ARTIST TALK: JEZABETH ROCA GONZALEZ, 2020 MFA

Meet Jezabeth Roca Gonzalez, a multi-disciplinary artist. Gonzalez was born in Puerto Rico, “in a rural part of the island, which was like an island within the island.” She is interested in land politics, and her artwork celebrates the “island rural” traditions. Gonzalez investigates the unofficial colonial status that characterizes the relationship between the territory of Puerto Rico and mainland United States. She examines how colonialism is embedded into the collective identity, locales, and even the vegetation of the island.

For Battin’ A Hundred Gonzalez created an immersive installation called Desde la sala se ve la Isla (From the Living Room You See the Island). Verdant plantain palms are set on homemade mud tiles stacked to resemble a small island. The lush plants are grown from ancestral seeds that have never touched mainland soil. Two video monitors placed on either side of the mud-tile islet open windows into island dwellings. The entire scene is bathed in an endless magenta sunset that evokes visions of a perpetual tropical paradise. Meanwhile, viewers hear an alarming narrative of island life that reveals the deception of the luminous utopian setting.

Desde la sala se ve la Isla presents a view from the perspective of the creators and custodians of a wonderland they are restricted from enjoying. Gonzalez states: “Islanders are the machine producing perfection” for a tourist-based, service-oriented economy. Gonzalez challenges this status quo, asking: whose idea of perfection, and is this paradise a dystopia camouflaged as an exotic fantasy for outsiders? Gonzalez creates a translocal space where both viewer and inhabitant meet. The dislocated island elicits concerns about power, abuse, people, locality and a problematic history. The artist, in planting seeds in Tampa that were brought from Puerto Rico, reveals how even seemingly small actions stemming from remote places can have a significant local impact. Gonzalez celebrates the ingenuity of the “island rural” culture while raising questions about unethical dominance. She stresses the importance of preserving human and land rights and respecting individual societies. Desde la sala se ve la Isla presents a stereoscopic view of the creative and fundamental culture on the “island within the island.” It is also a look at the diaspora and migrant communities who have had to leave their homeland yet have found inventive ways to keep ties to ancestral lands and a rich cultural heritage. 

Facts about Jezabeth Roca Gonzalez: Jezabeth studied political science and her artwork is both political and social. She believes in Reggaeton and ​Édouard Glissant’s ​book ​Poetics of Relation.

To learn more about Gonzalez visit jezabethrocagonzalez.com

Learn more about Battin’ A Hundred at cam.usf.edu

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