USA Portraits

Artwork and introduction by NARSISO MARTINEZ

A portrait of a man painted on a spinach boxTender Leaves (2021). Ink, charcoal, and gold leaf on cardboard produce box (52.50 x 62.50 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.


Through my art, I intend to highlight the difficult reality faced by American farmworkers, a workforce essential to American life consisting of men and women almost wholly of insecure immigration status. This status makes them vulnerable to predatory practices from agribusiness. I am a former farmworker myself; after immigrating to the United States from a small community outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, I worked nine seasons in the fields of Eastern Washington state to pay for my undergraduate and graduate degrees.

I seek to honor farmworkers and reveal the difficult working conditions they face. Their portraits and scenes from the fields are executed on found produce boxes. When I nest images of farmworkers amidst the colorful brand names and illustrations of agricultural corporations, I hope to help the viewer make a connection, or a disconnection rather, and start creating consciousness about the people that farm their food.

Man in hooded jacket painted on cherry box.

USA Product (2021). Gouache, charcoal, collage, and matte medium on cherry box (35 x 28.25 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.
Collection of the University of Arizona Museum of Art.


portrait of a man in a face scarf picking apples, painted on a cardboard apple box

Artisan Organics (2020). Ink, gouache, charcoal, and matte gel on produce cardboard box (51 x 38 in). Photo by Makenzie Goodman.

Portrait of a man in a pesticide-spraying suit on banana box.Banana Man (2021). Ink, gouache, charcoal, and collage on cardboard produce boxes (93.5 x 72 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.

Man picking oranges painted portrait on juice carton

Golden Crop (2021). Ink, gouache, charcoal, and acrylics on juice carton (11.75 x 15.25 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.

Man in pesticide spraying suit painted on grapefruit boxThe Weed Sprayer (2020). Ink, gouache, and charcoal on found produce box (82 x 56 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.


Two farmers painted on a collage of found produce boxesSuper Fresh (2020). Ink, gouache, charcoal, and collage on found produce boxes (84 x 133 in). Photo by Joshua Schaedel.


Woman curling her hair painted on artichoke boxArtichokes and Hoop Earrings (2023). Ink, charcoal, and matte gel on artichoke box (40 x 44 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.



Narsiso Martinez came to the United States from Mexico when he was twenty years old. He completed high school at Evans Community Adult School in 2006 at the age of twenty-nine. He earned an associate of arts degree from Los Angeles City College, and both a BFA and MFA from California State University Long Beach, where he was awarded the prestigious Dedalus Foundation MFA Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture in 2018. His work has been exhibited both locally and internationally, and is in the collections of several museums, including the Hammer Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Martinez lives and works in Long Beach, California.

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USA Portraits

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