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Living Ofrenda

The Art Of

Maria Luisa de Villa

Text by Linda Rogers

Her drawings are the translucent wings on birds and seeds that carry her music, messages of hope and enduring love, from continent to continent. "

"De Villa's mixed media drawings and washes on paper are prints of the transformation process as colonial seasonal transplants, the subtle ruminations of Maria Luisa de Villa, speak a deeper language than the intense colors refracted in Mexican sunlight."

"A traveler, not an exile, de Villa's annual migrations, patterning her beloved monarch butterflies between Oaxaca - where farmers and artists conflate in a culture as rich as the chocolate of the region, and the forest cathedrals of the Canadian wilderness - give her a per- spective on the Euro-Indian history of her Mexican homeland that allows the revelation of mysteries where belief systems collide. "

Bordando el negro terciopelo de la noche _ Embroidering The Black Velvet of Night. Ilustra

The woman who weaves

Poem inspired on the drawing:

"Embroidering the black velvet of night"

by Maria Luisa de Villa

Natalia Toledo

The shadow of the night

emerges from your legs.

You weave over a dark velvet totopo,

the flower children germinate on the cloth.

The leaves fall under your feet

The Ceiba only has breasts left.

A grasshopper appears in the alley

you clap and he leaves scared.

You wet the thread with saliva

mast that crosses the embroidering eye.

You are pregnant with flowers

and you have a girl who draws flowers

on the paper when she grows up.

Go to sleep mama, sleep and let your dreams open their mouths.


Abel Hurtado

Dear cihuateótl and cihuatlamáchtli, poetry is you, your painting and your way of seeing and living!!

Tzompantli with monarch

Inspired by a painting by

Maria Luisa de Villa

New York, May 2009

Vivian Demuth


The gray tapestry points to designs for one body,


Flying in an archway, the virgin covered in cloth prays

while the butterflies kiss with abandon.

These monarchs have captured the gold and silver

of the church.

They are older than skulls who are tired of the normal dress.

These Tzompantli skulls wear orange and black makeup

over the empty space.

Its bright teeth bite into the great walls of Mexico at night. They put the pantheons in their places.

Who stamped them on the writing pens

of the Museo del Templo Mayor?

The lush absence of blues is electric.

A vibration of drums on the door, it lowers

in the air, drifting like a billowing cloth.

The Aztecs are waiting,

Who will be the next to not die?

The Drawings of

Maria Luisa de Villa    

Former Director / Curator and Founder

The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto

Judi Schwartz


I first met Maria Luisa de Villa in 1997 when I was the Director / Curator of the   Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, University of Toronto. I was impressed then, as I am now, by the fine draftsmanship and poetic form in her drawings. De Villa's inspiring and innovative approaches to the making of and presentation of art have been embraced by numerous artists and Ontario institutions. Her world is one of relationships, the relation between the idea and materials, art and nature, tradition and contemporary, are a constant in her creative process.


While Maria Luisa's art is widely recognized, her curatorial ideas and her dedication to the advancing dialogue through the visual arts between Canadian and Mexican artists, have also gained her specific acclaim amongst her peers with a series of international exchanges. She is uniquely positioned to do so given her standing in both the Canadian and Mexican arts community.


The paper huipil series of drawings, is interesting on many fronts. It addresses issues that are topical and challenging in both Canada and Mexico. It explores the roles of women and culture; culture and identity; and of identity and environment. It is thought provoking as we find ourselves questioning our own cultural roles and how we work and live within those roles. The technique used for the project, using hand-made paper in the form of the huipil with drawings and collage elements, reflects back to the history of art traditions and it uses contemporary imagery to bring the issues to the present day.

One particular drawing entitled “Tropicos eternos / Evergreen” shown during a touring exhibition at the De Leon White Gallery, Toronto, at The Living Arts Center, Mississauga, at Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City and at Festival Internacional Cervantino de Guanajuato, was a pivotal piece worth taking a closer look at.This work received a great deal of attention not only for its message; but, for its excecution. Maria Luisa, a master in drawing, created a monumental tryptich drawing of a traditional huipil dress that hung on the wall, made with hand made amate papers. It highlighted a message of import to the 21st century - that of the delicate balance of man and the environment.


