Chicago based artist Maria Tomasula creates highly realistic oil paintings that add a touch of magic to still lifes and the human figure. Influenced by the bright palette and painting of her Mexican heritage, her arrangements of fruits, flowers, skulls and floating bodies that shimmer like jewels are exceptionally colorful, sensual, and even dark at times, while touching upon subjects like religion, life and death, and the beauty of nature. Most describe Tomasula’s works as Magical Realism, for her portrayal of enchanted elements in an otherwise believable environment. She once credited the mysticism found in her imagery back to attending church as a child, an experience that eventually grew into a love for Spanish Baroque and folk art. Many of her paintings employ the same type of religious symbolism and allegory; in one piece, nails mount objects to the wall as if they were martyrs, while in another, a figure, bathed in a halo of light, is carried into the heavens by a white dove. “I use natural objects that are heavily manipulated and presented in a very artificial, super-unnatural way- which is basically how I feel. We’re constrained in every way; there is no natural self,” she says.