Marianna Olague

Marianna Olague CV 2019

My paintings are about living in the borderland desert of El Paso, TX. I create narrative portraits of my friends and family, who are all El Paso natives, and know firsthand what it’s like to live in the sometimes-harsh environment of the border. Their environments depict the circumstances of being nurtured in barren deserts and low-income Mexican American neighborhoods, while also immersed in the community and wild beauty found within. El Paso, TX is located at the U.S.-Mexico border and, as a result, is a place of bilingualism and binational culture. Despite being deeply rooted in their heritage and community, my subjects often strive for more and encounter resistance in the various boundaries that surround them.

My subjects are often seen engaged in ordinary activities, such as standing in their backyard or sitting on their front porch, all while surrounded by the divisions of public housing and the border wall. The border, or frontera, is ever-present in my work and appears as a fence or rock wall that offers protection and privacy, but also delineates an inescapable socioeconomic condition. While it may seem as if my figures were trapped, they subvert those boundaries by limiting the viewer’s access into their private space. Through body language, expression, and the flatness of their environments they take back control and assert that they are the gatekeepers of their own lives.