Artist Rigoberto A. Gonzalez paints Mexico drug violence baroque-style

El Paso — Dark colors and shadows transform the canvas into excruciatingly vivid scenes – a severed head laying on the ground, soldiers restraining an angry man in front of a crowd – of the bloody drug war raging along the U.S.-Mexico border, illustrating every disturbing emotion on the faces of the subjects while employing the classic beauty of 17th century Baroque-style paintings. Rigoberto A. Gonzalez ( 37, the artist of these deeply disturbing and meticulously painted images, is bringing his exhibition, titled Baroque on the Border/Barocco en la Frontera, to The University of Texas at El Paso at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Art of from May 26 to September 24, 2011. He was born in Reynosa, in the border state of Tamaulipas, Mexico and moved with his family to the border city of San Juan, TX when he was 9 years old. As a child, his mother and older brother inspired him to become an artist. This inspiration led him to obtain a bachelor’s degree in art from The University of Texas-Pan American in 1999 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from the New York Academy of Art in 2004.

School district budget cuts kill jobs and crimp the arts

EL PASO – In 2010 the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) was looking for ways to cut $2.5 million from the district’s budget. Part of the solution came last week with a sting – the EPISD saved $5.6 million by cutting 116 positions. Before that decision, the situation had escalated to the possible closing of two elementary schools, Schuster and Zavala. Kenneth Parker, chief officer for the EPISD said the closing of the two elementary schools would save the district about $2.5 million. In the past five years the district has cut $43 million from the budget, without hurting academic courses.

Creative Kids: ten years motivating youth through art and more

EL PASO — When Andrea Ingle invited her husband Stephen to teach her special education class at Canutillo Middle School with the little left over art supplies she had, the couple had no idea it would lead to their life’s work providing an artistic outlet to children and teenagers throughout the border region. That classroom experience combined with their own backgrounds in the arts was the spark for creating a non-profit organization, Creative Kids Inc., that uses the power of the arts to help youth, including teenagers at risk of dropping out, to achieve academic and personal success. Ten years later, Creative Kids has a main studio and gallery in a 16,000-square-foot warehouse called the OLO Gallery (Other Learning Opportunities) at the recently renovated Union Plaza Arts District in downtown El Paso. The organization serves over 600 youth a year ranging in age from 4 to 18, and provides special programs for children battling cancer, children with disabilities, and disadvantaged and at-risk youth. It also has a long list of impressive local, regional and national sponsors, from the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts to the City of El Paso and the Hunt Family Foundation.

The art of recycling

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Art created from recycled items is now a fast growing and popular niche, but Carlos Egan (“The Country Gentleman”) has been incorporating recycled items into his art for years. Egan’s Rustic Art was most recently featured at the 39th Annual Renaissance Arts Faire in Las Cruces. But, for 27 years Egan has been traveling and selling his work at fairs all over Texas and New Mexico. “I go out into the desert with my daughter and look for wood pieces that have been weathered by the sun and rain. I mostly go where people throw stuff away.

These dancers don’t dance to salsa – they make salsa

EL PASO, Texas – Dancers covered themselves from head to toe in tomato juice to express their love for food at the annual Chalk the Block art festival. “For this piece I really wanted to create an environment in which people could come inside and get immersed in all the living plants and the green. Then, hopefully take home some ideas,” said visual artist Christine Foerster about Bio.Domo.Sis, her latest installation. Emily Morgan, a University of Texas at El Paso Dance department instructor, collaborated with Foerster to incorporate a dance that would highlight locally grown food. Foerster focuses on a couple of ideas that help put together the Bio.Domo.Sis.

Sidewalk spectacle takes art to the people

EL PASO, Texas — The metal giant’s arm reached out and grabbed a blue, two-door sedan with its six-foot long hydraulic metal fingers, raised it up as high as the street lights and then dropped it letting it crash on the asphalt below. Half a dozen junked cars waited for destruction inside a circle of steel barriers blocking off a section of downtown at Oregon and Mills St. at this year’s Chalk the Block art festival, The cleverly named Hand of Man was one of the main attractions, stopping crowds in their tracks as pieces of broken plastic and car hoses shot out at the feet of on-lookers. Crew-member Nathan Oswald explained that artist and creator Christian Ristow, “…wanted to be able to build something participatory.” Unlike many art pieces, the idea behind this installation, Oswald said, is to be something fun for the crowd to become a part of. Mario Castillo won a chance to control and set the sculpture in motion, through a local radio station’s call-in contest.

