George Lawson Gallery is pleased to present selections from Maria Blanco’s ongoing series of oil paintings, Borders and Walls. Blanco has chosen as a painting motif the physical barrier erected between the United States and Mexico, specifically the section of fence that runs between San Diego and Tijuana extending beyond the breaking surf into the Pacific Ocean.
As much in the news as their subject may be, these paintings function on perennial levels, from iconic landscape to engaged social commentary to meditations on the deeper dynamics at play in the collision of orders, natural, cultural and political. In service of this multi-layered reading, Blanco has honed the few elements of her narrative—sand, sea, sky, buildings, and wall—down to an interlocking set of vernacular essentials that function like building blocks. She has chosen to abstract the image of the border wall, to formalize the very currency of it, in order to present its affront in its most incongruous aspect, as a physical scar. In so doing, Blanco strikes the optimal balance between what she wants to say, and what she wants to paint.
Ms. Blanco’s “day job" may uniquely qualify her to say something about the wall, given her life-long work in civil rights advocacy, much of it focused on immigration. That she is just as able at this late stage in her professional career to so effectively paint this theme speaks of another life-long commitment, to the kind of visual literacy honed in the great museums of the world. To be able to paint is ultimately to be able to see, clearly, in this case to see the barrier for what it is, to see through it, and to see beyond it.
Ms. Blanco is Executive Director of the Immigrant Student Legal Services Center that provides immigration-related legal services for undocumented students at nine University of California campuses. Blanco has more than 20 years’ experience as a civil rights litigator and advocate. She most recently served as Vice President of Civic Engagement at the California Community Foundation. Prior to that she served as Executive Director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, as Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and as National Senior Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She is a member of the Public Policy Institute of the California Board of Directors and the California Citizens’ Redistricting Commission.
This is Ms. Blanco’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The show runs from April 4th - April 27th, with a reception on Saturday, April 6th from 4:00 to 6:00. Th exhibition is accompanied by a color catalog with introductory comments by Jose Padilla and George Lawson.