Art education grads showcase work at Frost Art Museum

What’s the best graduation present you can ask for?

Well, if you’re an artist, how about your very own show at the Frost Art Museum?

The nine students graduating this fall from the master of art education program at the College of Education will have their works go on exhibit at the Frost beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, with the opening reception of the Master in Art Education Exhibition.

Each student is displaying works from their extensively researched master’s theses, where they used paintings and mixed-media art to convey their message and their grasp of technique.

Perhaps the most striking piece of art going on display is Jesús A. Garcia’s “Rebirth.”

Using a photo of California’s famous redwoods, he shot during a family trip as the background, Garcia painted himself in the foreground with arms outstretched and brilliant red wings sprouting from his back.

“There is tremendous power in that painting,” Garcia said. “I show you the way I see life, the way I fight all the obstacles life has given me. The red is the flame of the Phoenix, the fire, the power. It means no matter how hard life hits me, I will hit back.”

An avid artist and painter, Garcia survived a serious accident in 1991 that cost him part of his right arm and crippled his left arm. In 2012, one of his twin sons suffered a traumatic brain injury that affected his mobility and his ability to speak. Two years later, his wife, Melanie, battled a ravaging cancer that ultimately claimed a leg.

“The main thing that inspires me is my family,” he said. “I use that as an inspiration to keep going no matter how difficult times get.”

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Ramon Oscar Lopez, one of Garcia’s classmates, also looked to his own life to inspire and inform his work.

His body of work focuses on his shifting roles throughout life and culminate on a reflection of his latest role: father to a 3-month-old son.

“A lot of the paintings illustrate the different roles I play: being a good husband, a good father and becoming a better person,” Lopez said. “And, in each painting, there is  little bit of magical realism because the environments where the figures find themselves are very specific and orchestrated. I wanted the work to combine realism, abstraction and energy.”

After researching Baroque masters, Melissa Carter first focused her work on vanity and the transience of time but thinking the theme was a bit ominous, she chose to include more hopeful messages inspired by Romantic landscape painters.

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In her landscape painting, “Teach Us To Number Our Days,” Carter uses the sunset to present the idea that peace ultimately can be found at the end of one’s life, knowing his or her days were well-spent.

“It’s important for people to always be aware that time is fleeting so we don’t waste our time,” she said. “We should focus our lives on what matters.”

The Master of Art in Education Exhibition runs through Jan. 15.