Maria Isable Lopez for Lavishly mag cover
Maria Isable Lopez for Lavishly mag cover | Foto: Maria Isable Lopez for Lavishly mag cover

Maria Isabel Lopez: From Screen to Canvas

Por: Karen Limón

24, November, 2021 en Lavishly Style

Whether she’s in the spotlight or behind the public eye, Maria Isabel Lopez has proven to be a renowned artist widely acclaimed for expressing her artistic medium on the big screen and canvas.

Maria Isabel was born in Cagayan de Oro and raised in the depressed area of BalicBalic, Sampaloc Manila. With an opera singer mother and lawyer father, Maria Isabel dreamed of becoming a model and visual artist. “Although my father had other children outside his marriage and food was scarce, my parents still managed to provide me with a good education,” she shares.

Maria Isabel Lopez for Livishly Mag
Maria Isabel Lopez for Livishly Mag

As a child, Maria Isabel fed her gifted nature by constructing her own toys and designed clothing for her paper dolls. “When I was in 5th grade, my mother took me to visit the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts campus and foresaw me ending up there.” Maria Isabel winks. As fate would have it, Maria Isabel graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman and soon worked as a fashion designer for Rustan’s and SM Department stores. Her fame rose to the top when she bagged the prize as Binibining Pilipinas Universe in 1982 and given her remarkable beauty, brains, and talent, this opened doors for her modeling and acting career in Philippine cinema and television. Maria Isabel is a multi-award-winning actress who acquired the Cinema One Best Supporting Actress for Lorna, Gawad Tanglaw Awards for Tulak and Kinatay, and the Golden Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for the movie Kinatay which landed her to march twice on the red carpet at the iconic Cannes Film Festival.

Maria Isabel was formerly married to a Japanese businessman during the 90s. In 2019, she married Jonathan Melrod, a Jewish American, human rights activist, lawyer, and author of the soon to be published book, Fighting to Win (PM Press). “Transition was never easy for a woman whose acting career spanned almost four decades. Uprooting me from a career where I spent more than half of my life as a celebrity―beauty queen and an award-winning actress walking the red carpets of film festivals around the world to being Mrs. Jonathan Melrod wasn’t that simple. A man has to be special for me to marry him.” She smiles.

Maria Isabel Lopez painting
Maria Isabel Lopez painting

Maria Isabel and her husband share a deep concern for the human rights of people, particularly the protection of the ancestral lands of the Lumads, and the rights of political prisoners. “My husband has been a militant trade unionist fighting for the rights of workers against exploitation. As a lawyer, he has represented the families of young people who have been killed by the police. I am also a human rights advocate. A Gabriela, and supporter of the oppressed-the indigenous Lumads, victims of violence against women and children, LGBT+, a member of Karapatan,” she states.

After spending a majority of her years in the limelight, this fascinating woman now works quietly behind the scenes across the globe in her artist studio nestled in Sebastopol, California. “My job as an actress has a scriptwriter who writes the dialogue, a director who guides you to perform, a boss who produces your film, and the mass media who instructs you how to promote your movie. My career as a visual artist, on the other hand, is literally a one-woman-show beginning with the concept, followed by the execution, the presentation, the promotion, the social media posts, to the packaging and shipping the piece to the art collector,” she relays.

What started as acrylic paintings consisting of nudes, seascapes and landscapes evolved into mosaic arts where Maria Isabel has dabbled with pebbles, sand mortar, marble, and natural stones to produce mixed media art. “I work with natural stones-materials that took centuries to build and transports me back in time to discover its spirituality. As ancient art was considered to be contemporary art during the time it was created, the result of my art depicts a modern piece, contemporary yet timeless and sacred,” she informs. Creating mosaics is a spiritual journey for Maria Isabel who acknowledges that every artwork has proven to be time-consuming and tedious. “I start with a prayer and end with an expression of gratitude. Each piece of tesserae in my creative process brings new, meaningful ways aligned with who I am, leading me to unique paths of discovery,” she adds.

Fluid by nature, Maria Isabel has maximized her potential through curiosity, exploration, and growth leading her to manifest the seed connected to her soul and her journey. Her keen eye, attention to detail, and depth welcome you to discover a different world. Her artwork also compels you to get lost in a trance, whispering directly to your heart which touches the core of the human condition.

