Artist introduces local heroes into fantasy world

Red Deer artist Mike Villasana unveils real-life “superheroes” in his first solo exhibit at The Hub on Ross.

Red Deer artist Mike Villasana unveils real-life “superheroes” in his first solo exhibit at The Hub on Ross.

Among the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman paintings in Villasana’s show, Gotham in Red Deer, are some familiar faces.

Look beneath the removable masks and you will see mini portraits of Mayor Tara Veer and other members of Red Deer City Council, rendered in acrylic paint and Sharpie marker.

The Philippines-born artist said he decided to introduce some real local heroes into the DC Comics fantasy world as a way of expressing his appreciation for all that the City of Red Deer has done for the arts.

“I want to recognize city councillors for the things they do daily. They are very amazing to me… very heroic to me,” said Villasana, who moved to Red Deer with his family seven years ago.

At the time, he noticed Red Deer’s downtown was looking rather drab and uninspiring. Now it’s spruced up with flower baskets and outdoor concerts on the Ross Street Patio during the warm months — and with decorative lighting and artsy murals, year-round.

“I admire the downtown now. It’s very colourful… very interactive,” said the 28-year-old, who was among the artists hired for a couple of summers to beautify the back of the John Howard Society building.

The former visual arts student at Red Deer College who also had some advertising art training in the Philippines, decided to paint a mural of Marilyn Monroe snapping a selfie to put a “twist” on a pop-culture image.

His latest distortion is melding aspects of this city with the DC Comics world in his first solo exhibition at the Hub. This is shown most vividly in a painting of Batman silhouetted near Red Deer’s onion-shaped water tower.

Villasana, who switched from collecting Wolverine to the darker-themed Batman comic books after coming to Canada, creates artworks that look like comic panels, with flat areas of colour outlined in black.

Some of his pieces resemble large playing cards with an upside-down reversal of heroes, such as Superman or Wonder Woman, with their arch-enemies, Lex Luthor and Cheetah.

Villasana admitted his mood dictates how he hangs these pictures. If he’s feeling good, then Superman is right-side up. If he’s feeling low, then it’s Luthor.

Fellow comic buffs will also recognize Batgirl, Batwoman, Poison Ivy and the Joker in his art. (There’s no Robin, however, because Villasana isn’t a fan of the Boy Wonder.)

He is a fan of Czech art nouveau artist Alfonse Mucha, however, and has reinterpreted Mucha’s Four Seasons as a series of four female comic characters — including Harley Quinn and Catwoman.

Villasana’s Gotham in Red Deer exhibit runs to Feb. 29. The Hub on Ross gallery is open for viewing weekdays from 9-4 p.m.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read