In retrospect I came to the conclusion that I'm struggling with a third world inheritance caught fornicating with the American Dream. Sometime in the late 1960s and early '70s, the idea of being a Chicano finally hit me like a Red River Valley potato.

Rubén Trejo in interview with Dr. Barbara Loste

Rubén Trejo was born and raised in a CB & Q boxcar in the Burlington railroad yards of St Paul, Minnesota.  His parents were Tarascan Indians from Michoacán, Mexico who had traveled north in search of employment.   Trejo's earliest memories are of interpreting the dual cultures of the Mexican and the English worlds. One of eleven siblings he recalls that " We never spoke English to my father or mother.  We always spoke Spanish at home and English in school."  He likes to joke,   "In essence, I was educated with a split mind.”

He and his family lived in the railroad boxcar until he was nineteen, travelling around the country performing temporary farm work.  While he has some early memories of making art, music was his first passion. It was while studying literature and music theory at the University of Minnesota that Trejo belatedly acquired an interest in the visual arts.

Rubén Trejo earned his M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1969.  He taught briefly at St Theresa's College and ultimately settled in the Pacific Northwest.  In 1973, he began his long association with Eastern Washington University teaching art and sculpture.  Having overcome obstacles in his early life, Trejo, as a professor and artist, felt that he could be an instrument for change, helping to pave the way for young Chicano artists.  In response to students who asked what brought him to art, he teasingly replied, "It beats picking grapes."

But such humor belies the seriousness of Trejo's explorations.  Since 1966 his work has been shown in solo exhibitions including the Jundt Museum in Spokane, Isis Gallery in Seattle, Thompson University Center in British Columbia, the Intar Gallery in New York and in important group exhibitions throughout the Americas.  A selected list includes:  St Norbert Cultural Art Center in Manitoba, the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, Galeria de La Raza in San Francisco, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Santiago, Chile, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago, Museo Regional de Oaxaca, Museo del Bario in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Cheney Cowles Museum.

Rubén Trejo’s work has been included in over a dozen books and numerous reviews including Third Text published in London,Recuentros published in Chile, as well as many others. His work is in significant collections including the Smithsonian, the Hispanic Cultural Center, Notre Dame University (IN), the MAC in Spokane and more.

Content copyright 2009. Estate of Ruben Trejo. All rights reserved.