“Mexico is so full of color; it’s beautiful to me,” artist Lourdes Villagomez says. The inspiration she takes from her home country is clear — in the background, her Mexico City studio is full of a rainbow’s worth of works-in-progress, vibrant and vividly dynamic. “If I’d grown up in another place, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to create what I do. It would be impossible,” she says. As a full-time working painter, Villagomez uses vibrant neon tones to create intricate, geometric art of the country’s most well-known symbols, representing the spirit of Mexico in a way that’s boldly charming.
Villagomez’s art feels deeply connected to the city that inspired her. Her work, which often incorporates Mexican cultural symbols like ancient Aztec gods, sugar skulls, and ribbon-clad rag dolls, has been displayed in several galleries around the world, including Mexico City’s Arte Hoy Galería in 2015 for her critically acclaimed body of work “El Cuerpo del Iceberg.” In 2016, she was ranked as the second-best emerging artist from Latin America by Cultura Colectiva. Now in 2021, Villagomez is one of Mexico’s most well-known contemporary artists, and welcomes each day as a new experience.
I love to express myself through paint and color. It’s like translating my emotions into my own special language.
Whether she’s pulling inspiration from one of the city’s many historic art museums or simply walking through the weekend market with her camera, Villagomez is always discovering new themes, patterns, and color combinations to incorporate into her work. “I don’t have a set routine or typical way of doing things. It really depends on the kind of project I’m working on,” she adds. While she spends some days mixing colors and painting murals, she spends others polishing designs and answering emails on her computer.
For as long as she can remember, Villagomez always loved to create. “Sometimes it’s difficult for me to express myself using just words,” Villagomez says. “I feel like they aren’t enough. So, I love to express myself through paint and color. It’s like translating my emotions into my own special language.” When she was a baby, her parents discovered her artistry when she used her craft paints to smear a colorful mosaic — of sorts — on her mother’s new white curtains. But instead of stifling her creativity, her parents decided to encourage it, enrolling her in kids painting classes. “I began attending oil painting lessons twice a week when I was 11 years old, with a teacher named Miss Lupita,” Villagomez says. “She taught me for several years and helped further shape my love of painting.”
In college, Villagomez studied graphic design with a specialty in fine art at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City and worked with a design firm for several years after graduation. While she enjoyed her work, she still felt like she wasn’t in her element. “I remember being so eager to get to my [painting] studio after work every day,” she says. But the unreliable nature of art as a job made her hesitant to transition into a full-time career in it, she says. “I didn’t want to have to depend on other people to live. But I thought, ‘If painting is really what I want, then I’d better go for it.’”
So, Villagomez applied for — and got — a scholarship for a master’s program in painting and drawing at the Riaci Academy in Florence, Italy. It was a dream come true, but not an easy one. At first, she had trouble developing her own unique painting style and became frustrated. To find comfort in an unfamiliar situation, Villagomez began to think of home. “I just started placing my mind back to my Mexico. During my time in Italy, I met so many people from around the world who didn’t know about Mexican culture, and I wanted to show it to them through my paintings.” Ever since, Villagomez has found joy in expressing her love for Mexico with her art. One of her most transformative pieces, which helped her develop the style she has today, was a self-portrait she painted in 2011. The work features her calm face amid a frenzied mosaic of colors, surrounded by traditional Mexican symbols — many of which she still uses today. Camouflaged in the chaos, the words “keep the faith” are painted above her head.
And Villagomez had to “keep the faith” indeed, as things weren’t so dreamy when she moved back to Mexico in 2013 after receiving her masters’ degree. “The first year [as a painter] was really difficult for me because I hardly sold anything,” she says. She had to move back in with her parents for support. “It was really sad for me, to feel like I was doing my best, trying and trying, and still not getting any results.” Instead of giving up, Villagomez decided to change her perspective. She reminded herself her goal wasn’t to become a well-known artist — it was to simply paint for a living. “I didn’t want fame. At that point, I didn’t care if I sold my paintings in furniture stores,” she says.
Before I decided to pursue my dream to be a full-time painter, I was always doubting myself.
That’s when everything seemed to fall into place. “When I started focusing on doing what I loved, and painting with my heart, everything started to change,” she explains. Villagomez began working as a mural artist, decorating Mexico City with the warm, vibrant colors she had loved since she first smeared paint on her mother’s white curtains. She completed her first mural project in 2014, where she partnered with North America’s fourth-largest paint manufacturing and distribution company, Comex, to spread awareness about breast cancer. “When I was called with the opportunity to paint a huge mural in the middle of Mexico City, of course I said yes,” Villagomez says. “But as soon as I hung up, I thought, ‘Oh no, what am I going to do? I’ve never painted anything this big before!’” Despite her worries, Villagomez had no problems painting the 42-meter abstract piece in vibrant tones and launching a full-fledged career as a working painter.
Since finishing her first mural project with Comex, Villagomez has worked with several other popular brands, including Nike, Crayola, Levi’s, Netflix, Skull Candy, Instagram, and Facebook. She likes working with brands who give her the freedom to express herself in her own way. “For me, every day is different,” she says. Recently, she partnered with Hornitos Tequila for its “The Shot Fund” project, dedicated to fostering the professional development and success of artistic entrepreneurs like her. “Before I decided to pursue my dream to be a full-time painter, I was always doubting myself. I was afraid to leave my comfort zone,” Villagomez says. “Looking back now, I’m grateful I decided to ‘take a shot’ doing what I loved most, and I’m glad that Hornitos is inspiring people to do the same.”
When it comes to doling out words of wisdom to aspiring creatives, Villagomez believes in being proud of your identity. From age-old Mexican traditions to contemporary cultural icons, Villagomez depicts her love for her own heritage through each colorful stroke of her brush. “Everything I paint — the colors, the patterns, the icons — is inspired by the heart of Mexico,” she states. “By sharing the traditions of my country with the world through my art, I’m truly living my dream.”
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