UTEP Art Students participate in Virtual Juried Exhibit

While scores of art students from The University of Texas at El Paso dealt with unusual circumstances to complete their projects for the 2020 Annual Juried UTEP Student Virtual Art Exhibition, their hard work will finally pay off this week.

The virtual exhibition will open with an awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28, on the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts Facebook page.

The winners of eight categories as well as Best Life Drawing or Life Painting and overall Best in Show will be announced during the video that will include a welcome from Kerry Doyle, Rubin Center director, and some comments from David Griffin, professor and chair of UTEP’s Department of Art, as well as remarks from the judges.

Ninety-one undergraduates submitted 356 entries in the categories that encompass graphic design and fine arts such as print, drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, jewelry/small-scale metal and photograph/digital image.

What made this show unique was that many of the students finished their art pieces away from UTEP in makeshift art studios in and around their homes and with whatever materials they could scrounge up. Faculty members said that these entries showed the students’ ingenuity.

“Students’ work, from what I have seen of work shared with me from various faculty, shows that they have risen to the challenges and still managed to produce very good pieces under the watchful computer screen eye of the faculty,” Griffin said.

Among the student artists who submitted items to the art show was Sara Isasi, a senior double major in graphic design and drawing with a minor in communication studies. The El Paso native submitted five graphic design posters.

Her favorite, “1960s Psychedelic Posters in El Paso,” allowed her to use an artistic style from a different period to promote her bicultural city.

She was happy with her entries, but said that COVID-19 restrictions hampered her creative process. Before the virus, she would have scouted her locations for authenticity and inspiration. Instead, she needed to rely on her memory. Additionally, she would have used UTEP’s art studio resources. She also lamented the lack of readily accessible feedback from peers and faculty members, which she considered essential to her artistic method. However, she said these constraints forced her to be a more independent and imaginative artist.

“I think these limitations pushed me to think smarter and be more creative to overcome certain situations,” Isasi said. “It made me realize that there is a tremendous amount of resources in the virtual world.”

The recipients of the Arlene Smith McKinnon Endowment Purchase Award for Overall Best of Show and the Sarah and Tom Lea Purchase Award for Best Life Drawing or Life Painting will receive $1,000 each. The winners of the other categories will earn $200.

Also distinctive to this year’s event, the artists submitted photos or video of their project for the judges. This year’s jurists were Marisa Sage, director and head curator of the New Mexico State University Art Museum, and Iris Morales and Joel Martinez, owners of EME Design Studio. Sage judged the fine arts and the EME duo evaluated the graphic design entries.

Melissa Barba, the Rubin Center’s assistant director, said it was a unique challenge to curate a virtual exhibit because she wanted to honor the students’ hard work and sometimes photos do not capture the works’ beauty and nuances.

Residents can find the show of the best entries, to include other notable art pieces, on Friday, May 29, on the Rubin Center website.

Photo courtesy UTEP