Matthew Villarreal

b. 1986



I am a self-identified Chihuahuan Desert dweller, artist, writer, and educator from El Paso, TX.

My Work often uses tactile materials associated with both the body and the earth as a way to explore the various liminal points in language, politics, and the psychology of voicelessness. Much of my work utilizes desert motifs, often exaggerated or abstracted, as a proxy to challenge conceptions of otherness. Materials like clay, masa, cotton, or wax function as stand-ins for the body; representations of the desert (a landscape often viewed as barren, hostile, or undesirable… rarely understood as beautiful or teeming with life) is used as a signifier for the silenced.

My interest in the overlay and exploitation of points where sign and signifier don’t match up, where suggestive dichotomies, borders, and boundaries are thwarted and where walls crumble, informs much of my work because these conflicts directly speak to the physical collisions I observe  happening along the US-Mexico border.


Matthew Villarreal holds a BFA in Painting, Drawing, and Creative Writing, an MA in English Literature, and two MFA degrees from New Hampshire Institute of Art, one in Visual Arts and the other in Creative Writing. He has over 12 years of formal and informal teaching experience, working with students ranging from early childhood to higher education.

Matthew is a recipient of the 2019-2020 AICAD Post-Graduate Teaching Fellowship and will continue his role as Full-Time Professor in the BFA/MFA Fine Arts Program at Parsons the New School of Design into the 2020-2021 academic year. In 2014, he spearheaded an arts collaborative which provided small group art classes, pop-up shops, and the publication of two chapbooks.

Additional highlights from his personal art career include work in the New American Talent 21 exhibition (Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin, TX), the distinction of ‘Best in Show’ for the Urban Transformations 2016 exhibition (Texas Trost Society), various works in the private collections of key regional figures, 3 murals on display at the 125,000 sq.ft. migrant center operated by the Annunciation House in El Paso, TX, and an upcoming commission of paintings for The Plaza Hotel at Pioneer Park in El Paso, TX to be completed March 2020.

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