“The Centennial is not just a UTEP celebration,” says Centennial Museum director Maribel Villalva, who coordinates the tours. “It’s a community celebration. These tours were created to invite members of the community to come on campus and learn more about the university.”
About two dozen community visitors, along with a handful of UTEP students, staff and faculty, came out on a recent Saturday to enjoy “Art on Campus,” led by art history assistant professor Stacy Schultz.
The weather was perfect as the group gathered around the works of art outside or walked between buildings to see pieces indoors. Schultz and students from her fall 2013 course, “Art of the United States,” had spent many hours researching the selected pieces and their artists in the library’s special collections archives and other sources. She brought each piece alive as she shared their research findings.
At our first stop, the roundabout on Sun Bowl Drive, we learned that the 25-foot-tall miner’s pick sculpture has already become known as the university’s signature piece of public art. “Mining Minds” by Denver sculptor Michael Clapper was purchased for $85,000 and dedicated in December 2010.
The rusty steel sculpture looks gritty by day, but it’s almost magical at night, when interior lights at the top and the bottom glitter through small holes in the hollow sculpture. Look closer in daylight and you’ll see each hole is either a “1” or a “0.” While researching the university to discover the “essence” of the school, the artist was impressed by President Diana Natalicio’s 2008 convocation speech – and wanted to somehow include an excerpt from it on his artwork. And he did. Translate those numbers from binary code and they read: “Believe in yourself and in your dreams. Believe in UTEP and its aspirations. Share the dream!”
The next standout work of art was in the beautiful new Engineering Building. There, in the street level student coffee bar, is the stunning Luis Jimenez horse and rider entitled “End of the Trail (with electric sunset).” It’s unlike any equestrian statue you’ve ever seen; the sculpture glistens in candy-coated colors and is illuminated with yellow, blue, red and purple lights that came from his father’s Wyoming Avenue neon sign shop. The lights were off Saturday, but apparently whenever the Starbucks nearby is open, by gosh, those lights are on.
The late great Luis Jimenez, born in El Paso in 1940, worked on the fiberglass piece from 1972 to 1980. It was a gift to UTEP from the Fredrick Weisman Co.; it used to reside in the University Library. The defeated Indian warrior on his exhausted Appaloosa (with stenciled skulls on his rump instead of spots) is an obvious homage to James Fraser’s powerful – and often copied – 1915 bronze of the same name.
Then we headed to the library, where we studied the “Texas Wedge” sculpture of gold-finished aluminum rods arranged in a triangle by Utah artist James McBeth outside the front door. On the first floor we looked at a giant framed limited edition print (1/7) of Hal Marcus’s popular “El Mercado, Juarez” painting, along with three oil studies of details that he painted as he worked on the colorful piece from 1980 to 1987.
On the third floor is a remarkable series of 100 ink drawings, some with color pencil, by Jose Cisneros. Titled “Riders Across the Centuries: Horsemen of the Spanish Borderlands,” he worked on them from 1969 to 1984. Each caballero, conquistador, cowboy and soldier wears incredibly detailed and historically accurate clothing and gear; each horse is captured in a different position, from parade halt to panicked gallop, from trot to mid-buck.
The last few works included a graceful Art Nouveau-looking sculpture of steel that’s ornamented with animal intestines – yes, you read that right – in the Undergraduate Learning Center, a prayer wheel from a Buddhist monastery donated by the people of Bhutan, and the Tom Lea-designed stone frieze lintel piece above the door of the Centennial Museum.
The two-hour tour couldn’t cover all the art on campus, but it gave us a good survey.
“I had a longer list of possible works, but I had to narrow it down,” says Schultz, who began researching campus art last August. “I found that some works came with a great deal of documentation and information and others had almost no information available.
“It was interesting to look at the different circumstances that describe how art makes its way to UTEP,” she added. “These works of art definitely contribute to the fabric of this university.”
Email arts and culture columnist Cindy Graff Cohen at email@example.com.
Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 6:00 pm at http://www.elpasoinc.com/columns/local_columnists/article_1a056526-9729-11e3-893b-0017a43b2370.html
By Cindy Graff Cohen | 0 comments