Contemporary artist Maria Tarruella hopes her first U.S. exhibit can open the hearts of people around her to the love of God.

“He knows who he has to communicate to. I hope I’m humble enough and open enough to hear his voice and listen to where he wants to take me,” she stated.

“In my work, I ask the Lord to come bless me and use me. The art comes from a conversation between us,” Tarruella said.

Her exhibition, titled “Hope,” contains 13 layered collage pieces depicting images of God’s presence in our daily lives.

The exhibition made its debut Feb. 27 at White Stone Gallery in Philadelphia.

St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century mystic, served as an inspiration for Tarruella’s art. She said she admired the saint’s ability to combine mysticism and a businesslike attitude in her life.

“We always have our daily [struggles], and it’s about seeing how we can give our day-to-day lives to the Lord and let him come into our minute, little paths in life,” said Tarruella.

Living in the U.S. for a little more than a year, Tarruella said she noticed a different attitude toward religion in the States.

“People in Europe are much more reserved about their faith. Speaking about religion is quite personal and private. People are taken aback if you speak openly about God,” she noted.

Tarruella admires the fact that Americans speak much more candidly about faith in God.

Born in the predominantly Catholic country of Spain, Tarruella rarely practiced her faith growing up.

She experienced a renewal of her faith during a 1989 encounter with the late Pope John Paul II in Santiago, Chile.

Hearing the Pope’s words, Tarruella felt an intense heat in her heart and recognized the sensation as a sign to communicate God’s message to others.

For the “Hope” exhibit, Tarruella created layered pieces, using wax, acrylic paint, metallic paint, tissue paper, iron powder and ashes on raw linen canvas. Each material is symbolic of Tarruella’s faith.

“Our daily life is filled with information, junk mail, bills, papers and notes. I would get a pile of coupons from the cashier at the grocery store and just crumple them up and throw them away. Then I thought that cashier had cared enough and taken time to give those coupons to me. I should not be throwing them away,” said Tarruella.

So, instead, she used the newspaper clippings, receipts and coupons in her art. Tarruella placed the papers on a canvas, praying for everyone that made it possible for those things to reach her hands, she said.

Tarruella created her own paint to cover the collage. She “applied the Holy Spirit” to her work, she said, by gently placing tissue paper over the paint, which gave a “sense of peace” to the art.

Applied over the tissue paper, wax acts as a symbol of God’s action in our lives, she said. “Like God’s love, the wax is burning, but it is also tender.”

Tarruella was born in Madrid and moved to London at the age of 9. She graduated from American University in Paris with a bachelor’s degree in European cultural studies and a concentration in art history. She attended the University of Bellas Artes in Barcelona, Spain, to study fine arts.

Tarruella also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London.

Tarruella has worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, and in London and Madrid for Sotheby’s Auction House, one of the world’s oldest fine art auction houses.

“Hope” is featured in gallery rooms with lights that can be turned on or off when visitors are viewing the art. Tarruella uses a bright fluorescent paint hidden beneath several layers. When the lights are off, the concealed paint becomes visible, giving further meaning and dimension to the work.

“Even in the darkness, there is always light. God will guide you through the dark to where Jesus is,” Tarruella said.

People around the world have responded positively to her art, she said, regardless of their religion or background.

Tarruella said, “One time a lady saw my painting from the street and came into the gallery. She stood in front of the painting and looked at it. She suddenly began to cry because she was so moved by the painting. She had heard a voice calling her to open her heart.”