photo: Bek Andersen

photo: Bek Andersen



Leslie Martinez is currently a Dallas, Texas based artist born and raised between the Rio Grande Valley of the South Texas-Mexico border and Dallas. In 2018 they received an MFA from Yale School of Art and a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City in 2008.


As a trans artist from the Rio Grande Valley of the South Texas-Mexican border, there is something deeply symmetrical about being both and neither, invisible, invalidated, and perpetually eclipsing. To understand my work through these lenses, I use a hybridized term called ‘trans-rasquache’. It describes the relationship between the wholeness and fragmentation of these identities in terms of the physical labor and layered language of process and materiality.

I experience this combined term as emerging from the relationship between strategies of surviving the poverty, surveillance, shame, and silence of the border in terms of culture and queerness. To re-split this term, I consider ‘trans’ more broadly as its Latin root for “across or beyond”. In José Esteban Muñoz’s description of ‘futurity’, queerness is described as “not yet here” – a future only visible in ‘the horizon’. In my work, queerness, more broadly than sexuality and gender itself, reaches into the uncanny materiality and sometimes mystical humor of ‘Mexican ingenuity’ i.e. making do with what’s at hand, often scraps which are envisioned far in advance as potentially useful. Roberto Bedoya describes ‘rasquachification’ in Spatial Justice: Rasquachification, Race and the City as “an aesthetic of intensity that confronted our invisibility, our treatment as less than" and so I see these habits of collecting for future use as going far deeper than poverty’s lack of access to resources and further into the psychic space of a futurity oriented ‘imaginary’–essentially a radical form of ‘placemaking’ and embodiment.

In my flat works, experiments with flashe, ink, and water ratios distort the perception of medium and material scale creating an ambiguous imagined space that flips between sensations of aerial flotation and liquid suspension. This material and spatial skewing allows the work to embody its own multivalent, non-binary position as somewhere outside of or in between intentions. It enters my more material based works when visual and tactile expectations and associations are transformed through deliberate illusion. In Splayed in the Shadow, references to garment construction and aircraft wreckage shift over time creating a pivotal space that flickers back and forth between a coming together or falling apart. Here, the gravities and densities of canvas, rubber, plaster, sheet metal, and vinyl are destabilized through unique painting finishes and techniques. Iron oxide, processed mica, rope fibers, and shredded paper create confusing finishes as a form of queer masking, deception, and counterfeiting.

These methods and desires for the work emerged over time looking closely at the poetic life cycles and survival strategies of camouflage, molt, radar, and echolocation found in bats, moths, and scorpions as metaphors for navigating internal and external peripheral experiences. These unique properties deal in the realm of parallax, perception, imperceptibility, and transformation in navigating the space between light and shadow. My interest in these concepts lies in bringing to light, the aspects of the spirit that rupture the validity of perceived norms and hierarchies undermining the transformative value of more visceral and complex experiences.



leslie (dot) martinez (dot) studio (at) gmail

All work and images © 2019 Leslie Martinez