Exhibición de fotos capta la violencia de vivir en Ciudad Juárez

EL PASO, Texas — Fotógrafos fronterizos de El Diario de Juárez capturan la batalla de vivir día a día entre caos y temor en la ciudad más violenta de la frontera. Ahora todos podemos ser testigos de ese ambiente de terror. El 30 de Septiembre se inauguró la exhibición fotográfica Las Otras Batallas, presentada por fotógrafos de El Diario en el Centennial Museum de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso (UTEP). “Esta exhibición es un ejemplo de lo que se puede hacer si las dos ciudades unen esfuerzos. Tomó coordinación e interés binacional y con la participación de personas de los dos lados todo salió muy bien”, dijo la Dr. Moira Murphy-Aguilar, profesora de UTEP y del Centro de Estudios Inter-Americanos y Fronterizos.

Mujer con alas II – El vuelo

EL PASO, Texas — A las mujeres con alas no se les puede detener. Tienen una misión. A veces ni ellas mismas lo saben. Pero evidentemente, el cometido de Martha Arenas ha sido servir, consolar, esparcir su corazón en el corazón de la multitud. Por algún motivo que todos sabemos, y que no sabemos, Arenas inicio su carrera artística con un vuelo.

The Chalk the Block Art Festival decorates downtown El Paso

EL PASO, Texas — For the third consecutive year, the public art festival Chalk the Block, graced downtown El Paso with fun-filled street activities and treated thousands to the sight of sidewalks covered in art this past weekend. “It is a great way for the city to be exposed to so much art.  We don’t get many events like these, so the people should really take advantage,” said Elva Apodaca. “It really inspires me, and those who aren’t exposed to art to appreciate art and see what else is out there,” she said. The event, free to the public, was organized by the city’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department joined by the El Paso Community Foundation. Chalk art is basically painting and drawing with chalk as media and sidewalks for canvas.

Mujer con alas

“Pintar con el pincel en la boca no solo es haber logrado un sueño, es colorear con el alma, es agradecer a Dios por la vida”. Martha Arenas. EL PASO, Texas — Si la entereza, la fe y el equilibrio pudieran tener nombres, se llamarían Martha Arenas. Una mujer cuya historia inspira, cuyo talento prevalece en el umbral de lo cierto y lo invisible. Su pasión siempre fue la pintura: ese amasijo de ideas, pigmentos, texturas que ennoblecen al ser humano y que atrapa con magia sutil.

The Virgin of Guadalupe

EL PASO, Texas — Ever since 1531 when the image of the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously on the cloth worn by Juan Diego, a humble peasant in Tepeyac, Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been a sacred symbol of Mexican faith. Today the image of the Virgin can be found almost everywhere on the Borderland, from churches to sidewalks, from candles to tattoos. The photography class at the University of Texas at El Paso was given the assignment to photograph the Virgin wherever she appeared. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Teen authors of the California border pave their way through self-publishing

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif.–Teenagers all over the world are anticipating the June 30 movie release of “Eclipse,” the third installment in the phenomenal “Twilight” saga, to see how the romantic fantasy about a teenage girl and her intense love affair with a vampire continues to play out. The “Twilight” books, written by Stephanie Meyer, inspired the movie series and a cult following of both readers and movie-goers around the globe.  But during the last decade, that inspiration was not limited to just reading or watching the mythical and unorthodox teen romance stories; inspiration bled over into the minds of young writers, including those in the Imperial Valley. Often seen as culturally dry as the desert it occupies, the Imperial Valley is home to several young authors who have crafted their own fantasies in the pages of books that are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, at the local bookstore, and can be found in local libraries.  These youthful writers have not experienced the notoriety of Meyer – at least not yet. Angela Ly, 16, is writing her second novel.  “The book is going to be about a different dimension, but in this world,” Ly said.  “There will be action and adventure, somewhat like Twilight.”  The Brawley High School junior self-published her first book, “Birds to Fly Me to You” in 2009. Fantasy adventures like “The Way to Fairyleland” and “The Collusion Series” have sprung from the minds of local teen authors prolifically in recent years.  Publishing house Wandering Sage Books recently released a commemorative edition of “The Way to Fairyleland,” by Belén Ramos, and a third young writer, Alexandra Lopez, is penning her third and fourth books.

