By Juan A. Ramirez, arts & entertainment editor

“De Aquí y de Allá,” a Northeastern graduate’s new art exhibit at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, illustrates the dichotomy of being a stranger in a strange land through landscapes of both South American and New England nature.

The show’s title, which in Spanish means “From Here and There,” represents the contrasts in nature that Spanish artist and 1998 Northeastern alumnus Ricardo Maldonado has experienced in his life, traveling around Europe and the Americas.

“It comes up every day, sometimes more consciously than others. It depends on the food, the weather, the social environment…even if you don’t want to, you are always putting things side by side and comparing them,” Maldonado said. “It’s something that we can’t escape, even if we want to. There’s always this relation to the other side.”

The exhibition, composed solely of paintings, highlights the differences in the landscapes of South America and New England.

“The idea of the show is to say there is beauty everywhere, regardless of shapes and colors,” Maldonado said. “I think the tropical environment is much more alive in some ways, though it doesn’t mean it is more or less beautiful than New England. There is beauty everywhere, no matter where you go.”

Born in Spain, Maldonado moved to South America for a while before settling in Boston, where he got his MBA at Northeastern. The landscapes he saw while living down South, however, remained a great inspiration throughout his life.

“I was living near Iguazu Falls in northern Argentina for a couple of years before coming to the U.S.,” Maldonado said. “It’s a very exotic place full of birds, plants and animals and I fell in love with that place; it was easy to get inspiration.”

Elsa Mosquera, the Arts Program Director of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, an organization created by and for Puerto Ricans seeking to prosper as a community in Boston which oversees the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, emphasized the significance of these themes for her community.

“Around 60 percent of [Villa Victoria’s] residents are Latino or from Latino descent,” Mosquera said. “With the arts program, what we try to do is join and unite people through the power of Latino art. In this case, the exhibit has a lot of paintings from ‘allá,’ from the Caribbean and the Latin American scenery that we saw every day.”

Speaking about the high-profile role the issues of immigration and foreignness have been playing on the world stage, Mosquera asserted the importance of culturally-minded art as a way of showing unity and pride.

“I hope we make a statement with everything that we do,” Mosquera said. “Our exhibits, the concerts we put on…with every artistic intervention, we are saying we’re proud of coming from where we come, we’re proud of our heritage, proud of our language and proud of who we are.”

Mirroring Mosquera’s statement, Maldonado imparted his wish for people to appreciate beauty, regardless from where it comes.

“I want visitors to leave the show with the idea that there are things to appreciate everywhere, especially in nature,” Maldonado said. “There are amazing colors and beautiful things to look for and love everywhere.”
“De Aquí y de Allá” is on display at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts through July 29. Viewings are only available through appointments.

Photo courtesy IBA Boston.