Artist Marianne Sadowski Engages Colonial Legacies and Indigenous Eco-Feminisms in New Prints


By Gabrielle Garcia

As a Mexico City native, receiving her BA in Film from the Universidad Iberoamericana and MFA from the Academy of San Carlos, Marianne Sadowski creates paintings, prints, and mixed media works that negotiates social justice, nature, and the interconnectedness of the personal and the global. Sadowski’s work has been exhibited at institutions such as The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Taller Boricua, New York, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, Fullerton Museum, Forest Lawn Museum, El Camino College, SPARC, Self Help Graphics & Art, and many more across the United States and Mexico. Working as an arts educator for over twenty years, she has taught at museums, schools, and non-profit organizations, including LACMA, Getty, the Skirball Cultural Museum, the Broad, and Plaza de la Raza. Sadowski is also a member of three printmaking organizations, Los de Abajo Printmaking Collective, The Los Angeles Printmaking Society, and Consejo Gráfico.


Sadowski, along with twenty-five other artists, was invited to create work and participate in Self Help’s “Utopia/ Dystopia” exhibition, curated by artist and printmaker Miyo Stevens-Gandara, which forms a portfolio of prints in the form of a deck of 52 playing cards.. Each artist created two of those playing cards, which presented their interpretation of utopia and dystopia. The concept of a deck of cards is intended to reference many things—games of chance, luck, fortune, war, solitude, precarious situations (house of cards), magic, empire, and divination. The deck of cards allows the project to bring many different artists and styles together creating one unified artwork- a full deck, redefining a traditional portfolio.The exhibition runs through August 10, 2019.

Marianne Sadowski’s two linocut prints with restricted color palettes feature the jack of clubs for her dystopia interpretation and the nine of spades for her utopia interpretation. The dystopian print, titled “Greed,” depicts a large figure, presumably Christopher Columbus, looming over a horrific scene of people fleeing a fire, perhaps a burning town, by land and by sea towards a barbed fenced border. The Columbus figure is adorned with a hat that reads the title name and robes with a dollar sign in the center. Through this print, Sadowski connects the colonial history of European nations in the Americas to contemporary destabilization of many Latin American countries that have resulted in mass migration to the United States. This interconnectedness by Sadowski of colonialism to the present American immigration crisis and systematic violence at the border and concentration camps are tied by continued exploitation and degradation of indigenous peoples throughout Mexico and Latin America.

On the flip side, Sadowski’s utopian print, “Libertad y derechos humanos para todos,” which translates to “Liberty and human rights for all,” explores indigenous feminisms and activism. This print depicts an indigenous woman holding the skinny tree trunk and a banner that visibly reads the phrase of the title. She is in visual harmony with her surroundings rather than dominating in the case of her Columbus counterpart. Both the woman and the tree trunk serve as bridges between the tree’s roots and its leaves, as if all components are intertwined. According to Sadowski, natural elements in her pieces “work as symbols to convey the fine line of life itself.” With the fused image, Sadowski offers viewers an alternative method to engage with these legacies and realities of greed and violence through activism, connections to nature, universally honored humanity and respect, and woman-led leadership. 

The Utopia/Dystopia exhibition will remain on view through August 10, 2019. Prints for sale from the Annual Print Fair will remain on display through August 1, 2019. To view prints for sale or view the exhibition, please visit SHG during gallery hours Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM- 5:00 PM or shop prints and merchandise at the online shop anytime. Interested in making a donation to the organization? Visit the onlinedonation page or text “SHG1973” to 91999.

Gabrielle Garcia is a Self Help Graphics & Art Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern and recent graduate of Scripps College.