Marianna Olague


Marianna Olague CV 2021

Through painting I explore what it means to be Mexican American in the 21st century by providing a glimpse into the lives of my own friends and family. Like most people of color, the figures in my paintings were born underprivileged and often still cling to the idea of the American dream in hopes of rising above their circumstances. My portraits capture those moments of minority struggle and labor through realism, but also, moments of idleness, daydreaming and disillusionment that accompany the Mexican American experience.

As children of migrant parents and grandparents, Mexican Americans have little to call their own in a country that finds new ways to deny their existence, but what is most immediate, most undeniably ours is the culture we grew up in. Being Mexican American means family, culture and place become sources of immeasurable pride and security. Within each painting, my loved ones act as gatekeepers of their own private worlds, guarding domestic and public spaces perceived as threats to American white consciousness.

Located at the border of US and Mexico, El Paso is the place we call home. Founded on a stretch of barren desert, the city of El Paso is marked by wild desert plants, rock and stone structures and the ever-looming presence of the border wall. In my portraits, pure color plays a vital role in celebrating the spaces we lay claim to, a way of adding vitality to an otherwise parched and sun-bleached landscape. Like the native plants found in the nearby Chihuahuan desert, the figures in my paintings are unyielding in their presence, staking a claim on their right to exist.