Art & Design

Artist’s den: Maria Jeona Zoleta’s neon chaos

Artist Maria Jeona Zoleta will be exhibiting her works at Art Fair PH, Feb. 16 to 19 at The Link Carpark.
Artist Maria Jeona Zoleta will be exhibiting her works at Art Fair PH, Feb. 16 to 19 at The Link Carpark.

“This is where I paint,” she says. We walked two and a half levels up a spiral ramp built by her engineer father, which led to her rooftop studio. Fitting — the midday light it bathed in made it seem like a different world. Definitely a stark contrast to the street downstairs, which by all means seemed all too…normal. But what’s normal, anyway? Maria Jeona Zoleta, or Jeona, likes to spend most of her time surfing in Baler. “I only come home when I have to work,” she says. She lives with her parents, who warmly greeted me at the front door.

Jeona gives us a tour. She points to a bright orange, fire print robe draped on a chair. “Minsan sinusuot ko ‘to dito kasi malamig sa gabi.” Everything has a purpose and everything is in its right place, but to the naked eye, it looks like neon chaos. There are a lot of curious articles lying around. A blue Buddha head. A book of fortune telling. A chipped rosary. A Betty Boop doll (which she loves). A magazine of naked African American women. “Ang gaganda nila diba?” she asks, not waiting for an answer. Everything here inspires her, or it wouldn’t be here, even the translucent rainbow fabric that hangs by the door, which provides neither shade nor privacy. It’s just pretty.

“I’ll take a selfie! “No, I’ll wear a Slinky.” “Ah! Tapunan mo ko ng confetti!” All her ideas on how we should take her photo. She seems self-conscious. Her hair is wet. She had just taken a shower — she did the interview with us straight out of bed, and offered some pretty strong coffee.

“I don’t want to be so serious. I look at other artists, and I look up to them, but they pose beside their art and it’s too serious,” she says. “Gusto kong makita ng tao yung andito sa isip ko, hindi yung skill.” Her works do reflect her forever-young mindset. At 28, she still feels like she’s constantly coming of age. “I felt like I was coming of age, siguro nung una akong nagkaron. I had my first period at a young age, and when that happens you realize, ‘Ah meron pala ako nito!’” She adds, “But every painting I make is a coming-of-age painting for me, they’re part of my story.”

Here’s a peek at her studio and her works, titled “Forced Farts Cartoon pain and Daddy Issues or Accident by Voodoo while I Masturbate in the Ghetto Under Water ‘Til Hell Freezes Over is a Freak Show,” for the upcoming Art Fair Philippines:

Jeona’s works are youth-centric, reflecting realities. “Everything is here now!” she says, pointing to her laptop, which she’s had since she was a student.
A rainbow painted basketball board, of course.
It’s not a costume — it’s her world.
From mementos from her youth to erotic encyclopedias
A child mannequin in sequined drapes stands guard.
If you need further hints that an artist lives here…
Her paintings stand in attention in her studio, surrounded by shiny, colorful oddities.
A French children’s book for inspiration
Doll parts
Detail from one of Jeona’s artworks for Art Fair PH


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