Ruby Jo Barrientos, An Artivist in Reno
Jarrette Werk, Aaniiih and Nakoda, photographs Ruby Jo Barrientos and some of her art, while interviewing her on how her lived experiences as a first-generation Salvadoran American influence her art.
Self-taught visual artist Ruby Jo Barrientos uses her artwork to bring attention to social inequities such as the erasure of Salvadoran Mayan culture and how geopolitical dynamics forced people, like her family, to migrate to the United States.
The youngest of five daughters, her family immigrated from El Salvador in the late 1970s as refugees from the country’s civil war, eight years before she was born. Wanting to provide a better life for his children, her father, Marco, made the hard decision to leave and make the move to the United States, more than 3,200 miles away from their home country.
Barrientos says she comes from a family of artists. Her father and uncles were photograph colorists. She credits her family and their Salvadoran Mayan heritage for heavily influencing her work.
In 2017, she visited El Salvador for the first time and being in her homelands ignited her passion to incorporate and explore symbolism and deities in her work, ultimately inspiring her to create art people have never seen before.
Most recently, she was appointed by the City of Reno as City Artist for 2021-22. Her show, Nuwave Mayan Ancestros, took place at Reno City Hall’s Metro Gallery from September to November last year. She was the first Salvadoran and woman to receive this title.