“Over the textures and aromas of jungle pressed into handmade paper, and the memory of corn leaves imprinted on paper, my painted, drawn, cut, collaged or embroidered papers, reveal stories, allude to the idea of a sense of place and open up a dialogue between art and nature. It is an imaginary landscape inhabited by images of the series: milpa (maize), milpa-pel, Flora, Marigold, Paper Huipiles, Arbol, CacaoChocolate, Virgin of Guadalupe, Day of the Dead, Ofrenda, Mariposa and other unnamed forms and colors.
Making art is like growing a corn milpa, a space and time, a dialogue that explores the creative process, the secrets of each material and drawing as a thinking and feeling form that leaves the imprint of my process. I am moved by the majestic forests I see as green cathedrals of Canada, the nation that carries the scent of sweet grass; the wise and millenary milpa culture, maize and cacao as solar and shadow plants.
I walk in the path of light –cualli ohtli, and with me I carry always, the design which is my own, that of my land of tezontle red, the cochineal and Mitla reds, the yellow biruxi’, orange marigold, indigo blue, purple sea conch, and black copal.
It is the sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe, where the ancient willow trees of Chapultepec live in my grand Mexico City.
The place of the crickets, the beautiful barroque ofrendas and the laughing sugar skulls, where every year, on the feast of ‘muertos’ lit by marigold petals, life and death are interwoven by the river’s edge, while the triptych huipiles communicate ancient truths in private. There, where the mockingbird sings in 400 voices and water chocolate comes with flowers, every fall, the migrant butterflies always return.”
Maria Luisa de Villa is a visual artist, curator, ecologist and a force in the Mexican cultural diaspora. Her work pays homage to Mexican flora, and is recognized for its drawing, reflecting a sense of place, space and memory, and a message of import in the 21st century: the delicate balance between humans and nature. Her art explores the natural and architectural space, the correspondences and associative weave of culture, the cultures of Guadalupe, cacao/chocolate and the wise and milennary milpa culture, “making art is making milpa”. She collaborates with international artists and Mexican indigenous artisans, gives talks and writes on Mexican arts and culture. She works on the series mil papel / 1000Papers: Creative Hands, Letters From Toronto, -Mexico City,- Oaxaca, -Sudbury, Drawing Life With Flowers- the flower seen as metaphor of the strength and fragility of life.
She lives and works between Mexico and Canada since 1961.
In 1986, she obtains a BFA Honours Degree from York University, and a Masters in 2000 from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México- thesis: Santa Maria de Guadalupe, imagen Mexicana en la Historia, Diplomas- Universidad Iberoamericana and Cambrian College, workshops with renown artists: FranciscoToledo, Jose Luis Cuevas, Gilberto Aceves Navarro, Carl Schafer, Ted Bieler, Tim Whiten.
Her trayectory includes 180 exhibitions al international venues such as: Festival Internacional Cervantino; Museo de la Ciudad de México; Canadian Embassy in Mexico; National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago; Centro Cultural Santo Domingo de Oaxaca; CaSa- Centro de las Artes de San Agustin; Metro Bellas Artes CDMX; Galería La Mano Mágica; Galería Arte de Oaxaca; Galería Misrachi; Galería CEART Tecate, Baja California; Museo de los Pintores de Oaxaca; Centro Cultural Fox, Guanajuato; The McMichael Museum of Canadian Art; Yukon Arts Centre; Montreal Maison de la culture Côte- des-Neiges; Art Gallery of Ontario/S&R; Mississauga Living Arts Centre; De Leon White Gallery; York Quay Gallery Harbourfront Centre; Hart House Justina M. Barnicke Gallery University of Toronto; York University Fine Arts and Samuel Zacks Gallery; Beijing University; Art Gallery of Sudbury; WARC Women Art Centre, Toronto; Arts On King Gallery, Toronto.
Awards and Grants
On repeated occasions, The Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Art Council, York University, CERLAC York University, Alianza Hispano Canadiense U of T, Art Gallery of Sudbury, Northern Ontario Art Association, Canadian Heritage, Foreign Affairs Canada, and Spanish Speaking Consular Corps in Toronto.
Selected Public and Private Collections
Her work is in the collections of: The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca, Museo Diego Rivera; President Vicente Fox Family, NY celebrity Gloria Vanderbilt, renowned artist Ed Pien, collectors Sara Garmon and Ansley Cole.
