Art Student Libbi Ponce Exhibits at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts

Thursday, April 06, 2017

White tents litter Curtis Hixon Park on the banks of the Hillsborough River. It's the Raymond James Festival of The Arts, and amidst the skyscrapers of downtown Tampa, one tent stands out from the rest.

The tent belongs to Libbi Ponce, artist and Studio Art major at USF. Ponce exhibited her work – the highlight being an interactive installation featuring balloons – at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts on March 4-5, 2017 as an Emerging Artist.

Ponce submitted three works, which went through pre-jurying and jurying stages before being selected as one of fifteen Emerging Artists – a title reserved for artists who do not have an established record of showing exhibiting in places such as established museums and art galleries. Visit Ponce's artist page to see her submissions to the festival.

Ponce's interactive installation, titled globoloca, stood out among the works of other festival participants. The tent space was filled with balloons of different sizes and shades of pink and purple. Layers of bubble wrap covered the floor, and hand-dyed and handsewn faux fur beanbag chairs invited guests inside. The installation even contained her grandfather's old television, which he brought in a suitcase when he migrated to the United States from Ecuador.

For some festival attendees, seeing an art installation was a new experience.

"Do you do event planning?" some asked as they recognize a lush and celebratory scene.

Amused, Ponce declined politely. Other attendees were happy to find the source of the mysterious balloons that floated away from her tent.

One woman was so elated to encounter a stray balloon "dancing" on the river that she took a video of it and shared it with Ponce upon locating her in her installation.

Ponce spent much of the festival at her installation, where she had the opportunity to not only take in stories from her audience but also to absorb and analyze her creation.

"For everybody, the more time that you spend with a piece, the more you get to like look at it and think about it and digest it," said Ponce. "So, I have spent the most time with it. I have been creating it for a month and two weeks prior, so I can say a lot about it and appreciate it."

Ponce's installation is full of deliberate and creative choices that convey her artistry.

She placed bubble wrap on the floor as a way for guests to both "activate and destroy" the space. Some children even wanted to pop the balloons.

"It's kind of symbolic of these, like, microaggressions that people don't always realize that they do," said Ponce.

Additionally, she sees the entrapped balloons as a metaphor for desire, love, and the burden of love. Instead of releasing the balloons -- a tradition in her family -- they are kept in the confined space.

"Loving somebody restricts their freedom, you know, because they are trapped in this thing you want them to be," said Ponce.

She also played with the idea of amusement parks by using the space as a sort of tourist destination. She invited guests inside to use the space as a photo opportunity, even offering Polaroid photos to take home with them.

These are just a few of the layers meaning within Ponce's interactive installation. She has enjoyed creating meaning in her work and analyzing the intricacies of artwork during her time at the USF School of Art and Art History.

"As far as visual art, and especially in the School of Art and Art History, we're definitely taught in a more contemporary, conceptual manner more than in a way that focuses on technique and stuff like that," said Ponce.

She spent her time in high school proving to herself that she can excel at artistic techniques, such as painting. As a Studio Art major, she now enjoys learning art in a contemporary learning style that is full of possibilities.

"I came here, and I didn't really expect a contemporary fine art school," said Ponce, "but I came here and I got that, and I am like really surprised and very happy that that's how it's like."

And Ponce doesn't stop creating when classes come to an end. She created an interactive installation for the School of Art and Art History's annual Art House. Some of her upcoming plans include studying new media and relational aesthetics, having a solo exhibition at the Centre Gallery, and completing a drumming project with USF Professor Wendy Babcox at the Tampa-based artist collective Cunsthaus.

She is also applying for a summer residency at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and a residency with Artists' Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions (ACRE) in Chicago. Additionally, she plans to attend the USF in London trip.

As with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Ponce sees every application as an opportunity, and the experience has taught her at least one thing.

"Just apply to things," she said, "you never know what's going to happen."

Visit Ponce's website to see her artwork and recent projects.