By Kristopher Rivera
UTEP News Service
Make Plans: UTEP Student Art Exhibition Opening Reception, 4-9 p.m. Thursday, April 10, Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts
The commute from Juárez, Mexico to El Paso always started three hours before Alejandra Urquide’s first class at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Urquide, an art major, is seeing the fruit of her hard work after five years of prolonged wait times at the Santa Fe Bridge and four years practicing her craft at the University. She and other students have been selected to have their artwork displayed at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts for the 2014 Juried Student Art Exhibition. One hundred entries were chosen from a field of 300 from undergraduate students at the University.
“I feel that definitely all this time on the bridge or all the time I spent at the University is the best decision I ever made,” Urquide said. “I really look forward to growing as a professional.”
Urquide created a packaging design that rebranded the traditional design of Price’s Creameries milk cartons and glass containers. Her modern design created a more contemporary look for the Price’s milk product.
The art exhibit features works of art and design created by undergraduate students. The opening reception is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, April 9 as part of UTEP’s Open House. The show includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, metals, graphic design and videos. CC Bursell, graphic design juror, and Abril Castro, the fine arts juror, selected the featured artwork of the exhibit.
Near the main entrance of the Rubin Center hangs a contemporary-realist painting of a Chicana-punk-rock-looking woman with the “sign of the horns” hand gesture. It’s an image focused on gender issues, said Yennifer Mendez, senior anthropology major and featured artist in the exhibit.
“I feel like females and males are starting to equal out to some point, I feel her personality represented that very well,” Mendez said about the woman in the painting. “She takes up her own space in the way that she dresses, the way she moves around; her attitude is very empowering.”
The artistic traits were passed on from her father, according to hearsay from her family.
“All I knew about him was that he likes to do artwork,” Mendez said. “That was something that I felt I must have in connection with him and that’s why I always wanted to do (art).”
Two years ago, Mendez, 23, was able to see her father, who is a carpenter, for the first time in 17 years because of her parents divorce and the barrier of living across the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Living at the border, it wasn’t exactly so easy, especially for myself having been an illegal immigrant,” Mendez said. “For half of my life I had been trying to hide in a way. I couldn’t work for the longest time, I couldn’t do much. You want to do something great, but at the same time you’ve got to say on the low.”
Her studies in anthropology mix into her paintings to convey a social impact.
In November 2010, she became a legal resident after marrying Lionel Palma, senior anthropology major.
Mendez and Palma collaborated to create a piece that is also featured in the exhibit. They each painted 7-foot-by-5-foot portraits that are displayed across from one another at the Rubin Center.
Palma has a second portrait featured in the exhibit. His 4-foot-by-7-foot painting titled Victor represents a friend he admires and someone who “pushes through” continuous struggles.
“I always like to talk to my subjects to get kind a feeling of who they are and what they’re about because my purpose right now is to portray people either how I perceive them or how they are perceived in general,” he said.
His portraits feature life-like details and facial impressions. His practice came during boot camp in the United States Marines Corps in 2007. He wasn’t able to finish training and had to leave after suffering a shoulder injury.
“In there I learned that people really appreciated art,” Palma said. “All the soldiers found out that I knew how to draw so they would ask me for portraits.”
After returning to UTEP, Palma pursued his artistic ambitions. This is the second time his work has been featured in the juried student art exhibit.
“It’s really nerve-wracking; it’s always up to someone else and they come with their biases,” he said. “It’s a good thing because you can figure out what you’re about and where you fit in this world.”
The 2014 Juried Student Art Exhibition will be showcased at the Rubin Center until May 15.