Every artist at POP Gallery’s upcoming Memento Mori show opening Thursday, July 28, brings something brilliant to the table but, with respect, former Santa Fean Marie Sena is the one to watch. By melding designs from tattoo, santero, medical illustration and more, Sena’s retablos bring a modern twist on a decidedly New Mexican artform. We spoke to Sena, who now lives in Dallas, about the show.
It seems like not a lot of people outside the tattoo world know your background is in medical illustration?
Isn’t that crazy? There’s not a lot of people who realize there’s this very small niche industry there or the discipline behind the charts you see at the doctor or the illustrations in a medical textbook. I kind of stumbled into it accidentally. It was this two-year master’s at UT Southwestern and it was kind of like med school boot camp. I was in the med classes learning everything that the med students were learning. I liked it because it was like art for a purpose, art for more than art’s sake.
Your work is steeped in tattoo and also religious iconogrpahy. Did you grow up religious or did you just like the imagery?
Both. I was in Catholic school since kindergarten, but I’m also always drawn to old religious iconography or, like, Albrecht Durer engravings. Being raised in New Mexico around all these churches, it’s just something that’s always going to be a part of me. I’ve been doing Spanish Market since 1996, and that artwork is such an undeniably specific part of New Mexico.
And POP Gallery is your exclusive representation here?
They are! I was a big fan pretty much right from when they opened and I was lucky to develop a relationship with them so that when I was starting to look for representation, they just said, “Sure!” Aren’t they just such a cool space?