Profile: Debbie Guerrero
By Richard Baron
Posted on January 11, 2004
"I've been an artist since as far back as I remember, before I started kindergarten. All I ever wanted was to draw and paint. After high school, I went to the Art Institute of Houston for graphic design but it was too inhibiting. I wanted to do things my way - more cool, more me - but they wanted me to do it another way, and I quit that scene.
"I was a manager of an ice cream factory in Houston, and then I took a job traveling around the United States as a PR rep for a publications company, and then I quit and came back to El Paso. I get bored real easy in jobs. Every job I've had never lasted longer than four years, but jobs are easy to get if you are presentable. If you know what employers are looking for and if you know how to work it, you know how to get jobs. I've been everything from a maid in a hotel to a bank manager to you name a job - you name it, I did it. I worked at Safeway, and I was a cocktail waitress at O'Henry's and Dallas. I worked at McDonald's when I was sixteen, and I always did modeling off and on, but I always got bored. It doesn't matter how much money you're making if you're not doing what you want.
"I made a second attempt at art school at The Community College but it wasn't fulfilling. I had already gotten technique from Houston, and it was more technique, technique, technique, and I lost interest.
"I got a job as an assistant bank manager and I had good money coming in. The bank was pro-school, so I started going to UTEP, but then they merged with another bank and changed their policy and said it's either your job or school, so I tendered my resignation and, man, I was happy. Now I'm living off loans, and I have two majors - sculpture and painting, and I graduate in June.
"I avoided going to UTEP for 15 years because I thought, 'What kind of art is going to come out of UTEP,' but when I finally went, I was like holy cow, I was blown away. Pretty much every professor I had was kickass. They push you to experiment, to get out of your comfort zone, but they 're a little mean sometimes. You're like, hey, this is a pretty decent piece of work I did, but they'll tell you what you did wrong, and I'm like go ahead, kick my ass for not doing a good enough job, just say I suck, because sometimes I want a rise either way. It's cool that they tell you what's wrong, they're challenging, but they also tell you what's good about it and they're supportive. I never in a million years thought I would miss UTEP, but I will.
"I'm looking at BU as my first choice of graduate schools. I've never been to Boston, but I was looking what the students there are doing, and I was like, hey, this is pretty innovative, I'm in tune with this. Why do you have to go to art school in New York?
"I have a way better chance of getting into graduate school in sculpture than a white male because I'm a Latina female, and that's a sad commentary.
"I love being a woman, and if I want to wear a dress, I'm going to wear a dress. I don't want equal rights, I want guys to open doors for me and pull my chair out, I don't want to have to do that on my own. I want to be treated better, not equal, but as far as my art is concerned, I want equal rights. I want my art to be judged by what it is, not by what I am. If you don't like it, say it sucks, and if you like it, then okay.
"How does a female artist go into this masculine arena of sculpture, and maintain the validity of her work, and retain her femininity at the same time? How do you go out of the studio and be a girl again? How do you get away from that, and do you really want to get away from that?
"That was my point in my performance piece where I sewed my fingers together. I wore a dress like the one Marilyn Monroe wore in "The Seven-Year Itch," except it was black. I did the overdone makeup thing, I wore seriously heavy makeup, and I dyed my hair black with blond streaks, just to make it really obvious, and I sat myself on the floor, in a very humbled position, and I sewed my fingers together.
"I was making the point that women are taught to suffer. I was showing the torture we put ourselves through to make ourselves look beautiful. We inflict all this self-pain just to look a certain way, but we're screaming 'equal rights, equal rights.' Here we are crying that we want equal rights and yet we're still out dolling ourselves up.
"It's like a series I painted few years back called "Las Quincineras" of 15-year old Juarez street girls, prostituting themselves, or shooting themselves up while they're pregnant. I made paintings of the Juárez murder victims, women in the nude and out in the open, in bondage, and it was horrible to paint. The women weren't tied up in the first two paintings, but people weren't getting the message, they thought, 'Oh how pretty, a girl in the grass,' and it was like 'no, you're missing it,' so I had to bring in the bindings, pink bindings because you don't think of bindings as pink.
"Am I speaking against something or am I glorifying it? Well, a woman turned around and said it's pornographic, but she's obviously the one with the perverted mind. Yeah, there's always going to be some weirdo who's going to get turned on, but I'm trying to get the point across against the violence. The more you make this commentary against women being seen as sex objects, the more you're seen as a sex object yourself. It's a catch-22.
"I've been political since I was young, and it irritates me that here we are just a few miles away from the border, right there, and this is where all those murders are taking place, and we're complacent, asleep. We shouldn't be so aloof about it. In painting, I'm a political activist. If you think about it, doing anything you believe in is a political act, and the root of my politics is my religious beliefs, my faith.
"I'm a Christian, a good Christian. I'm a firm believer in God. I used to be a Catholic, but I converted to being a non-denominational, born-again Christian when I was 16. I thought I had all the answers, but a friend of mine preached the word to me and made me realize I was lost. She opened the Bible and read to me, 'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,' and I accepted the Lord. I said, 'Heck, yeah.'
"I'm not like a lot of the other Christian artists who paint beautiful pictures of Jesus. My faith is the basis for everything I do, but my art is not specifically Christian. I don't produce eye candy, I got messages in my work. People think, "You're a Christian, you're so happy," and then they see my work. My work is shocking to other Christians, but I'm not gearing it to them. I'm gearing it to the other people in the world because they're the ones that are running around yelling, 'What's the meaning of life, what's it all about?' The answers are so simple. All they have to do is open the Bible. It's a book of instructions and it is what it is. It's like, 'Hello, wake up.' People complicate things, and they don't want to hear they're wrong, or that their way of thinking is off-track. Once you accept Jesus in your heart, you're going to try to be better, but everyone falls short of the glory of God. The only way you get into heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. Being Christian means you are forgiven, it doesn't mean you're perfect."
© 2004 Richard Baron
Richard Baron is a writer, photographer and long-time arts activist who lives in El Paso. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most Viewed Stories
- Sex clubs and swingers in El Paso
- ABC-7 reporter and photographer handcuffed, detained while covering I-10 wreck
- Biz Briefs 6.8-12.09: Small business summit; Department of Labor forum
- Bad Moon Rising: The Crisis in Ciudad Juarez
- Police Blotter 1.3.09: Ag assault; pot party
- Remains of Juarez women identified, apparently killed long after they were disappeared
- Police Blotter 2.24-27.09: Police officer charged with sexual assault; ex-detention officer charged with assaulting inmate; felons captured; motorcycle fatality
- California judge crusades for marijuana legalization
- Defense lawyer Gary Hill arrested on assault charge; his attorney says no weapon found
- Police Blotter 5.11-15.09: Teen drowns; Barrio Azteca arrests, fugitives sought