What Happens When You're An Artist And A Medium?
Mexico-based artist Mauricio Villarreal Garza draws upon a connection with his late grandparents and ancestors. The result is work that represents generations.
Photos by Diego Scala Chavez.
"State of the Art" is a monthly column that explores the world of artists and creatives, offering an exclusive insight into their unique perspectives and creative processes. Through in-depth interviews, Diego E. Sanchez aims to showcase these talents, encouraging them to tell their stories in their own voices.
As you step through the doors of Mexico City's “Anahuacalli" Museum by Diego Rivera, a painting calls your attention. A pair of beige pants adorned with a whimsical pattern of blue, white, and black silhouettes. Look closer—these pants are worn by a lady. Observe the play of light and shadow of the door. Is it opening or closing?
Your eyes aren't deceiving you; “Grandma Pants” is an artwork created by Mauricio Villarreal (@bourbonmist) in 2020. Today, it not only shares a space with Diego Rivera's artworks within the museum he designed but also serves as the welcoming focal point of the ongoing collective exhibit "La Casa Erosionada."
The artist from Monterrey also recently inaugurated his solo exhibition, “The Spider holds a Silver Ball in Unperceived Hands,” in his hometown (Monterrey, Mexico).
We met some years back through a mutual friend. In the world of art, where authenticity is a rare gem, Mauricio stands apart; he is self-effacing, and his regal presence makes him a truly captivating individual. I had the privilege of conducting an on-the-record interview with Mauricio, and our conversation delved into deep and personal aspects. Mauricio is a tour de force—an emerging icon. It's a true honor to have engaged with him, exploring the thoughts, experiences, and emotions that drive his extraordinary journey as a painter.
Diego: Having not just one, but two, of your artworks showcased at Diego Rivera’s Museum is an incredible accomplishment. Could you share the emotions and thoughts that rushed through you when you realized that one of your pieces would be the very first thing visitors see upon entering the museum?
Mauricio: Of course, thank you for having me here. I feel fulfilled and at ease seeing the pieces in their own designated spaces, where they resonate and spark conversations. It's obviously so much fun that “Grandma Pants” welcomes you at the entrance, while the ghostly presence of “When Grandma Visits” pops up as you’re leaving the museum. But I tend to distance myself from the success of my creations, although the process of making them is so visceral and personal. To me, it's more about the journey of the artwork itself.
Diego: Do you hold the belief that your artworks naturally find their destined place?
Mauricio: Absolutely; I create with intent, often channeling messages from the collective consciousness. The subjects I choose can reveal hidden and encrypted messages once the artwork is complete. These showcased pieces delve into family trauma, a common theme in art. It's intriguing how they've found a home in a museum with a mystical setting. Some of my works, like the ghostly figure, tap into esoteric realms, offering a glimpse into the unseen. While not all my creations follow this theme, the ones on display do resonate with it. Artworks, crafted with intent, find their place and become mirrors reflecting viewers' own experiences.
Diego: Could you take us behind the scenes of your showcased pieces "Grandma Pants" and "When Grandma Visits"? How does your fascination with the supernatural world shape your art, and what's the story behind these intriguing titles?
Mauricio: I often delve into the supernatural because I am a clairaudience medium. I've had contact with family members who have passed away, including my grandma. Although I can't see their image, I can hear them. My visual nature leads me to translate these experiences onto a 2D canvas. Many of the images derive from my encounters with the other world.
I've always admired my grandparents, both living and deceased, and of course, through my spiritual practices, I've been in contact with them. So, I get to learn from them. In fact, I resonate a lot with their personal taste. They always had some affinity for aristocratic French heritage aesthetics, which I love.
Diego: Your ghostly figures often carry a humorous twist. How do these themes help you delve into profound human emotions and experiences in your art?
Mauricio: My work is highly cathartic as it delves into my traumas, grudges, wounds, and fears, resulting in its eerie essence. I process these emotions through the creation of figures placed in fictional scenarios, often infused with humor. This approach serves as a coping mechanism and aids in the healing of these traumas. My work also embraces my queer identity, adding depth and fun to it.
Shadow work is as important as light work; many traumas linger in our subconscious, influencing our actions and reactions. Through therapy, Ive learned that by revisiting these experiences, we can heal. For me, art is the vessel to do this.
Diego: Your solo exhibit's title, "The Spider holds a Silver Ball in Unperceived Hands," is a reference to Emily Dickinson's poem. How does this poem resonate with the essence of your exhibition?
Mauricio: The poem talks about a spider doing its delicate artwork (knitting its web) until it's wiped off by a housewife in a split second. I attempted to employ this metaphor of "finding beauty in fragility" by playing with the space itself: eerie paintings coexisting with antique French furniture covered in milky plastic, giving it a ghostly/obliterated aspect. Showcasing beauty in the forgotten.
Just as the poem's spider and its web go unnoticed, we often neglect parts of ourselves. Rediscovering these aspects empowers us and gives us more control. I invite viewers to appreciate overlooked elements, such as spider webs and thorns. But more importantly, to find beauty in their vulnerability.
Diego: Your art's evolution from spooky themes to vibrant lightness is captivating. Could you elaborate on the inspiration behind this transformation and the message you intend to convey through this new direction?
Mauricio: These facets of myself represent oscillations and reflections. Over the last four years, intensive shadow therapy led me through dark and tough inner explorations. I'm now integrating this other side of myself into my work, letting it be, and dialogue with the aspects I've previously portrayed.
Diego: What fuels your creative spark? Do you have muses?
Mauricio: I find a lot of muses in nature. I've been working in perfumery these last couple of years, conducting my own investigations about flora and fauna. This research has revealed to me the guiding wisdom of nature and the lessons it holds for us. Nature's connection offers a benevolent energy that's serene, beautiful, and harmonious.
Spider webs, for instance, exemplify fragility and strength in perfect harmony—a delicate yet resilient balance. And this, to me, relates to us humans being connected to our divinity, our purpose, and being guided and nurtured by life.
Project Liason: Ricardo Flores