Noted Artists Selected to Create Pickaxe Pieces for UTEP Centennial

By on October 10, 2013

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

When does a pickaxe become an artist’s canvas? About once every 100 years—at least in UTEP’s case.

A bevy of acclaimed local artists are pitching in for the Centennial Celebration with their talents, inspiration, and hard work. Eleven professionals and one current student have been hand-selected to take large, blank pickaxe sculptures and turn them into something not only beautiful, but also memorable.

An event on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the Centennial Museum – in its role as headquarters for the University’s 100th anniversary – introduced this group of artists to the public and media. A prototype of a blank, five-foot tall pickaxe was also unveiled by GECU CEO and President Crystal Long and Centennial Director Keith Erekson, who co-emceed the event.

The artists selected for the Centennial Celebration pickaxe art initiative were feted at an event on Oct. 8 at the Centennial Museum. Photo by UTEP News Service

The artists selected for the Centennial Celebration pickaxe art initiative were feted at an event on Oct. 8 at the Centennial Museum. Photo by UTEP News Service

The roster of artists includes Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado, Margarita Cabrera, Suzi Davidoff, Francisco Delgado, Gabriel Gaytan, Linda Hains, Anna Jaquez, Jeff Litchfield, Candy Mayer, Lyuba Titovets, Fabian Uribe, and the husband-and-wife team of Becky Hendrick and Willie Ray Parish.

Uribe is a UTEP art major, who plans to graduate in May 2014. Five of the artists received undergraduate and/or master’s degrees in art from UTEP. Davidoff, Delgado, and Jaquez are members of the UTEP faculty, while Hendrick and Parish retired from teaching at UTEP in spring of this year.

Titovets expressed the special connection her family has had to UTEP, beginning with her family choosing to immigrate to El Paso from Russian expressly because her uncle was teaching at the University. Her father also became a UTEP professor, teaching “up until the last day of his life,” she recalled. Titovets’ daughter is a current UTEP student.

“Besides the great honor of being part of this big celebration and doing something special for UTEP, it’s in thanks for UTEP simply because it really took care of all those people who are very close to me,” Titovets said. Like many of her selected colleagues, she has an idea of what her finished pickaxe will look like, but did not share details in order to keep the surprise intact until January.

For Uribe, this represents a world of possibility for him. “It will give me great exposure and I’ll get to learn from the top and most experienced artists in El Paso. This is just a great experience in every aspect,” he said.

The artists – all of whom are donating their time for this effort – have been charged with applying their vision to decorating the pickaxes in a way that ties in with UTEP’s milestone. They must complete their work by the end of the year in time for an unveiling event on January 27, 2014. The pickaxes then will be displayed on campus and at GECU branches around town throughout the Centennial year. A final auction of the finished pieces will take place during the Homecoming alumni dinner next fall. Proceeds from the auction go to the GECU Foundation’s R.C. Morgan Scholarship Fund, an endowment fund supporting UTEP students.

GECU has proven itself a dedicated partner in UTEP’s Centennial initiatives. Two weeks ago, they proudly joined with the university in unveiling the newest structure on campus: a digital marquee enclosed within a Bhutanese-style tower. GECU branches will be lit up with orange lights in the evenings and employees will wear orange on Fridays. They are also displaying large, interactive cutouts at their branches offering the chance for anyone to pose within actual photos taken from over the century of UTEP’s history.

“This is just the beginning of a long relationship [for GECU and UTEP],” said Long during the event’s opening remarks. “UTEP’s great historical story will be told through this wonderful vision of art.”

“This means the world to me at this point in my life,” Uribe said. “To be representing the school where I’ve been studying and the fact that it’s the 100-year celebration is an honor.”


Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado was born in Ciudad Juarez, but grew up in El Paso just a mile away from the border. He studied with Gaspar Enriquez during high school and became active with graffiti art, where he earned the moniker “Cimi.” Alvarado is primarily a muralist, but often works with large-scale pastel drawings. He is involved with numerous programs in Texas that focus on murals and art education. His powerful murals can be seen throughout El Paso.

Born in Monterrey Mexico, Margarita Cabrera lived in Mexico City for ten years and then immigrated to the U.S. with her family. Her work explores the relationship between the United States and Mexico and first became known for her soft-sculptures of commercial products such as coffeemakers and blenders manufactured at US-owned maquiladoras in Mexico to serve as reminders of the labor involved. She received her  M.F.A. in 2001 at the Hunter College of the City University of New York. Her most recent honors include residencies at Artspace in San Antonio TX, Border Art in La Union New Mexico, and an International Exchange residency in the Netherlands.

