Jesús Treviño
Mexican American
Mensaje en la penca (She's Watching Over Me)
oil on canvas & cut panel, 2023


dimensions: 21.5” x 17.5”

Mensaje en la penca (She’s Watching Over Me) is an artifact of desire to reconnect to family and history, while voicing commemoration and grief— all through the language of love letters carved onto cacti.

For Treviño, materials were highly considered in the process, using not only classic mediums such as oil paint but polyurethane, cut and burnt panels, and even motor oil. While these mediums helped achieve this visual style, they were chosen with specific intention, making the method in itself a relic: an ode to origin. 

The image on canvas is painted using used motor oil sourced from a family used-car dealership near the international border. It holds a history of movement across boundaries, to work, to live, and to travel in pursuit. That image is then obscured by nopales painted on cut panel with journal-esque texts carved with a wood burner. 

“I’m interested in land’s capacity to hold traces of unresolved tensions when thinking about histories of movement, displacement of people, and how that shapes my identity which continues to shift, fade, and reassemble.” —J.T.


Jesús Treviño (b. 1995, Brownsville, Texas) received a BA in Studio Art from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (2018) and his MFA in Painting/Drawing at the University of Texas at Austin (2022). Rooted from his experience being raised on the U.S./Mexican borderlands, Treviño utilizes disruption, concealment and layering, to allow for an unfolding and discovery of stories that resist being buried beneath the surface of unstable and agitated paintings. Working from a bank of collected images found in family photo albums, social media profiles, personal archives, and articles about the border, these moments are composed of materials, tools and techniques that speak to his desire to rediscover histories and the importance of keeping them alive.