The Vaquera Sudoeste Collages

Dolan Geiman’s Signature Western Heroine

The story, inspiration, and process of making Dolan Geiman’s popular sugar skull collage series.

Inspired by Latino Culture & The Southwest

The Vaquera Sudoeste (Southwest Cowgirl) series of original paper collages and limited edition paper prints is one of the most popular in Dolan Geiman’s extensive portfolio. Each colorful figurative artwork features a cowgirl with a sugar skull face and other accents inspired by Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

This band of sisters has grown to include others in colorful attire, Catrinas and Adelitas, as well as Guitarristas wielding strength through song instead of pistol.


A Limited Series, Each Distinct in Color and Motif

Created from salvaged paper hand-cut with scissors, each Vaquera collage varies in color, western wear design, facial features, hand posture, and typographic detail. The shoulder motif, different in each unique work, often gives each variation in the Vaquera Sudoeste collage series its name.

A Limited Series, Each Distinct in Color and Motif

Created from salvaged paper hand-cut with scissors, each Vaquera collage varies in color, western wear design, facial features, hand posture, and typographic detail. The shoulder motif, different in each unique work, often gives each variation in the Vaquera Sudoeste collage series its name.

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The Story Behind the Vaqueras

Growing up in a family of outdoorsmen, the mythology of the West and its larger-than-life cowboys and adventurers was deeply embedded in Geiman’s psyche. But the heroes of the story were most often men and, when embarking on this western figurative series, Geiman felt a strong calling to bring a heroine to the centerstage through his storytelling in paper. The many women in Geiman’s family — including his artist mother and sister, his many aunts and his Cuban-born grandmother — were all strong individuals, critical in shaping who he became in life.

On the birth of the Vaquera Sudoeste series: “These folk heroines offered personal inspiration and, as an artist, I decided to bring them forth to offer strength and resilience to others.”

At the time of their incarnation, Dolan Geiman had been living and working in one of the most vibrant Latino communities in the country, Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. “Most of my community members, neighbors, friends and fellow artists were Mexican. I embraced that community and the colorful imagery of my surroundings.” When he moved to Colorado, Geiman brought the imagery and inspiration of his Mexican neighbors with him. “These images stayed with me, and while I have embraced my new community of western fauna, the icons, heroes, and heroines of the Latin/Mexican culture have remained an integral part of my growth as an artist.”

Geiman continues to be fascinated by the celebration of death in Latino culture — specifically the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, holiday in Mexico. On this day, it is believed that the souls of deceased ancestors and loved ones reunite with the living. The reunion is celebrated with prayer, graveside visits and offerings, festive parties and parades, painted faces and sugar skulls — or calaveras — and special altars called ofrendas. It’s a glorious celebration of life, surrounding the oft-avoided subject of death.

The Vaquera Sudoeste series celebrates life as it celebrates death, these juxtapositions central to the work. The skeletal imagery interplays with the colorful vibrancy of the pieces, the floral accents and, perhaps most of all, the direct gaze of the female figures.

Paper Collages

Reimagining Materials

Paper Collages

Reimagining Materials

Dolan Geiman’s paper collages are often mistaken for paintings at a distance, but in fact, they are composed of hundreds — sometimes thousands — of hand-cut papers. Some papers date as far back as the 1800s and represent a lifetime of collecting vintage magazines, hand-written letters, primary school lessons, comic books, and old maps, just to name a few. All of the papers are meticulously cataloged in the studio, sorted by age and color. When it's time to create a collage, Dolan grabs his favorite pair (or pairs) of scissors and combs through this paper collection to find the perfect colors and images to bring a Vaquera to life.

“All of the paper I use for these collages comes from abandoned spaces… old factories, forgotten farmhouses, warehouses and materials I find on the street… nothing newer than 1970.”

“Part of the inspiration for the Vaquera Sudoeste series came from folk tales my father would share around the campfire each summer, and also my desire to create a Western heroine who represented the strong female role models in my life: my wife, my mother, my sister, my aunt, my grandmothers. I imagine these collaged figures as a band of sisters, each with their own distinct personality and style. They come from a place of strength and nurture, fiercely protective of their family, community, and sense of right.”

Meet your new heroine

metal wall sculptures

Finding Beauty in the Abandoned

metal wall sculptures

Finding Beauty in the Abandoned

The Vaquera Sudoeste series later expanded to include sugar skull cowgirl renditions created in metal. As with the paper collages, the metals for these sculptures are salvaged from abandoned places. Each piece is hand-cut with tin snips and adhered to a wood panel — look closely and you may find intact found-metal pieces like coins. As neighborhood grocery stores, storefronts and durable metal signage have slowly faded away, Dolan has found beauty in discarded materials and preserved them via these metal wall sculptures.

After extensive prep work to flatten, trim and separate the metal materials, scrap metal and found objects are woven together to create a cohesive sculptural composition of beauty and elegance from an otherwise rough material.

Whether preserved in a custom hand-built frame like the paper collages or offering a unique three-dimensional, frameless finish with this metal counterpart, Geiman’s original Dia De Los Muertos artworks present a universal folk heroine. The Vaqueras, rich in color, texture, and historical detail inspire conversation and set intention, a fearless protector for homes western to modern.

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The Vaquera Sudoeste represent strength and nurture, serving as the artist’s personal icons, protecting family and community and upholding a deep sense of right.

Paper Prints

A Celebration of History & Culture

Adorn your walls with strong, powerful women who will never be told to back down. These vibrant, high-quality reproductions are printed on archival paper and available in limited editions.

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About Dolan Geiman

Based in Denver, Colorado, Dolan Geiman is a contemporary collage artist specializing in the reuse of found materials and objects, including vintage paper, reclaimed wood, and salvaged metal, with stories worth telling. He carefully curates, cuts, and combines these diverse collage materials with other artistic techniques including painting, screenprinting, and sculpture to create original modern artworks — including paper collages, metal wall art sculptures, faux taxidermy, 3D sculptures, and more. Dolan Geiman’s original mixed media art collages are highly textured and intricately detailed, inspired by the great outdoors, the flora and fauna of the natural world, the rich history of the United States, and the influence of classic collage artists that came before. Explore his online shop for ready-to-ship originals, paper prints, canvas prints, and gift cards. Learn more via this Q&A with the artist.