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María Blanco, Artist

Inspiration for Walls and Borders

"Growing up in San Diego the border was a part of my geography. Proximity to

Mexico, closeness to Mexico, connection to Mexico was, and is, a fact of life."


Growing up in San Diego, the ocean and the beaches were a part of my geography. Proximity, closeness and connection to the ocean, was, and is, a fact of life.


For years I watched the wall going up between San Diego and Tijuana; get extended further inland, strengthened, raised and eventually pulled out to the ocean in an attempt to divide the beach from ocean between Imperial Beach and Playas de Tijuana. If the wall’s futile attempt to separate San Diego and Tijuana, where the flow of families, commerce and life has existed for centuries, seems absurd, then the endeavor to divide an ocean seems the most absurd. 


And, it is this absurdity that this series of paintings seeks to capture. The borders between all of those things jars our eyesight and accomplishes nothing except naked intimidation in the face of beauty and human contact. 


The stripped-down paintings, free of human beings, plants or other signs of life, other than the ocean, reduce the distraction and confront the essence of the transgression. The bold colors and geometric shapes contrast the ugliness of the wall architecture with the architecture of love and life. And of course, the ocean is the protagonist, eternal, indivisible, accessible to all. 


A painting of the border might seem a distancing medium for a powerful topic. Much of the art depicting the wall and its separation of families and communities is captured through photography or installations. This makes sense because photographs capture an immediate real-time moment. In them we often see faces, bodies or the camera’s close proximity to the physicality of the wall. Installations simulate the wall and convey an irony that helps fuel our rejection of it but simultaneously provides much needed comedic relief. In contrast, my paintings pull the viewer in without the preconception and immediacy of a photograph. I seek to create an indeterminate, and open space that allows unforeseen and unanticipated emotions to emerge. This openness, for me, is the beauty and uniqueness of paint.

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