22:56 PM

Houston artists’ paintings celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at UHCL

Written by: Lauren Sawyer

Two local artists with ties to the University of Houston- Clear Lake community, wish to leave their creative mark on the university in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Director of Art School for Children and Young Adults David Moya said Hispanic Heritage Month is another opportunity to celebrate the community’s similarities and differences through art.

“I want to see more color, flavor and life at UHCL. Art is the way this can be accomplished,” Moya said. “For the Hispanic Heritage Month kick-off event, the Art School teachers and art education students will be facilitating activities with the Hispanic Heritage Fair.”

UHCL alumna Elizabeth Unmazor, is one of the artists painting for Hispanic Heritage Month. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Grades EC-12 Art Certification in 2019. Since then, Unmazor has taught as an elementary art school teacher and now works as a full-time professional artist. Moya said he wanted to recruit someone whose work and work ethic he was familiar with.

“Liz was a former student of mine. She stood out and I always admired the quality of work Liz displayed while at UHCL,” Moya said. “Over the years, I have been able to see her progress more and more.”

As a first-generation college student, Unmazor said she is honored to give back to the UHCL community. With her Salvadoran roots, she wanted to create a painting that best defined who she is.

“It’s really cool that a piece of me gets to stay at UHCL. It feels great to give back where I spent a lot of my time in my early twenties,” Unmazor said. “Hispanic Heritage Month to me means, not forgetting where I come from. Although I was born in the U.S., my parents being from El Salvador is a huge part of me.”

Unmazor added that her ‘The Explorer’ painting, is a self-portrait she took in Peru while solo-traveling. It embodies who she is, and she loves being surrounded by nature and exploring new places.

“I included the animals from Central America because that’s where my family is from. I was born in Houston, so that is why I included the cactus and blue bonnet.”

Jake Messa, the other artist painting for Hispanic Heritage Month, previously collaborated with the Art School on the ‘Transcendent Dreams’ mural located in the Arbor Building. Moya said he brought Messa back for this project because he believes in his work and talent.

“We talk about how sometimes he feels like an underdog, but I know it is only a matter of time until he’s the top dog,” Moya said. “His dedication and talent were only emphasized with his work on the mural in our hallway.”

Jake said his ‘The Nomad: A Huichol Style Astronaut’ painting is a combination of the past and the future, done in a style that best represented him.

“When I first started doing murals again, I got this big gig that I had to do Huichol style, which led me into digging into my Mexican roots. I wanted to do that again. My painting is a Huichol style astronaut done in my style,” Messa said.

Huichol art broadly groups the most traditional and most recent innovations in the folk art and handcrafts produced by the Huichol people, who live in the states of Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas and Nayarit in Mexico. The unifying factor of the work is the colorful decoration using symbols and designs which date back centuries.

“To create a fusion, I drew inspiration from Aztec and Huichol expressions,” Messa said. “I added an astronaut to represent Houston's connection with space. It's a unique blend of history and possibility.” 

Messa said for a long time, he ran from who he was and wanted to be somebody else. As he got back into art again and finding himself, he embraces his past and culture through his work.

“This is who I am. I wanted to inspire the students here at UHCL with this painting and it’s the first time I get to do something I really want to do," he said.

Both artists attended the Hispanic Heritage Month Kick-Off Event this past Saturday, Sep 16. They served on the artist panel and engaged with the community for an evening of fun and tradition. ‘The Explorer’ will be housed in the Arbor Building near the Art School, and ‘The Nomad: A Huichol Style Astronaut’ will be in the Bayou Building. The university is a designated Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution, and is committed to every student feeling a sense of belonging.

For more information about UHCL’s upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month events, visit www.uhcl.edu/hispanic-heritage-month. For more information about the Art School visit, www.uhcl.edu/childrens-art-school/