The Naked Paintings of Teresa Oaxaca

If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character, would you slow down? Or speed up?

~ Chuck Palahniuk


teresa oaxaca





 e’ve all experienced it: That familiar nightmare where we’re standing in the midst of a group of friends, having the time of our lives, only to suddenly look down and discover we’re not wearing a stitch of clothing. Not surprisingly, when we speak about making ourselves vulnerable, we often use the word, “naked.” 

It would only make sense then that the role of costume is to disguise: To give us a layer between ourselves (our oh-so-tender skin) and the onlooker. But wait. Not so fast…

Consider the paintings of 22-year-old Teresa Oaxaca, a classically trained artist who layers elaborate costumes onto her portrait subjects ~ as well as onto her own body. By all rights, what we take in before us ought to be thick with disguise. But are they? Or is the psyche somehow rendered even more transparent to the viewer’s eye?


Teresa with her piece, Girl in Pink

The artist in front of her painting, Girl in Pink




Arlington, Virginia ~


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Your pieces are immensely dense and rich, Teresa. Texture and patters fight for our attention. One comes away feeling utterly gluttonous. What is the source of inspiration for your works?

Teresa Oaxaca:  The Baroque and Rococo, Gustav Klimt, the Old Masters and ornamental design from many different periods of history.  One can draw from so much. Paintings used to be set in lush settings such as cathedrals and palaces. They were designed to fit with other art forms such as elaborate wood carved frames and sculpture. Even if we cannot necessarily have such rich backgrounds now, I would still like to provide a sense of that experience.


Self-Portrait in Blue | Teresa Oaxaca

Self-Portrait in Blue | Teresa Oaxaca


Deanna Phoenix Selene: What is it about trying on elaborate costumes and over-dressing that is so alluring and satisfying?

Teresa Oaxaca: I think the art experience can be like a symphony with all sections supporting the whole. I am also a bit of a designer and arranger of things. I like finding satisfying interplays between color and form. Clothing has so much potential ~ both texturally and as a bolster to the wearer’s persona. Many great portrait painters such as John Singer Sargent and Peter Paul Rubens knew this and they weren’t exactly painting the clothing of their time either.  Not many people know this.


I’ve always been misrepresented. You know, I could dress in a clown costume and laugh
with the happy people but they’d still say I’m a dark personality.

~ Tim Burton


"Doll Maker" oil on canvas, 50x34"

Doll Maker | oil on canvas | 50″x34″


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you feel that we are too covered-up, too disguised as we move through our days? Or that we do not experiment in fantasy enough?


Old Man With Daisies 20x30 oil on canvas 640

Old Man With Daisies | Teresa Oaxaca | 20×30 | oil on canvas


Teresa Oaxaca: I will say I miss the days of individually tailored clothing. Stylistically, I find much of the modern made-to-wear garment industry a nightmare. Both for the exploited workers who slave away to produce it, as well as from the standpoint of a portrait painter. There is nothing beautiful about it. Instead, I like to see some evidence of design and the uniqueness of culture.


Teresa Oaxaca

Teresa Oaxaca


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Your fondest childhood memory?


Mancini Fiddler, oil, 50 x 72 in

Mancini Fiddler | oil | 50 x 72 in


Teresa Oaxaca: I have found that a lot of the old things that used to make me happy are still the same. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my sister, or, before she was born, just alone, making things out of clay and playing with them. Later we would stage more elaborate games, still taking place mainly in the imagination, as children’s fantasies do. I remember spending hours setting up whole worlds and trying to get them just right before anything else could begin. This is a lot like setting up a scene to paint, if you think about it.


teresa oaxaca

The Dream Of Pierrot



The Steiner | 54x36 | oil on canvas | Teresa Oaxaca

The Steiner | 54×36 | oil on canvas | Teresa Oaxaca


Deanna Phoenix Selene: What is your favorite of all of your own pieces?

Teresa Oaxaca:  Those change a lot. I have had favorites, usually the pieces that are most current. There are some rare works that still appeal to me despite the period they were created in. In general, I like to think of my work in terms of series. In my studio, I like to have the pieces hanging about while I paint more to add to them. I’d love to have a solo show to demonstrate this “group effect.”  It’s quite powerful.


teresa oaxaca

Paradise Lost


teresa oaxaca

Born During a Carnival


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Your mock wedding portrait is so intimate. Can you tell me a bit about it?


wedding portrait


Teresa Oaxaca:  This is a painting of me and someone special. I am very open about displaying my work and providing details about it but I keep the private life separate. I suppose painting in itself is quite autobiographical.


Portrait on Buff Paper | 18x26 | charcoal with white chalk on Canson paper | 2014

Portrait on Buff Paper | 18×26 | charcoal with white chalk on Canson paper | 2014


Self Portrait | 19x22" | charcoal on paper | 2014

Self Portrait | 19×22″ | charcoal on paper | 2014



Further Notes

Teresa Oaxaca

Teresa Oaxaca studied at the Florence Academy of Art and the Angel Academy. She is a two-time recipient of the Art Renewal Center’s Scholarship Competition, a double recipient of the Stacey Scholarship (Museum of the Cowboy) and has been awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant twice. She resides in the Washington D.C. area.

Explore her “Drawing & Painting Journal: Awakening Vision” blog here.

The Art of Teresa Oaxaca can also be viewed on her page at the cargocollective.


Combustus Managing Editor | + posts

My dream: to create a unique vehicle for artists and visionaries from all genres and all over the globe to inspire and learn from one another.


  1. Chet Bogar on July 5, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Very interesting work. After seeing this sample of Oaxaca’s work I can say that I will be able to recognize her work when I see it again. Definitely in a class of her own. Thanks Deanna~

  2. Steven DaLuz on November 28, 2013 at 4:11 am

    Teresa, my dear, you will have so many solo shows in your career–the world will enjoy your series soon enough, I am quite sure! I think your work is fabulous, and it will only get better as time marches on. It was a pleasure to meet you at the Greenhouse Gallery a couple months ago. I am sure our paths will cross again! Thanks for the interview, Deanna–Teresa is one to watch. 🙂

  3. Beverly Hill-Kleinstein on May 4, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    A friend told me to look her up. We both paint and she sounded interesting. I love the work she is doing and I am thrilled to have found her. I live in the general area and hope to see a show at some point in the “New World”.

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