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Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Mariángel Catalina Gonzales-Rodríguez



With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.


Mariángel Catalina Gonzales Rodríguez is a photographer and the producer for the MECA International Art Fair.


What got you into photography?

I’ve always been surrounded by photography. I remember my parents had various types of analog cameras around the house. My dad always had a camera with him. So I started having a camera with me at all times.

I was fascinated how people “changed” when they were in front of a camera, how the lens will make them feel either comfortable, and at many times, uncomfortable. How much power conveys in such a small thing to make you react or act a specific way. At first it was all about an experiment of who could smile in a “blink of a shutter” – or rather who decided not to.


What got you into filmmaking?

I am in the filmmaking industry really as a Producer with a high interest – and minor experience – as an Art Director. Photography for me is definitely a passion that can be catalogued as a side job, but it really isn’t. A job has many levels of responsibility and when it comes to my photography, I like to veer off from any limitation.

How did you develop your style?

The ability to “look closer”, eg. most of the time, I rather pay attention to the details on the bottom-left corner of the photograph vs. the whole picture (after the photo was taken). That attention to detail takes me to my imagination: what if that corner bleeds into the whole picture, what if there was someone or something else there that could turn this into a different feeling when looking at the photo? I am always thinking about my emotional experience through the photo, and hopefully that information can be transferred to my viewers. I like using humor.

How has it evolved through the years?

At first, I was all about human behavior, and then it became about my feelings, what I want to say, rather than what people wanted me to capture of themselves. For example, in some of my portraits I want to give the person a boost, a way of looking at themselves differently, I want to show them how I see them and love them.

Also, my photos were more “real”/”in the now” before, and presently they all have been altered somehow to change your perspective on something – based on how it changed me.


What are some of your influences and inspirations?

All the information that we gather as human beings through the years is truly an inspiration: from what’s immediately around me, to all my travels, people and wishes. However, attention to detail is my true energy for channeling anything I want to accomplish with each photo.


Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

I am working towards gathering the courage needed to become a DP (Director of Photography). Static is precious, I will never “leave it”, but movement is the next pursuit. The wheel is beautiful doing nothing, just standing there, but my new curiosities are tied to how that wheel is going to move and how far is going to go.



What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

We are a colony, we are seeing the heinous side effects of that, and as a consequence, we are living the deterioration of government, infrastructure and human spirit. Cutting funds to the Arts limits our resources. The Arts are never seeing as a priority, and they should because without them, there would be no inspiration to move forward and to turn things around. They allows us to see the other side of things, to jump outside of the hole.



What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

PR’s independent art scene has always been around, and it’s always been solid, but with social media we’ve been lucky to learn from one another and connect more. Social media has also encouraged to bring more creative minds into the mix, adding two  important roles to it: coexisting and competing. Conceptually, coexisting and competing sound like they are two polar opposites but I believe they encourage each other for self-challenges.

I lived in NYC for 14 years, and one of the main reasons to move back to Puerto Rico 4 years ago was the DIY scene here. Since I’ve been back, I’ve tried to document as much as possible the local art scene in Puerto Rico. You can view that on instagram via @enlazartes.


If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

Don’t get discouraged of becoming, your perspective is as important as everyone else’s. Just make sure it’s as BOLD as possible. Shake it up, follow your gut, but use common sense. Make sure you also learn about history, business, anthropology. These elements ensure a respect to yourself as an artist, and others.

As my dad always says (even to this day), quoting the poet Robert Frost: choose “the road not taken”.

What is your biggest goal right now?

Launching the third edition of MECA on Nov. 21-24th, 2019. Launching the second edition of LOCAL, which is a guide that pledges on our local economy by supporting local businesses. Continue working, we all have bills to pay in this oligarchy.


What do you seek to achieve with work?

Learning, as much as possible, for life, for evolvement. But more importantly, never stop working. My parents are in their mid seventies and they are still working – and their minds continue to develop. That to me is amazing.

All of the pictures in this article were used with permission from Mariángel Catalina Gonzales-Rodríguez. You can find her work in her website and Instagram.

Fernando E. E. Correa González is the author behind over 20 self-published poetry books. He has been published by literary magazines & journals [Id]entidad, El Vicio del Tintero, Sábanas Magazine, Smaeralit and Tonguas. Other than writing, Correa is also a filmmaker, podcaster, photographer and master’s student. He currently lives in his native Puerto Rico.
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