After leaving Cuba Villarreal's family lived in Madrid, Spain for a couple of years and in 1974 moved across the Hudson River in Union City, New Jersey. In Union City, Villarreal grew up between two worlds: the English speaking community and the Spanish speaking Cuban community. Ambos Mundos (Both Worlds) also pays tribute to his love for the sea, visual art and writing. The painting also alludes to Hemingway's masterpiece "The Old Man and the Sea," Villarreal's favorite work by the man his father fondly called, "Papa." In the novella, the old man is deeply connected to the sky and stars and the deep waters of the Gulf Stream. The title of the painting Ambos Mundos was also inspired by Hemingway's favorite hotel in Old Havana, Cuba .It was where he preferred to stay when he visited Cuba prior to acquiring the Finca Vigía.
"We find ourselves in the moment of transit where space and time cross to produce complex figures of difference and identity, past and present, inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion," from The Location of Culture, by Homi K. Bhabha.
The (IN)VISIBLE TRACES series of works is inspired by personal memories and experiences, the assimilation of other cultures, appropriated images from mass media and old family photographs. Utilizing personal iconography, through assemblages and a process of layering of these different elements, I try to convey a sense of multiple realities, time references, and existence.
The AMBOS MUNDOS series is inspired by arcane spiritual and religious symbols (signatures) from African cultures, which made their way to the Americas several centuries ago during the slave trade. Images from altars and sacred objects are incorporated inside the symbols and fragmented to maintain secrecy. Through a process of assemblage of these different elements, I try to juxtapose a spiritual realm with that of reality—the recognized with the unrecognizable. My philosophical approaches are based on trans-culturalism and multiculturalism in the context of Postmodernism, as well as Postcolonial theories. These ideas are inspired by Jacques Derrida’s theory on Deconstruction and perception, Homi K. Bhabha’s postmodern and post colonial cultural theories.