Marianna T. Olague

Region: MFA Annual


City / State: El Paso, TX

My paintings are about the people and border town of El Paso, Texas, where I grew up. I create narrative portraits that depict the everyday lives of my family, friends, and even myself. The environments in my paintings illustrate the circumstances of living next to the US–Mexico border in low-income Mexican American neighborhoods.

My subjects are seen engaged in seemingly ordinary activities, such as hanging laundry, sitting on the front porch, or standing in the backyard, all while being 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.