Marilyn Cuellar
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Isanti County News, Cambridge, MN

by Rachel Kytonen | August 2008

Local artist wins national award
Marilyn Cuellar wins Best of Show-Drawing award at Uptown Art Fair

A graphite pencil.  An eraser.  An archival drawing board.  The effect of light.

Those are the only materials Cambridge artist Marilyn Cuellar uses to create her original graphite drawings.  She doesn’t use colors because she paints with graphite, using a palette of white to black with all their tonal variations.

“I don’t want anything to detract from the seemingly simple, but very complex texture of my images,” Cuellar said.  Using only a 2B graphite pencil, she achieves every shade of white to black needed by controlling the pressure from her hand.

Cuellar, who began her career as an artist in 1991, received the Best of Show-Drawing award at the annual Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis held Aug. 1-3.

The Uptown is a juried national show, showcasing the work of more than 360 award-winning artists from across the nation.

While Cuellar has won many awards in local and regional competitions, the Best of Show-Drawing award was her first national award.

“I was very surprised and very happy when I learned I had won the award,” Cuellar said.  “It was especially meaningful because everyone in my family was there for the awards breakfast on Saturday morning.”

Cuellar’s award was based on her entire display of detailed drawings – ranging from botanical work to her newest pieces of African children.

She explained her daughter Cheyenne is a peace corps worker in The Gambia, West Africa; and she and her husband Rande visited Cheyenne in her village earlier this year.

Cuellar’s formal training has been a minor in art from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

She also mentored with Marilyn Taus, individually and together with the group Visual Women.  Taus, a teacher at the Anoka-Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus, died in February 2007 after a 15-year battle with cancer.

“Marilyn loved art and loved to help people love art,” Cuellar said.  “She was a great teacher and mentor, and her influence and enthusiasm for art is evident in all my pieces.  She still is the most talented artist I’ve known.  We all mourn her loss.”

“I’m driven to draw,” Cuellar said.  “It’s a God given talent, and I feel the responsibility to use and develop it as much as I can.”

Cuellar describes her work as follows:  “From a distance, my work is representational; but as one draws nearer, the texture of the details creates an abstract inner-life that attracts and holds the eye,” and because of that she feels her drawings are timeless and may be passed on to future generations.

Her ideas for drawings come from her surroundings (maple tree out the front window, garden) or travels/connections (faces from Ukraine and Africa, and images from Italy).

“I find my vision in the details of life,” Cuellar said.  “My art brings out subtle details in its subjects, creating a picture of life more particular than the fleeting glance with which we normally look at the world.”

“Like most artists, my work is time-consuming and at times tedious, but when I’m finished with a piece and catch the gleam in someone’s eyes, or create movement in a botanical piece, it gives me such a sense of joy and makes it worthwhile,” Cuellar said.  “And, seeing people’s reaction adds to that joy.”

Cuellar sells her original drawings mainly through juried fine art shows.  Each piece she creates has special meaning to her, but each is drawn with the intent of someone else appreciating her work as it graces the walls of his/her home or office.  She also has prints available of some of her pieces.

“When you look closely at my work, mark every detail,” Cuellar said.  “That is where the life of my art truly is.”

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