The boldness in the lines that frame and devise her portraits and paintings are the same boldness that Christin Apodaca is made up of herself. The artist known for her distorted figures and the black and white world she’s wrought to life is the same person that is blazing trails for the next painters, and women in the El Paso artistic boom.
Apodaca who grew up in El Paso herself having gone to Burges High School, is now four years into a tenure with a Creative Kids. The nonprofit organization dedicates itself to promoting the arts and providing resources to children throughout the community.
She went to the University of Texas at El Paso for a brief stint before moving to Albuquerque to attend the University of New Mexico. In college she studied oil painting but it was her post-college life that she developed her unique style.
“If you ever oil painted or painted in general, you have to set up a full palette. The nice thing about being in school is that you have a space to do it. When I moved back to El Paso, I didn’t have space to do anything,” she said, explaining her living arrangement. That’s when she said “fuck it. Let’s bring out the markers and the paper and see what happens.”
This bold and unique style has lifted her to the top of her local art scene. But being there, Apodaca has experienced some disparities and been able to see another unique quality in her career: the lack of other women colleagues.
“[The] El Paso art community is rough, man. Like being a girl and being in the art community is rough,” Apodaca said.
Many great artists have come out of El Paso and many more continue to rise up. But there is a disparity in the amount women getting recognition.
But it isn’t because there aren’t women creating art in the city. Apodaca sited the “lack of representation of girls, because they have to work ten steps harder to get that level of recognition.”
More specifically, she gave an example of how she can be overlooked:
“I was live painting at this event and these couple of dudes come up and are like ‘hey! Your stuff looks exactly like this guy’s, Christian. Do you know his work?’” They pulled up his work and it was me. ‘You piece of shit, that’s me'” she said chuckling at the anecdote. “My name’s not Christian.”
This is why she laughs when people say she’s one of the premier artists in her city. “People always say you’re blowing up, you’re blowing but it’s not like people know what I look like. I feel like I’m two separate people sometimes.”
The exhibit she had at Dream Chasers Club, titled Wish You Weren’t Here, was a direct commentary on that. The figures in the series/exhibit mostly had no faces or clothes she explained because they were meant to be adaptive to the viewers’ experiences.
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But the storyline was a struggle between a larger, looming figure controlling that of its counterpart.
“Art is already a solitary action,” she said about addressing the problem. So it is more difficult to break into someone’s group who is doing this. And this applies to the art scene in El Paso, and in general for the arts.
So her for of resistance is by inspiring and encouraging the next generation of painters; to create a larger community that is more inclusive just by size. She has spent most of time with Creative Kids working at Fabens teaching children between the ages of four and eighteen. Fabens is on the outskirts of El Paso and has more limited resources.
She tells her students to dream big and to get out of that “programmed” setting. While Apodaca doesn’t teach her students the “black and white crazy shit that I do,” she pushes them to dream big: ”It’s like no, dude. Go to college. Go to El Paso. Go out-of-state. Just to give them encouragement that having kids at 25 isn’t your life plan.”
By Antonio Villasenor-Baca