Selected Courses and Artist Talks
Master Drawing Course, Art Gallery of Sudbury, Space and a sense of Place, Living Arts Centre, Ontario; Drawing From Nature Master Drawing Course, Tuktu Studio, Whitehorse, Yukon; Ofrenda de muertos, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto; Guadalupe in Art, Hart House, University of Toronto; Prehispanic Art, conference on the exhibition: "Human Body, Human Spirit: A Portrait of Ancient Mexico”, Royal Ontario Museum; The Art of Mexico, York University, Toronto; Popular Arts of Mexico, Guelph Museum, Ontario; Places of Their Own, Kahlo, Carr, O’Keeffe, McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario; Frída Kahlo, York University; Cuevas and Toledo: Contemporary Drawing in Mexico, Radío-CBC, Toronto; Guadalupe in Art, conference, Victoria College, University of Toronto; Contemporary Visual Art in Mexico, TV-Canal TLN, Toronto.
2020- Produces the Youtube video: OFRENDA Ritual de vida / LivingOfrenda, 2018- Living Ofrenda / The art of Maria Luisa de Villa, by the prestigious Exile Literary Quarterly Magazine with 13 pages of images and an essay by Canadian writer Linda Rogers; June 2015- Mujeres magazine cover and inside section; in 1993- Historia Cultural de América Latina by Mario J. Valdéz, FCE. Toronto Star, Now Magazine, CBC-Radio, SudburyStar, NorthernLife, El Universal, Excelsior, Quadratin, El Imparcial, CiudadaniaExpress, TheBridge Magazine, LATTIN Magazine, CorreoCanadiense, Dialogos, TorontoHispano, Maria Luisa was named “Mexican icon in Canada” by Notimex and her art work together with Salma Hayek’s acting, were described as “a powerful visual expression” by E.J. Martini Boys Toronto/Review.
Projects, Curatorial Initiatives, Critique and Organizations
Active member of the artistic communities in both Mexico and Canada, Maria Luisa’s approach to making art and the presentation of art have been recognized as original and embraced by institutions and fellow artists. She has worked in programming and community engagement in the arts on the basis of her own concept: “working with the exhibition, unfolding the creative process, exploring correspondences with place, nature, and other disciplines, transforming the museum into a living space.” She has organized creative exchange art forums, recognized as contributions in the arts and stepping stones in the advancement of a dialogue between cultures, bringing to the forefront artists of Latin American descent in Canada and Canadian artists in Mexico. Maria Luisa is the first woman to have a solo exhibition in 2007 at the Museo de los Pintores de Oaxaca and a founding member of: 1992- CCIE- Hispanic Arts Foundation and anual arts festival funded by the Spanish speaking consulate corps in Toronto; 1992- ArteVisual 92 Festival of Words and Images- first Toronto Hispanic Artist Collective and 1977- The Northerners Art Collective. In 1992, she was appointed Canadian correspondent for the Centro de Estudios Guadalupanos A.C. In 1985, she introduced in Canada the first traditional and contemporary Ofrenda installations and the popular tradition of Dia de muertos / Day of the Dead, becoming one of the most popular fall arts events in Toronto and GTA and, establishing in 1994, an anual space dedicated to Mexico at Harbourfront Centre; from 2018 to 2020, she was a member / curator for the Colectivo dias de los muertos Collective, Wychwood Artscape, Toronto. From 1994 to 2004, she brings to Canada, the art of Jose Luis Cuevas, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Francisco Toledo, Gilberto Aceves Navarro, Juan Alcazar, Justina Fuentes, Natalia Toledo and Roberto Turnbull. Her creative thinking is reflected in design and in projects such as the “casa- boutique hotel” a concept proposed in 1994 for Oaxaca, Mexico, becoming a main characteristic of the city. She is a co-founder and store designer of El Mercado import retail business in Northern Ontario.
Maria Luisa de Villa is considered a “visionary and ambassador of Mexico” by cultural leaders including renown artists Francisco Toledo and Ted Bieler, Dr. Guadalupe Perez San Vicente former director of Mexico City Historical Centre; writer Elena Poniatowska; writer/TV personality Sonja Dunn; Judith Schwartz, founding director of Hart House, University of Toronto, Pat McCaulay director of Open Studio and former Visual Art Director of Harbourfront Centre. From 2002-2004, she structured the personal archive of artist Francisco Toledo: Work, Life and Projects, at the Instituto de Artes Graficas de Oaxaca, and in 2003, she proposes and coordinates the donation of his signed sandals to the Bata Shoe Museum. Her voluntary work includes 1991-98- Toronto Consulate of Mexico cultural Affairs, 1985- Canadian Red Cross Mexico earthquake relief; Mexican Canadian Association and Enlace Community Link, in support of Mexican migrant workers. Life-long supporter of the arts and forever enamoured with Mexico, she donated her personal specialized Art and Mexican History library including Canadian art, to the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca and Biblioteca Henestrosa, as well as Mexican art objects to The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art and The Textile Museum of Canada and helped create a library in the Mexican Consulate of Toronto in 1992. Maria Luisa was born and raised in Mexico City in a family of art collectors whose collections were donated to: Museo Bello, Museo de la Basilica de Guadalupe and Pinacoteca La Profesa in Mexico City.