One artist, a home schooled duel-enrollment student at WNMU preparing for her freshman year, the other, a WNMU senior planning for her next steps following May’s graduation, but the connection that has drawn them together is the Western New Mexico University Expressive Arts program. This year’s juried art show at WNMU’s McCray Gallery was judged by local artist, author and radio personality Paula Giesler and included 55 students’ work, ranging from clay and ink to watercolor and oil.
This year’s big winners are WNMU senior Patricia Countryman, who took best in show for her sculpture, The House that Built Me, and in-coming freshman Abby Egge-Ogas, first place winner and the recipient of the New Mexico Watercolor Society’s award for her piece, Sakura.
Patricia Countryman’s creative process was nurtured through her strict, traditional upbringing in Douglas, Arizona, where she grew up as the eldest of four and used creativity as an escape. “I was always looking for something to do with my hands growing up,” she says. Upon her high school graduation, she attended Cochise Community College where she discovered her passion for creating.
“I wanted to pursue art and I knew that I had to get away from home to do it,” she said, and falling in love with WNMU and the Gila was her opportunity to submerge herself in creativity and escape into worlds that she could mold, paint and draw.
Her piece, The House that Built Me, is representative of her life in Arizona, filled with deep symbolism embodying her upbringing in a household stained with domestic violence. “The gargoyle in my piece has a broken shackle around her ankle saying she was once chained to the house but has finally broken free but choses to remain in order to keep watch and protect the children in the household,” she explained.
Abby Egge-Ogas created a watercolor for a local Japanese restaurant that closed its doors before she was able to complete her piece. “I was excited to have something commissioned and I choose fish because all good Japanese restaurants have fish,” she said.
Her creative mind was fostered through encouragement from her family, a creative group in their own right as her father, a youth pastor, also taught art and music, inspiring her to experiment with mix media forms. And never lacking in creativity, Abby hopes to be an animator for DC or Marvel Comics one day. “I just love comic books and started sketching characters when I was eight using copic sketch markers that create a comic book feeling,” she said. But sketching Batman and Wonder Woman – – her personal favorites – – didn’t go far enough and she began to create her own characters, such as Bright Eyes, a young girl who goes on adventures armed with curiosity, a great representation of Abby herself.
All of the WNMU student pieces will be on display at McCray Gallery, located on the Western New Mexico University campus, through April 15.