I am an artist. I am an artist-in-residence for the state of Arkansas. I came to Arkansas 21 years ago after meeting my future husband in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we are both from. He brought that wonderful AETN video about his work as an artist-in-residence, and I fell in love with him.
And so when my husband, Jorge Villegas, invited me to the United States, I came! And in three months time, I was in Arkansas! I love Arkansas, and I think it has been one of the most important things in my life. Not only did I discover a new life with my husband, I also discovered a new land, a new future, and a new community - El Dorado, Arkansas.
Moving to the United States was not without its challenges. Even though I had studied English in Argentina for 11 years, when I got to El Dorado, I didn’t understand anything, and no one could understand me because my accent was so strong! Slowly but surely I got better at communicating, and I began working in the schools and making my art.
The beauty of being an artist-in-residence is that not only are you teaching what you have learned in school, but you are also a practicing artist. It works well because you are teaching what you know, what you do everyday and you put all the hopes you have for your art and for the art of others into your works. You pass on all of your mistakes and all of your wonderful experiences through your art - it's transformational. Because I used to be a dancer and a singer, I consider myself a multidisciplinary artist. I love to mix all of these art forms in class - it invigorates the kids, and it helps me bring them a new way to feeling life through art.
The South Arkansas Arts Center is the artistic center for Southern Arkansas. El Dorado also has a convention center that brings events, and the symphony is very important to the community as well. El Dorado’s population is about 20,000, and the surrounding communities are very small. This makes the South Arkansas Arts Center and the artist-in-residence program an important component in the community’s experience with art.
My first impression of El Dorado was that there was a lot of space – Buenos Aires is an amazingly large city and space is at a premium. What impressed me most was the size of the buildings and the spaces within those buildings, like the galleries of the South Arkansas Arts Center. A big gallery creates an extraordinary sensation of space, and we can bring shows that would have been impossible to bring to South Arkansas in years past. These are professional shows that have visited big cities all over the world, yet here they are in what some would call a rural area. It’s wonderful that we can bring these world-renowned shows to Arkansas and to the communities of South Arkansas.
This new series of work that I have been creating for the last two three years started as an observation of my garden. I like wild things . . . when you live in a rural area, you have a lot of time to think about yourself and about the environment you live in. I had the idea of going out early in the morning or at sunset and zoom out from the leaves, the vegetables, the plants. I would zoom in and zoom out, and I started seeing so many wonderful forms and shapes beyond the idea of their physical shape. I am fascinated by the mystery of life, and I wanted to show that mystery of life through my artwork.
For more of Maria's artwork, click here.