Artist's Statement

Of all the flowers associated with the Mexican tradition of Days of the Dead such as: the velvet flower, the moradita, baby’s breath, guietujul and biruxi’ (little rose and wild flowers in Zapotec), evergreen and even the white gladiolas, the marigold is without a doubt, the most representative and the queen of the festivity of Days of the Dead. Its original name Cempoalxóchitlor flower of twenty petals in Nahuatl, is my exhibition’s title and theme, a song to the spirit, color, fragrance and profound cultural significance of this native flower from Mexico and Central America. This exhibition is part of the 2019 Day of the Dead Celebration.

‘n xochitl in cuicatl’, the Nahuatl voice for ‘of flower and song’ is a metaphor which joined with the flowering soul of the heart or most sacred flower represented by Xochipilli lord of flowers, symbolizes that which is most precious in Mesoamerican thought inherited by present day Mexicans. Cempoalxóchitl represents life born from death, evoking the dual concept of life/death in ancient Mexico. Its ethereal yellow and orange petals, allude to the fragile wings of a butterfly and it is believed that in the marigold flower’s corolla, lies the warmth of sunrays and the light of the sun that illuminates the path of the recent departed souls in their transit to the sea of eternal life. Popular belief tells us that on the Day of the Dead or feast of the departed souls, each marigold seeks its departed soul and evoking the sun, illuminates his/her path, opens its petals, flies in the wind, draws, dances and true to the ritual calendar, year after year, it gives life to death. Towards the end of October when the monarch butterflies are arriving to their original sanctuary in the oyamel tree forests of Angangueo, Michoacan, market places all over Mexico, begin to get their large supplies of marigold flowers. Due to its strong fragrance and the cold nights of the season, we say that “it is beginning to smell of the Day of the Dead.”

Over the textures and aromas of the jungle pressed into handmade paper and the memory of the corn leaf printed directly on the surface of paper, my drawn, etched, painted and cut papers open up a dialogue between art and nature, a yellow river of Cempoalxóchitl petals and with my artisan hands, I explore and unfold form and content and the mysteries of art materials. In my vision, making art is like ‘making milpa’, (corn production system) it is like seeding a paper corn milpa with marks, colors and drawings that explore the creative process and drawing as a sensitive and thinking form. I am motivated by the majestic forest cathedrals of Canada, the land that carries the scent of sweet grass, Mexican flora, the wise and millenary milpa, corn as a solar plant and cacao a shadow plant. When I work, I am guided by intuition and I look externally with resonance to myself, the notion of place, connection, the associative weave of culture and relation to nature, are central in my creative process. The life long experience of a constant almost ritual migration between Canada and Mexico, leads me to find a symbolic identification with the migratory image of the monarch butterfly, a direct and beautiful link between my two habitats. I walk in the ‘cualli ohtli, the path of light and with me always I carry the image which is my own, that of my land of tezontle, Mitla and cochineal reds, yellow biruxi’, orange marigold, blue indigo, sea conch purple and black copal incense. It is the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the place of the beautiful baroque ofrendas, laughing sugar skulls and triptych huipil dress that communicates ancient truths in private, where lives the very old Chapultepec willow trees of my Mexico City. There, where mockingbird sings in 400 voices and water chocolate comes with flowers, the migrant butterflies always return every fall and the ritual lit by the Cempoalxóchitl marigold petals and perfumed with its aroma, marks the feast for the departed souls. 

Maria Luisa de Villa, visual artista 

Galería Arte de Oaxaca, Galería La Mano Mágica, MACOtienda/Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Sudbury Paint Gallery, marialuisadevilla@hotmail.com, LinkedIn/marialuisadevilla, facebook/marialuisadevilla, facebook/milpa, marialuisadevilla.wordpress.com, marialuisadevilla.blogspot.com, Art Gallery of Ontario/ago.net/artsales, Exilequarterly.com/product/volume-4

DATES: October 19–26

Saturday, October 19: 5pm–9pm
Sunday, October 20: 12pm–5pm
Monday, October 21 to Friday, October 25: 3pm–7pm
Saturday, October 26: 4pm–10pm

Peter Mckendrick Wychwood Gallery
76 Wychwood Ave, Toronto, ON M6G 4C6

OPENING: October 19 at 5pm
TALK: October 24 at 7pm

Free Admission!

1- La urna del cempoalxochitl. Dibujo, tecnica mixta con carboncillo, acuarela, pastel, cempasuchil, transfer y hoja de oro sobre papel Stonehenge, 112X78cm. 2019.jpg