She’s Legally Blind but Don’t Underestimate This El Paso Artist

She’s Legally Blind but Don’t Underestimate This El Paso Artist

Photo: Antonio Baca

Martha Guerra puts pencil to paper as her form of subsistence and expression. When she was a baby, Guerra was diagnosed with astrocytoma, a type of brain cancer. The cancer affected her motor skills and left her legally blind. Now, the 18-year-old El Paso native creates artworks that have garnered attention and collaboration across the globe in places like Europe. 

Her work traverses mediums, working with color pencils, graphite pencils, acrylic painting, pastels, and charcoals. Even though she is legally blind, she can see enough to distinguish colors apart. 

A framed work of Guerra’s from her collection.

When Guerra was a student in special ed classes, one of her best friends suggested she should quit her art, and that she would not make it far. But her response to those comments was the same she gives to any other obstacle she meets: drawing.

“I just don’t limit myself,” Guerra said. “Because everyone is thinking, ‘Oh well, you’re legally blind. You can’t draw.’ I say ‘No. It’s just like everything else,’” Her drawing — and all of her art — started off as a coping mechanism, dealing with bullying in school and people doubting her. But her art has now transformed into her life’s passion.

Guerra holds up her large portfolio, where she keeps sketches, and final framed pieces.

Guerra’s work has been getting attention on social media in places like France and Italy. She credits her former high school for introducing her to artists from those countries. She says her art has introduced her to cultures beyond her hometown of El Paso.

“[Art] opened up a lot of doors… and then meeting these people [diverse artists from other places], opened up my horizons.”

A final piece of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, by Guerra.

Guerra’s work has been exhibited at El Paso Community College, where she’s also a student. But she has bigger ambitions for the future.

“I want to go [at my art] full time. I really do. Why not? Because the stigma in El Paso is like, ‘You can’t do it. You have to be a lawyer. You have to be all that stuff.’ When in reality, they’re just following tradition. I want to be the one that breaks that norm. Why not do it with my art?” she asks.

Her final advice to all those she meets is, “Don’t limit yourself.” 

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