Common Thread

The embroidered art of Mexican artist Victoria Villesana.

BY CAITLIN AHERN


nina_simone_art.JPG

When we first saw the work of Victoria Villasana, we were blown away. No matter what your relationship to yarn bombing and fiber-as-street-art may be, Villasana’s work has a sophistication and viscerally to it that supersedes what’s out there. A self-taught embroiderer, she relocated to London, where her work first started popping up on buildings and grates and siding. Since then, she’s returned to her home country of Mexico, settling in Guadalajara and stitching up the town, too. She’s also exploded with new commissioned work and more gallery work as well. We dispatched our gal on the ground Caitlin Ahern—of international workshops Thread Caravan— to chase down and talk with the dynamic artist.

I just spent my first few days in Guadalajara and loved it—big enough to have a lot going on, but small enough that you can find yourself in a community there. I also loved the diversity of trees!

frida_kahlo_fiber_art.JPG

Yes, I love it here. London was great too, filled with so much inspiration... But, it’s so different from Mexico and I didn’t have the same community there. I spent a lot of time alone and people watching. I would walk around Southbank, look at architecture and sit in a cafe to people watch for hours. In Mexico, I have a stronger community. There are always friends and family around. I think community is very important.

What’s the art scene like in Guadalajara?

The contemporary art scene isn’t as big as Mexico City, but there is a ton of music here. Most big bands who are touring come through—last month I saw Arcade Fire. In Guadalajara, it feels like most visual art fits into one of two categories: either street art or very high-end, without much in the middle. I think there is more diversity in Mexico City. Your work obviously has elements of street art, but seems like it could be categorized in a better way.

What do people in Guadalajara think of what you’re making?

Ha, I think most people don’t know what to think about it or how to classify it. They like it, but it’s different. I think they might ask themselves 'Is she a folk artist?’ or they think of me more as a designer than a visual artist. Even though I’m in Mexico, most of my commissions and sales are actually to other countries.

Do you mostly do commissions or your own work?

I do, but it doesn’t bring me as much joy. I always like to come up with new ideas, even if it’s just changing the colors of the thread.

I don’t remember how I first discovered your work, but I’ve been admiring it for a few years now. I love any combination of fiber with other mediums. I’m curious to know more about your creative process. How do you choose the images to embroider onto?

First I have some sort of vision and inspiration, usually a reflection of my current ideas and feelings. I have an idea of something I want to create, and although I don’t know all the details that will allow me to get there, I know I will make it eventually by just starting to play with the materials, exploring images. The people I choose for portraits are people who I admire and feel connected to their vision—musicians, activists... I never plan the thread colors and patterns in advance. I don’t create things for aesthetics alone. My street art pieces always relate to something I want to say or express. Even if the design is simple, the idea behind it is strong.

victoria villesana fiber art

Yes! I loved your piece with Trump’s face and yarn coming of his mouth like vomit. It was still early on in his candidacy and there weren’t nearly as many political cartoons or imagery of him as there are now. I think the piece had a powerful message, but it was also original and had beautiful colors... What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve made?

I don’t think I’ve ever created something that I love 100%. Not in a depressing way, I just always want to keep progressing. Once I’ve completed something, I’m already focusing on moving forward and the next thing I will make. I get joy when I see how other people connect with my art I remember I did a street art piece of a guy with tears and I wrote “boys who cry”. Even though, technically, anyone could make it, it was more about the message. It impacted a lot of people. People would share a photo of it captioning it with their own story of sadness and triumph.

And what direction do you think you are moving in now? What techniques are you inspired to create moving forward?

I don’t want to use just famous people in my portraits—I’m starting to include ordinary people as well. I’m also starting to get more into collages. I’d like to do more installations. And I would love to do sculpture and ceramics.

I would love to see what kind of sculptures you create! Who are some other artists inspiring you right now?

There are so many! Especially now with Instagram. I like @threadstories. She makes these masks and then films herself wearing them to show the movement. I like Chiharu Shiota, Ai Weiwei, Egon Schiele. There are just so many...

Agreed, there is so much inspiration everywhere—especially being more connected through technology, and of course, living in Mexico.