The current drawings are more fluid and thought provoking. We are pulled into the varied layers discovering elements and stories that reflect ritual and culture as divined by the artist. The palette is still soft using predominant earth colors and yet the effect of the imagery is one of starkness and is haunting. To seemingly  endless line drawing in the piece Nopalera / Morning Pear Cacti, is drawn with a sensitivity and inventiveness that takes the viewer to an imaginary secret garden.


I n some of the drawings like the series Tira de Oaxaca I, II, and III, the juxtaposition of nature and women evokes a feeling of eroticism as the viewer becomes voyeur. In others, we feel pulled into the imagery wanting to discover more of the stories and symbology and leave the drawings reluctantly to reflect upon the experience and to wonder what the artist will create next.

Of Telluric flutters

Or the migrations of

Maria Luisa de Villa

Oaxaca, Mexico, November 2007

Luis Manuel Amador

As a plural mirror on the approaches of the origins in ancient cultures, the contemporary world, especially its artistic language, attends the re-founding of myths and the rewrites of what was created by hands and by nature. Art, artifice and poetic at last, goes back to its beginning and looks back as if looking for its source. Some artists prefer to flee from the forms of nature and adduce resources of abstraction. But we will not know if, as they say, the origin of abstraction is conceived as mistrust

of the outside world that gives greater interest to what happens inside the artist.


Trust is said to arouse works permeated with real forms present in the world, just as disturbing propositions have been claimed to lead to an abstract language of the creator. By refusing to represent a "made and finished" world, the artist initially invokes a kind of future. Contrary to the seekers of the abstract, those who recreate existing forms, mainly those that start from nature, including the figure of men or women inhabiting a work, seem to enter into a dialogue with the past in their nostalgia for Paradise. This is the type of creative personality that Maria Luisa de Villa seems to invoke with her work, that of the maker in memory and myth, such as the growth of a stem.

María Luisa de Villa belongs to a family for several generations involved with art and its various manifestations. Born in Mexico City and living halfway between Canada and her country, we cannot tell if she flutters or rides like an Amazon on a steed loaded with Marian and telluric myths. On balance, the flight of a butterfly has more of an intuitive gallop than an incident-free full flight. But that does not reveal the monarch whose fluttering, full of mystery, stubbornly persists until the end of its time to wade through everything under the cold and lightning. However, the butterfly, that tiny papalotl heart, in the way that Castellanos refers to light, "is faithful and always returns." María Luisa also travels guided by intuition like someone who returns to her sanctuary of brushes and tools every year to fulfill her inalienable command. And so she returns to the Guadalupano precinct that lives in her papers and huipiles that migrate, like her, from textiles to cellulose.

It is no coincidence, looking at her anthropomorphic sketches, winning the First Hugh Owens Award, and being chosen as the winner of the Northern Ontario Arts Association Drawing Award in 1992 and 1993, as well as a scholarship from the Canada Council of the Arts at York University, where he studied Visual Arts.

Susan Sontag is right when she states that “beauty is part of the history of idealization, which in turn is part of the history of consolation.

But beauty may not always comfort. The beauty of the body and face torments, subdues; that beauty is imperative. Imperious as the elements that stubbornly compose an artistic work, such as the bodies of women that are ex-vow, vessel, seed, offering of a sacrifice with no other fatality than fate in the female carpel or the sex of a flower, the ambiguity of the thorny cactus that is thought bird.

It is not Maria Luisa's business if the traditional gardener struggles in the repetition of the ritual that he ignores, or if he ignores the virgin and opts for the cult of the land in his other quiet ceremony. De Villa seems to recall that in the Theogony, that sort of Genesis with which he founded a chronicle of the origin of the cosmos, Hesiod tells after Chaos the birth of Gaea, the one with the big breasts, the one who gave birth to Uranus as the starry sky and Pontus as sea abyss, which later shared a bed with Uranus and gave birth to the Titans and thus became the inexhaustible source of the Olympian gods. And in this universe of the artist the air and the earth coexist like a house, the walk and the fluttering of a butterfly with its round trip itinerary along its flight like a tremulous flame in the New Spain stone night. In his work, the Tepeyac acts as the Acropolis from where the plant world is the one who pontifies and dictates the vicissitudes while standing at the source of his other cosmos, which he now rewrites as one who is weaving a new word from the plant to the paper. which is his kingdom.

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