Overcoming a physical barrier
Yvianna Hernandez-Mora, who graduated from UTEP as an honors student in 2010, has had to confront a physical challenge as an artist, one that has altered her creative inspiration.
Since she was a young girl, Yvianna has had a passion for drawing. While other kids chose different paths in life, during her high school years, Yvianna focused more on her art and strived to improve her skills.
Yvianna‘s main desire was to become a comic book artist, especially since she saw that there were not many women in this industry. However, upon entering UTEP, Yvianna found that she would not be able to pursue this dream right away since the university did not offer such a major. Yvianna decided to enter the field of fine arts and focus on abstract painting and impressionism.
“I always had the idea of working for Marvel, DC, or even working independently,” Yvianna says. “But now that I have studied the fine arts, I have explored another world that I fell in love with. Abstract and impressionism just let me do so many things with my art–border violence reflections, for example.”
However, Yvianna’s major source of inspiration lies with her greatest challenge–being diagnosed with arthritis. As a result of her arthritis, Yvianna was forced to take a break from her art, but she has been trying to recover her strength over the past year.
“I can say that my arthritis is my worst enemy. Sometimes it makes me feel hopeless when I am lying in my bed without being able to move. Other times, it becomes my inspiration and lets me create art pieces that reflect what I think and go through,” Yvianna says. “I always have my ups and downs, I have even considered thinking of a plan B, but nothing comes to mind. I can’t picture myself doing anything else.”
Last October, in an attempt to prove to herself that she had recovered, Yvianna participated in the local art festival, Chalk the Block. The event, which featured 50 artists competing for best of show with their chalk art, allowed Yvianna to challenge her body and compete successfully in the event. She won a second-place award for her painting of a distorted hand from which many other hands sprang out.
Yvianna has incorporated distorted hands into her art as a way to represent her condition, such as her 9” by 10” remake of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam.” Instead of featuring a “perfect” hand, Adam’s hand is distorted, resembling a hand afflicted with arthritis.
“I believe another source of my inspiration is the support I get from my family and friends,” Yvianna says. “They are always trying to cheer me up and tell me the usual, ‘it’s all going to get better. You can keep going.’ I appreciate all that, but sometimes I bring myself down.”
Yvianna’s latest goal is to go to graduate school either in California or New York, but due to her illness, she is afraid that she will not be able to cope with the stress and work. Currently, she is resting and thinking about what she should do next in her artistic career.
“I can’t be defined or suppressed. I am just an artist who wants to keep growing and learning,” Yvianna says. “I have my passion and I will keep practicing it to improve no matter what challenges I encounter.”
A frustrated artist
As Pilar Guerra graduated from high school and entered college, she faced a lot of adversity and lack of support for her dream. Feeling she needed a backup plan, she changed her major to education. Nonetheless, her desire to become an artist remains rooted deep within her soul.
Pilar’s passion for art began during high school, and she decided to take up art as a career after her high school art teacher selected one of her charcoal drawings as an entry into a competition hosted by El Paso Community College. Pilar had drawn a portrait of her nephew, while her classmates had drawn inanimate objects such as cars, designer purses and buildings. Pilar says she prefers drawing things with life because they add beauty and a story to her art.
When she placed second in the competition, Pilar’s dream of becoming an artist was reinforced. She continued to draw things with life, paralleling them to her own life. Although all of her paintings were of actual people and animals in her life, they were not completely realistic because she added a fantasy aspect to her work.
“I really do believe that I drew things with the intention of bringing a person’s specific personality trait out,” Pilar says.
Pilar continued to paint throughout her first year in college, but found herself conflicted when it was time to register for art courses. Her parents, along with her friends, did not support her wish to pursue an artistic path. With much difficulty, Pilar shelved her dream.
“I simply enjoyed painting, but I had no motivation at the time. I think that is what I really needed at the time, motivation not support,” Pilar says. “A lot of people can do without support from others, as long as they are determined to do what they are motivated to do, they will achieve it. I was lacking that. I had no one to look up to, no clear goal.”
After three-and-a-half years, Pilar has decided to pick up her creative tools once more. She is now motivated by a very clear goal – to become an art teacher.
As an educator, Pilar hopes to encourage students to pursue whatever they are passionate about and to find their motivation despite any lack of support.
An insightful professor
Antonio Castro H., a UTEP art professor, is in a position that enables him to guide other young artists. Originally from the U.S.-Mexico border, Castro began his artistic path when he was 15. His father began teaching him several fundamentals of art and by the time Castro entered college, he already knew most of what his professors were teaching him.
Although Castro dreamed of going to school in Mexico City, he enrolled at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he pursued a degree in graphic design. Later he enrolled at Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. During his years at Tyler, Castro encountered a lot of competition since the program was very rigorous and competitive. After graduating with a master’s degree in visual communication, Castro lived in San Francisco and New York, where he worked for different design agencies. It was not until several years later that he got a call from his alma mater offering him a teaching position. “I always saw myself in the future teaching; it grants me freedom to work on my own stuff,” says Castro. “As a student, I had always looked up to my teachers because they would always share their knowledge with me. Now it was my turn to interact with young artists.”
During the time that Castro has taught graphic design at UTEP, he says that what is most rewarding for him is the opportunity he has had to provide advice to his students and other beginning artists as they pursue their careers.
“There are a lot of students that end up in the wrong place after not pursuing the art career they wanted because somebody told them, ‘You’ll become a starving artist’ but I say they need to follow their heart,” says Castro. “If they get themselves in a situation where they are miserable, then they need to get out. If they want to be successful, and I don’t mean monetary success, they need to follow their heart.”
La motivación de un artista proviene de diferentes fuentes de inspiración, pero el problema es encontrarla. Todos los artistas se enfrentan a adversidades, algunos deben lidiar con enfermedades y otros con la falta de apoyos, pero cualquiera que sean los obstáculos, estos artistas defienden su pasión y creatividad.
Yvianna Hernandez-Mora, graduada de UTEP, tuvo pasión por el arte. Hoy en día su mayor fuente de inspiración proviene de lo que se ha convertido en su mayor reto, su artritis. “Cuando estoy recostada en mi cama sin poder moverme, (la artritis) me hace sentirme sin esperanza”, dice Yvianna.
Cuando Pilar Guerra, estudiante de cuarto año en UTEP, se graduó de la preparatoria y entró a la universidad enfrentó muchos obstáculos para seguir su sueño. Uno de ellos fue la falta de apoyo de sus seres queridos. Después de tres años y medio alejada del arte, Pilar regresó al primer dibujo en gis que hizo en la preparatoria. Ahora esta motivada y tiene una meta clara: convertirse en maestra de arte.
Por 11 años, Antonio Castro ha enseñado diseño gráfico en UTEP, para él lo más gratificante ha sido la oportunidad de dar consejo a estudiantes y a artistas jóvenes.
“Hay muchos estudiantes que terminan en el lugar equivocado después de abandonar el arte porque alguien les dijo que se iban a morir de hambre”, dice Castro. “Yo les digo que sigan siempre lo que su corazón les dice”.