Suzi Davidoff creates drawings, paintings, prints and collaborative installations that explore themes of structure and perception in the natural world. Zane Bennett Contemporary Art in Santa Fe presented her solo exhibitions in August 2013, August 2008 and April 2010. Austin’s Flatbed Press featured solo exhibitions of new monotypes by Davidoff in 2009 and 2012. She was awarded a Fiskars Artist’s Residency in Finland, a Mid-America NEA Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation/Pollack-Siquieros Binational Art Award. Davidoff’s work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Hallmark Collection, Museum of Texas Tech University and the El Paso Museum of Art.

Francisco Delgado was born in Cuidad Juárez and grew up in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio. Delgado’s “Bordeño” artworks are informed by the social and cultural struggles inherent in life on the Mexican and United States border. Delgado explores conflicts in which the artwork questions problems of racism, identity struggles, Mexican and United States traditions, and U.S. government’s policies affecting immigrants.

Gabriel Gaytan is a native born El Pasoan who has recently attracted wide attention as a visual artist. He was commissioned by the University of Texas at Austin to produce an original work for The McDonald Observatory’s commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month. His painting “Mi Jefita” was selected as the cover illustration for “The Last Tortilla and Twelve Other Stories” authored by El Paso native and Yale University professor Sergio Troncoso. He has a Bachelor of Arts – Art All Levels from the University of Texas at El Paso that includes a Texas Teaching Certificate.  In 25 years of art education experience, he has presented to all age levels, from children in kindergarten to education professionals. As an artist, he incorporates Mesoamerican symbolism with Mexican-American historical experience.

Linda Hains was born in Renton Washington and began painting as a child. She has worked in choreography, drawing, painting and sculpture and is very interested in movement, color, placement and form. She earned her B.F.A in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University and an M. A. in Art Education with a minor in Painting and Drawing from UTEP. Her exhibitions can be found throughout the United States in New York, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming, and was featured in the New Yorker’s Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan.

Anna Jaquez incorporates her experiences as a woman, a mother, and a Mexican-American living along the border in her artwork. Her sculptures rely heavily on metalsmithing techniques, which influences the scale and the scope of her work. Jaquez received her BFA and MA from the University of Texas at El Paso and her MFA from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. She is a full-time lecturer in the UTEP Department of Art.

Jeff Litchfield studied painting at the University of Texas at Austin and has worked in top galleries, museums, and art service companies in New York, exhibiting his art in galleries in New York, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and El Paso. Litchfield co-founded the non-profit arts space Forum Arts & Culture in a former fire station in El Paso and curated its first season of shows. Litchfield is currently laying the groundwork for another non-profit gallery, curating, writing for the El Paso Times, and painting in his El Paso studio.

Candy Mayer displays her skill in a wide variety of media, including acrylics, pastels, pen & ink, and collage. She earned a BFA in Art and Art Education at the University of South Dakota. Many of her works originate from trips to Mexico and other locales taken with her photographer husband. Mayer has exhibited and won recognition in shows and competitions including the Sierra Providence Arts International Show, the Sun Bowl Show, the Paquime Festival in Casas Grandes, MX, and many El Paso Art Association events. Her work is currently on display in many galleries and businesses in the El Paso area and sites throughout the United States and Mexico, including the Hal Marcus Gallery and the Sunland Art Gallery.

Willie Ray Parish was born in Tupelo Mississippi, received his BFA at Ole Miss, and his MFA at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He lives and maintains a sculpture studio in La Union, NM and is a retired professor of sculpture at the University of Texas at El Paso. He and his wife, artist and writer Becky Hendrick, are the co-founders and hosts of the Border Art Residency in La Union, NM.  Parish’s work has been exhibited from coast to coast and is in both private and public collections nationwide and abroad.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg , Russia, Luyba Titovets began art instruction at age five, receiving her B.A. and M.F.A. at St. Petersburg State University College of Fine Art. In 1992 she moved with her family to the United States, where her father became a professor at UTEP. Her work has been exhibited at Westminster Abby in London, by the National Academy of Design and Oil Painters of America, and as part of the “Women Without Borders” exhibit that traveled throughout consulates on US/Mexico border. Titovets’ name is included in the Archive of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C.

Fabian Uribe is studying Drawing and Painting at the University of El Paso. He is a multimedia artist whose work challenges concrete definitions of concepts within identity such as religion, sexuality, culture, and politics. In 2012, Uribe’s work was included in exhibitions at the Glass Gallery in El Paso Texas and the Paisano Gallery in Marfa, Texas. His work is currently featured at the Stanlee and Gerald Center for the Visual Arts.

Published on Thursday, 10 October 2013 15:15 at

Lisa Garibay is a writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.