Bodily fluids on canvas: El Paso artist uses blood to make art

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Courtesy of Ruby Martinez

Ruby “Juice” Martinez uses her blood to create art which is displayed at the Ink Society Tattoo Studio on Montana Avenue.

Jaqueline Martinez, Staff Reporter

Ruby “Juice” Martinez is a 29-year-old local artist who has a gory, but not unusual, twist on creating art: using her own blood as paint.   

Martinez was born and raised in El Paso, where she eventually graduated from Andress High School in the northeast area. Martinez made art throughout her life until having a discouraging experience in high school that forced her to quit.   

Martinez later pursued an education in network administration where she felt the need to relieve stress, so she began making art again.   

The artist rekindled with her old hobby by creating “oddball” paintings in the style of traditional tattoos, which is ultimately what influenced her to start using blood as paint.  

 “Something about bold lines and limited colors always drew my attention,” Martinez said. “Growing up I was always attracted to oddball things or spooky stuff, so painting with blood didn’t seem as a weird transition as some would think.”  

The use of blood in art is not an unusual practice in the art world. Many contemporary artists throughout the years have been known for their unique style and approach to art making — like — using blood.   

Many artists have been known to work with different bodily fluids, which is often used as a concept to address and explore issues of life and death, inheritance, racial, class and national identities, cultural and religious studies and performance studies.  

American contemporary artist and photographer Andres Serrano is notably recognized for his 1987 work “Piss Christ,” which is a photograph of a crucifix submerged in a glass container with the artist’s urine. The work experienced international backlash, although the artist said he had no intent of blasphemy or offense.    

Bee Hughes is also an artist and researcher notably known for creating artwork about menstruation as a “direct public challenge” to the stigma around it. In her installation, titled “Cycles,” the artist documents a changing menstrual cycle by capturing the idiosyncratic rhythm of the artist’s body and shifting forms through acrylic and menstrual fluid on hand-stitched linen scrolls.  

“If art doesn’t make people react, can it be art? I get both sides of the spectrum, but I had prepared myself for the worst, especially when I decided to post my artwork on the internet. Surprisingly, I have received way more positive feedback than negative,” said Martinez, who would set up a table at the Punk Rock Flea Market and Kaleidoscope Market to showcase her artwork. “Every now and then I run into an elder who thinks it’s absolutely disgusting — which I get a kick out of — but the majority of the people are curious more than anything.”  

Martinez admitted to not being able to differentiate blues from greens, which tend to blend out to the same color for her, but working with one shade of color seemed personally appealing to her.   

The blood the artist uses is pulled directly from her veins using a syringe, which is then placed in a two-ounce container with an anticoagulant that she eventually discovered.   

When speaking about her personal favorite piece, “Blood Skull Moon,” the artist shared that working with blood allowed her to focus on the value of a painting. Martinez recalls having to work in layers through the process of value in order to obtain darker tones.   

“You can add as much blood on one layer, but you won’t get much shading out of it until you let it dry and let new blood absorb into the canvas,” Martinez said. “Although the blood does have an anticoagulant, my time is still limited so I try to work at a fast pace.”   

The blood is applied through various tools, such as paint brushes and sponges, in order to apply texture, and finger-painting for backgrounds. 

“One thing I love about El Paso (is that) the art community is very supportive of each other,” said Martinez who was searching somewhere to keep her art after finding out she would be moving to Alaska.   

The artists’ work is currently displayed at the Ink Society Tattoo Studio on Montana Avenue where store owner Veronica Lee has been very supportive of the artist and provided a home for her work.   

Courtesy of Ruby Martinez
Ruby “Juice” Martinez uses her blood to create art which is displayed at the Ink Society Tattoo Studio on Montana Avenue.

Jaqueline Martinez may be reached at [email protected]