Maria Esther Williams Fontanez spent her formative years in the nature-laden surroundings of Puerto Rico, where she was born in a small village outside of the city of San Juan metropolitan area. In the ensuing years, her family moved several times, giving her the opportunity to also live in New Jersey, Florida and New York.
As a very young child, she became deeply aware of the flora and fauna that enveloped her village. Her eyes became like camera shutters, capturing the richness of images produced from all that she came into contact with. From these images, she learned how nature assembles streams, trees, flowers and wildlife to form wondrously beautiful tableaux for our eyes to delight in.
Her perceptions of the abundance of natural beauty in the world challenged and motivated her to capture all of this in a way that permitted it to be shared with others in a lasting way. No doubt that this is what inspired her to become a painter.
Maria started at a young age doing pencil drawings because pencils were the only thing her mother could afford to buy for her. She was excited by what she saw, and she tried to draw everything that she could see. As time progressed, she received paints as presents, and joyfully began to create paintings in color. From this was born her lifelong love affair with oil painting.
For many years, oil painting was an avocation that took a backseat to the main challenges of navigating through life. However, following her marriage, she decided to make it official and entered the Parsons School of Art and Design, where she graduated with a degree in illustration and fine arts in 1985. At Parsons, she added photography to her many skills, and a few years later she complimented this with a degree in graphic art from the Cincinnati Academy of Design.
Maria considers herself to be a “realist painter” because, as she puts it, “I mainly paint what I see.” This is not the whole story, however. Through many years of travel abroad (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, England, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia), Maria has developed an archive of mental images that she can draw on to create her titillating artistic visions. Her body of work primarily consists of a broad range of nature-inspired still life paintings in both oil and water color, as well as landscapes, seascapes and portraiture. A number of these have been developed from painting “plein air”, one of Maria’s favorite things to do.
Maria is a resident of Wilmington, NC where she lives with her husband, Richard. Her two daughters, Cristina and Daniela, live in Los Angeles, CA, where she often travels for inspiration and renewal. Maria joined theArtWorks™ community in downtown Wilmington North Carolina in 2014, where she now maintains a studio.