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Sonoma County Gazette
The Art of Maria Isabel Lopez

From Rags to Center Stage

The Art of Maria Isabel Lopez

Apr 22, 2017


In 1982, Maria Isabel Lopez broke onto the world stage representing her country – the Philippines - at the Miss Universe Pageant in Lima, Peru. Her crown did not come easy, however. The tabloids and monied elite, reflecting conservative social norms in the majority Catholic country, fought to have her crown withdrawn. “In working my way out of poverty, I appeared as a “sexy model”. By some, I was branded “low class”, but fought for my crown until I backed the jury panel down, proudly continuing my reign as Miss Philippines. Little has come easy for Isabel, who has led a Cinderellaesque life growing up in Manila’s poverty. Regardless of humble origins, she won a coveted slot at the country’s top school – the University of the Philippines – graduating with a degree in fine arts.

“While art is my first love, I’ve been blessed to have a very successful career in the film and TV industry. I’ve probably made over 300 films. My film Kinatay won best director at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, beating out Quentin Terantino’s In Glorious Bastards, Broken Embraces, which reunited Pedro Almodovar with Penelope Cruz, and Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock.

“Last year, I returned to Cannes where our entry, Ma Rosa won best actress. Who would have thought that a poor girl from the barrio would walk the Red Carpet at Cannes twice in her life?”

“While film and TV put bread on my table and paid my bills so I could raise my two children as a single mom, I never gave up my love of art and continued to create paintings and drawings, which I sold over the years. In fact, my art career recently reached a pinnacle when I held my first one-woman mosaic show. I was very lucky as the show sold out to Manila’s Who’s Who in the political and business world.”

“The overwhelming success of my one-woman show inspired me to display some of my mosaics in the United States. I will be a participating artist in one of the North Bay’s iconic cultural events – the 23d Art at the Source – the annual free, self-guided open studio tour in Western Sonoma County on June 3-4 and 10-11. Founded in 1995 by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, one of the most vibrant art organizations in Northern California, the event is a long-established creative ritual for thousands of regional art lovers and wine country tourists.

Everyone is invited to the Preview Exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (the old Veterans Building) located at 282 S. High St. in Sebastopol. Reception is on May 18th at 6pm, where each participating artist will display one original artwork. Gallery hours are Tues.-Fri. 10-4pm and Sat.-Sun. 10-5pm fromMay 19-June 12.

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