one of her custom rugs beneath her.

The setting? What seems to be one of Metro Manila's many impoverished urban communities. The photo was criticized online, with many users pointing out how Solenn – whether she meant to or not – used poverty as an "aesthetic" to promote her exhibit.

Others also pointed out the stark contrast of the shanties and the usual cost of Solenn's work. Previous editions of rugs designed by the artist go as high as P68,000 a piece. The minimum daily wage in Metro Manila is capped at P537.

BACKLASH. The now-deleted photo was criticized by many as tone-deaf and insensitive.

Screenshot from Solenn's Instagram

Solenn explained she "wanted to shoot it in a typical street, those we drive by everyday." "All my paintings are about the people we see. Not the rich or the poor but people for who they are. Humanity. The choice of painting was to show the environmental side. The abundance and balance of what life was, but also growth and hope," she said.

She said that after the comments on social media she became "more sensitive to different perspectives on my choice of setting."

"It wasn't my intention to hurt or offend anyone. It was my hope that I could lend my voice and my art to show the reality of Filipinos. This is the heart and inspiration of all my paintings, both old and new. I did not want to romanticize the poverty of the everyday Pinoy or the resiliency that we naturally have. I really hoped to honor our people by being truthful about the kind of life a lot of Filipinos live today and to show that Filipinos deserve better," she added.

Solenn, at first, defended the photo and replied to comments by insisting that it was "not poverty porn" and that if critics "read [the] caption and [got] to see the whole show," they'd understand what she was trying to say.

She eventually deleted the post, both from her personal and art accounts.

Solenn, 35, is a French-Filipino artist who has since pursued a career in Philippine entertainment, both in TV and movies. She's also launched Solenn Manila, a lifestyle brand that features curated items from her favorite local brands. – Rappler.com