Local Artists Reveal Centennial Pickaxe Creations

By on January 30, 2014

El Paso-based painter Jeff Litchfield was “blown away” not only to have his work on display, but also for the opportunity to be part of a team.

“It’s always great to see what other artists do,” Litchfield said. “We all kind of work in a vacuum and try to reach out to one another every now and then to see what each other is doing, but it doesn’t really come together until you have a show like this. So it’s always great to see how other artists interpret the same project.”

Students, faculty, staff and community members attended the unveiling of Centennial Celebration pickaxes by 12 local artists on Jan. 27 at the Union Gallery. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

Students, faculty, staff and community members attended the unveiling of Centennial Celebration pickaxes by 12 local artists on Jan. 27 at the Union Gallery. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

After donating countless hours of time and expertise, 11 of the 12 artists were in attendance Monday afternoon to reveal their creations and talk with visitors about their creative processes and concepts, which included putting dogs, bilingual phrases, iconic leaders, metals and books on the three-dimensional five-foot pickaxe canvas.

Student Government Association President Paulina Lopez opened the ceremony with a short speech highlighting the history of the Union Building. GECU – which sponsored the art project in partnership with UTEP – was represented by its president and CEO Crystal Long, who reiterated that the pickaxes will be auctioned off later this year during Homecoming week to raise funds for the GECU Foundation’s R.C. Morgan Scholarship Fund supporting UTEP students.

Antonio Castro H., associate professor of art and member of the UTEP Centennial Commission, introduced each artist before visitors were invited to enter the gallery and view the pieces.

The roster of artists included Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado, Margarita Cabrera, Suzi Davidoff, Francisco Delgado, Gabriel Gaytán, Linda Hains, Becky Hendrick, Anna Jaquez, Jeff Litchfield, Candy Mayer and Lyuba Titovets, as well as current UTEP student Fabian Uribe.

Uribe is a senior art major graduating in May. 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 retired from teaching at UTEP in 2013. The artists celebrated the unveiling by posing for photos with family, friends and fans.

While the work on her piece had come to an end, Jaquez was excited that the pieces would go out into the world for public consumption.

“It’s really fun seeing everybody else’s work and I’m super excited about being part of the Centennial Celebration,” she said. Jaquez planned to use the on-campus exhibit to show her design students the wide variety of approaches available to them when they are conceiving their own creations, citing it as “a great learning tool.”

Other professors also had asked their students to stop by the gallery and take in these unique expressions of the University’s history and the cultures, languages and geography of the region.

Junior graphic design major Laura Medina stopped by to write about the exhibit for one of her courses. Medina said she was most interested in how many artists used different mediums versus solely relying on paint. She was also excited UTEP’s artistic side would be able to shine as a result of this project.

Video interviews with each artist discussing the concept behind their piece, how they brought it to life, and the challenges they faced in doing so are available for viewing on the officialCentennial Celebration website.

The creators were allowed to work at their own pace using any media they chose. Some began the instant they received their pickaxe while others took more time for inspiration to set in.

The line-up of artists was announced last October at an event hosted by UTEP’s Centennial Museum, which is serving as the official headquarters for the 2014 celebration.

Starting the week of Feb. 3, the pickaxes will be displayed at the UTEP Library, the El Paso Visitors Center downtown and at 10 GECU branches around the city.

Event Services Coordinator Alexandra Garcia, who is also a UTEP alumna and master’s degree candidate, worked with each artist to determine the best placement for the pieces inside the Union Gallery. She admits it was a challenge given the very definitive visions and textures of each piece, but was intrigued by having to figure it all out.

“We had pictured this in a thousand ways, but you can’t really materialize it until you have them all together,” Garcia said. “In the end, it was all about being ready for that type of challenge.”

UTEP alumnus and pickaxe art auction coordinator Floyd Johnson expressed his appreciation for what he called a “satisfying endeavor” that will not only garner attention for each piece and artist, but also generate an exciting new way to fund students’ educations at UTEP.

“I wanted this to be a very mixed group representing Chicano, Meso-American, figurative, landscape and many other styles,” Johnson said. “We were able to get a great group together to showcase what El Paso has to offer.”

Published on Thursday, 30 January 2014 21:27 at http://newsuc.utep.edu/index.php/news-latest/1348-local-artists-reveal-centennial-pickaxe-creations

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