Paying the price for his art, a graffiti tagger looks for a different canvas

CALEXICO, Calif.–When he sees empty walls, Cesar Espinoza starts to picture colorful art and he immediately wants to reach for his miniature spray can to paint graffiti. The problem for this 17-year-old artist is that his passion is illegal – particularly when his canvas is private property. “Tagging,” as graffiti art is called by its practitioners, “makes me feel good because I get to express myself,” said Espinoza. He explained that his creativity expands and his art gets better on the large space of a wall rather than on a piece of paper. Many people, especially the property owners victimized by graffiti artists, might wonder who it is “tagging” their homes, fences, and even their vehicles.  Sitting at a railroad crossing, one might see elaborate lettering in vibrant colors on a train’s cargo cars and wonder what the message is and who the messenger might be.

Where the arts are scarce, Southwest High School offers an oasis for talented Imperial Valley students

EL CENTRO, Calif.— The visual and performing arts have not always been a rich part of the culture in this desert region in Southern California’s Imperial Valley.  Riches here are normally measured in water, produce and geothermal, and experiencing the arts was typically done 120 miles away in San Diego. But, the one and only arts magnet school—Southwest High School in El Centro—is producing a rich pool of future artists for local and global enrichment.  Students of computer animation, media arts, acting, and dancing are pulled from high schools in Imperial County as far as 30 miles away. The following video showcases five outstanding artists from the Southwest Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at Southwest High School. They were chosen by faculty members based on their hard work and exceptional talent as artists:

Instruments create beautiful music—but who creates the instruments? David Armenta, for one

EL CENTRO, Calif.–When David Armenta was all of 15 years old, with little cash in his wallet and a lot of musical spirit in his heart, he wanted a “super cool” guitar that he could not afford. But, instead of running to the local music store to put his dream guitar on layaway, Armenta did something different–he decided he would rather make his own guitar. “I taught myself (to make guitars),” said Armenta, now 23 years old and a communications major at Imperial Valley College in Imperial, Calif. His first investment was a set of carpentry tools he got for the bargain price of $20 at an auction. “You don’t need a lot of tools to make a guitar,” Armenta said, pointing to his head.

Welders and fabricators move beyond industrial work and into art

EL CENTRO, Calif.–From a typical viewpoint, it’s hard to see the field of welding and fabrication as an art,  because the conventional idea focuses on the production of industrial parts. “Most people see it as an industry, and it is,” says Scott Baker, a welder and fabrication foreman for EW Corp. in El Centro.  “Even for me it’s hard to see it as a craft sometimes.”

The industrial side of the welding and fabrication business has long overshadowed any notion of welding as an art. When a typical bystander walks into a fab shop, there isn’t much in the way of traditional art—drab pieces of metal, drills, and complicated machinery take up most of the space.  Those in the fabrication world are usually not the type that are into the arts.  In fact,  West Coast Choppers CEO Jesse James, one of welding’s most famous faces, is known as a tough-talking bad boy. But the guys wielding those fiery torches on sheet metal

at shipyards and auto body shops are not just a bunch of gearheads–they are artists with a passion and creativity as ancient as metal working itself.

A Marvelous Metal Zoo Resurrects Prehistoric Desert Creatures in Anza-Borrego

ANZA-BORREGO, Calif.—Driving along a desolate highway you’re being fooled by a mirage when you see two raptors locked in battle, or a monstrous eagle poised for take-off into the blazing sky. But as you slow down to get a better look, you realize this is no mirage: there really are giant creatures dwelling in the sand next to the road. About 90 winding miles east of San Diego in this desert valley, prehistoric creatures and humans sculpted in scrap metal and iron cohabit in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Almost 100 beasts and desert dwellers stand realistically frozen in time, butting heads, snarling, or searching for their next meal in the scorching desert. “I can see these creatures living here a long time ago,” said Jackie Steinkrauss, an Escondido, California resident on a recent visit here.

A Life Framed by Five Decades of Art and Sentiment

EL PASO, Texas – Ana Cortez light-handedly drags a keen-edged glass cutter across a square of glass. She handles the glass like tissue paper, smoothly and easily, shaping and sizing the sheet to fit into its framework. Cortez used to fashion a dark brown braid, when she first started cutting, matting and assembling frames at the Art Center, 3101 E. Yandell, but now she’s older and experienced. With nearly 53 years of framing experience and a short white hairdo, she has seen a half-century of history pass through the glass of frames she works with. “I love what I do,” Cortez said.