Mercedes-Benz Financial Services


Q&A with Marianna Olague, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services 2019 Michigan Emerging Artist Award

Friday, June 14th, 2019

Partnering with local art institutions allows Mercedes-Benz Financial Services to create collaborations that inspire diversity of thought. In this, the first in a series of artist Q&As, we go behind the art on our walls to learn more about them, what makes them artists and how they create these compelling pieces.

Cranbrook Academy of Art Graduate (Painting ’19), Marianna Olague, was recently announced as the 2019 Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Michigan Emerging Artist Award recipient. The Michigan Emerging Artist Award, now in its 15th year, is just one part of Cranbrook’s 18-year partnership with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

As the recipient of the coveted Michigan Emerging Artist Award, Olague will participate in a two-month residency in Berlin, Germany this summer. In this Q&A, we dive deeper into Marianna’s artistic journey and inspirations, as well as her thoughts on living and working in Berlin, and where she’ll go from there.

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services: How long have you been painting? What did your path look like from then to now?

Marianna Olague (MO): I’ve actually only been painting for about four or five years. My father is a painter and an art teacher, so I was always surrounded and inspired by painting, but until more recently, my medium had been drawing. I’ve been drawing since I learned to hold a pencil, and studied drawing in my undergraduate program at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). When I started painting, though, I immediately fell in love with it and found myself wondering, “Why haven’t I been doing this all along?!”

When one of my UTEP instructors, Therese Bauer, introduced me to Cranbrook, and I knew that’s where I wanted to be for my graduate studies, I wasn’t deterred by the fact that the school doesn’t have a drawing department. I simply dove head-first into my new passion for painting. And here I am.

Q: What three words would you use to describe your work/point-of-view?

MO: Oooo…that’s tough. I will say personal, family and lifestyle. What’s interesting, is that my work got much more personal when I started painting. My drawings were much less so.

Q: Talk more about your family. Obviously, they are integral to your work.

MO: My immediate family members all live in El Paso, and I see them regularly. As I mentioned, my father is an art teacher. I was actually his student during middle school, where he worked for years. He’s currently a high school instructor. As a result of my father’s influence, it has always been my goal to study art and make it my profession. Seeing him make a living doing what he loved, showed me it was possible.

My parents divorced when I was young. My mother went on to have two more daughters, my sisters, who all currently live in government housing in a low-income neighborhood of El Paso, similar to where I grew up. When I was young, I remember thinking how ugly and grim it seemed, but as an adult, when I spend time there now, I can better find the beauty in it…specifically in the people, like my family, who live there. Their grace and strength, amidst the challenging environment, inspires me and heavily influences my work.

I love them all, and am so grateful for their influence on, and support of, my work.

Q: Beyond your family, who else has influenced your art?

MO: Gaspar Enriquez. He is a brilliant Mexican-American artist from El Paso, who creates portraits of people of Chicano heritage. He is a friend and contemporary of my father’s, and I am incredibly inspired by his work.

Q: Where and when do you do your best work?

MO: I like to treat my art-making as a job, so I essentially try to adhere to a traditional 9-to-5 set of work hours.

I am incredibly inspired by the sights I find driving around the desert…the scenery and colors, and the way the heat and shadows play off objects…it’s some of my favorite inspiration. There are honestly some colors of the spectrum that exist only in the desert!

Q: If you weren’t an artist, what profession might you be pursuing?

MO: Teaching! I really admire the hard work and selflessness of teachers. Dedicating your life to helping young people grow and achieve their dreams seems a very noble profession.

Q: What are your thoughts on living and working in Berlin this summer?

MO: I am nervous, and excited…maybe a bit intimidated…but incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I haven’t done much traveling in my life to date, so I am anxious about living abroad, but I know I am up for the challenge and am very much looking forward to it, and all of the new experiences about to come my way.

Q: Beyond Berlin, what’s ahead for you?

MO: After Berlin, my priority will be to find myself a new studio workspace. I will stay in the southwest U.S., but will likely relocate from El Paso, perhaps to California. I will be working full time, and am honored to have been signed by the David Klein Gallery in Michigan, and will be concentrating on creating some really meaningful and fabulous pieces for them. I also will be participating in some major art shows/fairs, including one coming up in Miami. It’s an exciting time for me, to say the least!

For more on Marianna Olague, visit her website.

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