Collette Marie incorporates New Mexican imagery such as coyotes, quails, and medicinal plants in her work. Photographs by Jay Hemphill.
COLLETTE MARIE INFUSES her folk art with memories of childhood—biking through the agricultural fields near Las Cruces, eating her grandmother’s calabacitas. Pushing the bounds of Mestiza art, she recently completed her biggest project to date, literally, with the installation of three concrete relief murals along I-25 near her hometown. Her work focuses on classic New Mexican imagery like coyotes, quails, traditional medicinal plants, and La Llorona, giving them new life with an authentic point of view.
Animal Attraction: Nature and animals are constant themes in Marie’s art, something she attributes to her younger days spent wandering through the arroyos near the Doña Ana Mountains and chasing the sunset through pecan groves with her cousins. “We were gone for hours,” she recalls. “There was something very liberating in that time of being a kid, about being able to wander without thinking about time. Those years really shaped me.”
Mixed Messages: Drawing inspiration from Mexican folk art and its use of positive and negative space, Marie often incorporates subtle personal references—a poignant song lyric, a quote from Carl Jung, or a favorite memory—into her designs. “It’s just these little secret hidden meanings within my work,” she says. “My work has a stillness to it, but it also has a narrative quality.”
The Long Road: Tears came twice during the three-year process to complete the highway project, Cultivo y Cultura. The first was when she was awarded the project. The second, when she saw it completed. She spent many sleepless nights translating her 2D idea into 3D reality as 30-foot-tall concrete walls weighing thousands of pounds. “It was nerve-racking, because I wanted it so badly,” she recalls. “I had never worked with concrete before.”
The Force: Marie was raised by her grandparents, in a home that fostered her creativity and pushed her to believe in herself as an artist. Her late grandmother Alvita Trujillo Flores remains her North Star. “I felt her presence during the highway project as she gave me signs of encouragement and reminders to enjoy the creative process. I recall memories of her enjoying the sounds of singing birds in the mornings, so I dedicated a song sparrow to my grandma, which is located on the I-25 underpass.”
Language of Fashion: Marie features characters from her Travelers of the Night series—El Pantera, El Conejo, El Coyote, and El Murciélago—in a recently released apparel line. “The archetypal characters represent facets of my life—spiritual, metaphysical, or psychoanalytic,” she says of the teachers, healers, protectors, creators, heroes, and villains. “They share narratives of their spiritual journeys, teaching us ancestral wisdom of the stars.”