Since then, the Phoenix artist has visited Mexico dozens of times, created a series of paintings of Loteria cards, and accumulated several different Loteria decks.
Loteria decks contain 54 cards, often accompanied by an image and a piece of poetry or prose that describes the image.
Villegas owns several copies of the traditional Loteria deck, which Pasatiempos Gallo, S.A. de C.V. (or Don Clemente, LLC in the US) began manufacturing in 1887. But Villegas also has some unique artisan decks, similar to her own "updated" version of Loteria, which Don Clemente manufactured until 2008.
One of Villegas' Loteria decks is by international photographerJill Hartley
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, who used black-and-white photos for each card, depicting the flora, fauna, customs, and people of Mexico.
But Villegas' real point of pride is her own Loteria deck and paintings.
In 2002, Villegas painted 54 Loteria images in oil on wood panels. She says each painting is based on iconography from her experiences in Mexican culture. "I wanted to bring back the culture of Mexico to the U.S., in a fun and interesting way," Villegas says.
Among Villegas Loteria images: La Virgen (for which she used green, glow-in-the-dark paint), La Poetisa (a painting of poet/nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz), El Santo (a masked wrestler and movie star renowned in Mexico), and our personal favorite, Lujeria (lust), which depicts a devil similar to the "El Diabilito" figure in traditional Loteria. But Villegas puts a twist on the image by dressing the devil in Calvin Klein underwear and giving him an erection (to represent lust for money, Villegas says).
In the meantime, Villegas' Loteria paintings have been touring various museums and galleries around the country and in Mexico. For Villegas, making a Loteria deck wasn't just about cool visuals, but sharing pieces of Mexican culture and history. "As an artist, it was really fun," she says, "but it's also kind of an anthropological endeavor."
For more information on Teresa Villegas' Loteria deck and other art works, visit www.teresavillegas.com