Maria Isabel drinking a cup of coffee
Maria Isabel drinking a cup of coffee

Previously the Secretary of the NCCA Committee on Visual Arts and founder of the Film Artist group led Maria Isabel to promote arts and culture which included a series of successful shows. To hone her craft, Maria Isabel pursued studies in different mediums of glass mosaic and launched her first solo Body and Soul exhibit in Manila which defined the female anatomy and forces behind it. Maria Isabel is a professional member of SAMA, Society of American Artists, 2016. “The energy and the desire to create needed to be released. It’s in the fiber of my being— in my DNA to craft something magical.” She beams with pride.

Maria Isabel’s supportive husband built an art studio for her in their 1850s farmhouse. Living in Sonoma County and surrounded by the rich flora and fauna and gifts from nature has unleashed the artist in her. “To create is a spiritual journey, as I am God’s creation. My chosen medium-mosaic unleashes a spiritual drama that ordinary paintings could not convey. Like my life and my films, every piece, color, and texture combined with the play of light is a process with unpredictable outcomes. Handcut, cannot be altered and resistant, every artwork is a relationship till I move to the next. I love the reflections-alive, pulsating, and changeable. The element of light plays an important role in the hues, tones, and sparkle, illuminating the piece and constantly being transformed according to the time of day. This is when I am most happy. These are moments I humbly express my deepest gratitude,” she narrates.

As every artist is unique and has their personal method of unlocking their creative expression, Maria Isabel shares how she creates her masterpieces. “With no mosaic scene in the Philippines, my creative process begins with the hunt for that piece of tesserae―wandering the shores for that coral, shell, pink and black sand, or exploring the forests of Cuba, to find that seed, bark, slate, or marble, or a trip to the Unesco World Heritage site for mosaic in Ravenna, Italy to get the traditional smalti of the Byzantine era. Drawing-female anatomy, a spiritual symbol—a cross or mudra, a landscape, is placed on the substrate as a pattern guide for the composition. Like puzzles, smalti or glass is cut, applied with a thin-set/silicone.

Acrylic paint is utilized with varying textures enhanced by gesso, modeling paste, glass bead gel, or mica flakes offering a visual experience with the intricate titivation of textures. Individual fragments, imperfect and broken are combined in such a way as to reveal a rich tapestry for the senses. No grouting-the tesserae are pieced together very tight. Newer works utilized natural stones, pyrites, amethyst, lapiz lazuli, combined with manmade stones. Images are brought to life by the fascinating play of light―natural or artificial over the reflective mosaic surface. My mosaics led me to create pieces I call a mosaic art within a painting,” she summarizes her journey.

Maria Isabel drinking a glass of wine
Maria Isabel drinking a glass of wine

Maria Isabel is a member of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and has been featured on the Press Democrat and front page of the West Sonoma Times. Her studio for SAVOS-Sebastopol Arts Virtual Open Studios was showcased in TFC’s Balitang America. Her latest exhibit was in 2020 where she witnessed unprecedented sales despite the pandemic. “The pandemic transformed me into a full time artist,” she divulges. With all her success as a beauty queen, actress, and artist, Maria Isabel uses her talents as an instrument to inspire others, be the voice of the weak, and reflect the light from within. “The most High has been so generous in giving me special gifts and talents that are meant to be shared,” she acknowledges.

After traversing joys and trials, this dynamic woman believes that the future is now. “I have achieved most of my goals and aspirations in life. I have planted many seeds in the past and now is harvest time,” she conveys. She concludes this interview with a powerful statement to women who aspire to be like her. “Love yourself like there is no tomorrow, stand up for what you believe in, and never allow others to run your life or make it miserable.”

The ability to produce an artwork combined with a concept and resources defines the vision of an artist who gives birth to a masterpiece. Maria Isabel has elevated her creative expression from the big screen spreading her wings to the canvas, defining her evolution, and forging ahead toward her spirituality.

Website: FB: @mariaisabellopezmosaics Instagram and Twitter: @beautyqueenmil