Roxana Pérez-Méndez’s new installation at Taller Puertorriqueño draws on the history of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community of Philadelphia. With research from Taller’s archives and other sources, Pérez-Méndez’s artwork wryly comments on the construction and perception of Puerto Rican identity. With Taller Puertorriqueño as the backdrop, her video productions incorporate imagery of Puerto Rican migration, Taíno ritual dances, and rural depictions of life and landscape.
The title of the exhibition is a reference to the Spanish saying, Quien a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra lo cobija. This translates to, “He who takes shelter under a great tree gets the best shade,” meaning those who benefit most in life are those who associate with something larger than themselves—in this case, the artist refers to Taller.
Some of her productions use a technique called “Pepper’s Ghost” to create a series of hologram-like illusions on dioramic scenes placed around the gallery. Scientist John Henry Pepper developed this technique in the mid-1800s using angled mirrors and reflective transparent surfaces. The method simulates a ghost-like hologram to the viewer.
Pérez-Méndez often uses the illusions in her installation work to merge the contemporary with the traditional, responding to the capricious nature of identity.
About the artist
Roxana Pérez-Méndez (b. 1976) is a video performance and installation artist who creates work about the arbitrary nature of contemporary identity through the lens of her own experiences as a Puerto Rican woman.Pérez-Méndez is based in Philadelphia and has exhibited widely including but not limited to the Universidad de Sagrado Corazón (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Taller Puertoriqueño, (Philadelphia), Times Museum (Guangzhou, China), the North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC), the Morris Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia), the Elizabeth Foundation of the Arts (NY, NY), the Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), the Fleisher-Ollman Gallery (Philadelphia). She was a finalist for both the Joan Mitchell Award and the Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2006. As a Philadelphia based artist, she is also an artist/member of the collective Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia from 2005 to 2013. Pérez-Méndez received her BFA from The Ohio State University, her MFA from the Tyler School of Art and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2003.
*Pictured at the top, Roxana Pérez-Méndez, Finca Del Guaraguao, 2017 (detail)