ENMU students receiving awards. Top Left: Trenna Mckinley, Top Right: Van Thang, Bottom Left: Kynzie Amarilla, Bottom Right: Raven Lente.
ENMU students receiving awards. Top Left: Trenna Mckinley, Top Right: Van Thang, Bottom Left: Kynzie Amarilla, Bottom Right: Raven Lente.

Several Eastern New Mexico University students had their artwork featured in the Clovis Community College 8th Annual Juried Student Art Show in November. The selection of works for the show was conducted by a panel of four jurors consisting of ENMU and CCC faculty and staff. The Award Judge was Andrew Meritt, an artist and muralist currently living and working in Los Angeles who is originally from Clovis, New Mexico.

ENMU students won an assortment of awards at a ceremony on Nov. 27. Trenna Mckinley took second place, and Van Thang received third place and an honorable mention. Kynzie Amarilla and Raven Lente also received an honorable mention. Vanessa Miranda was given the People's Choice award.

Van Thang, who is majoring in art with an emphasis in visual arts and expects to graduate in 2022, discussed his third place win:

What was the title of your work? What is the purpose of the piece? What inspired you to create the piece?

The title is "Self Portrait." The purpose of this piece is to remember my settlement in Malaysia as a refugee. It was the biggest smile I ever made in a country that did not welcome my family and me. In Malaysia, we were being arrested, robbed and hunted to throw us out of the country. However, it was a place where I found my talent, which was to make art, and it was a place where I restarted my education after 14 years. I got help by one of the refugee teachers, Trine Engskov. Because of her kindness, I dared to hope for a brighter future, and at that moment I smiled really big.

How did your time at as a student at ENMU prepare you to participate in the art show?

The reason I could participate in the art show was because of my drawing teacher, Alla Parson, and my design teacher, Heather Hancock. Alla Parson told me about the art show, and she encouraged me to participate.

What was your experience at the art show? What was your favorite part?

I learned so many things from the art show. There were so many different techniques and styles that I had never seen before, and I got new ideas from them. My favorite part of the show was when we walked around our artworks and gave each other feedback.

What does it mean to you to receive recognition for your work?

As a poor boy in the village, I never dreamed of getting an award like this. I did not even dream of going to school. I grew up on the farm, and I used black coal and white chalk to draw pictures on rocks at the farms. Coming to the United States and studying art at a university was out of my dream. When I finally come here, everything was new, such as paints, color pencils and many other art supplies. Being in third place among many talented artists was one of the greatest joys in my life, and it is giving me hope for my future.

art show self portrait

Van Thang with his artwork, titled "Self Portrait."

Van also shared details about his honorable mention:

What was the title of your work? What is the purpose of the piece? What inspired you to create the piece?

The title is "Family of the Valley." The purpose of my work is to expose the lives of poverty for the world to see. I am inspired by my own experiences in the village. I did it according to what my family and I had gone through in the village.

Surviving a day in the village is an unimaginable miracle. Hunger and diseases are hunting both the old and the young equally and tirelessly. My siblings and I survived because of our parents' sacrifice.

My dad was one of the best hunters in the village and a very hardworking man, but the little money he made from hunting and farming was not enough to support the family. He stayed out in the wild day and night looking for food. Eventually, it came time that it was no longer safe for my father to stay with us in the village. He went to Malaysia to be safe and work in hopes of making better money for the family. That is the reason the father in the artwork is blending in the background.

When my father went to Malaysia, my youngest sister was about a week or two old. Even though my sister was still just a baby, my mom had to go the farms with my sister on her chest, basket on her back. She walked to the farms which were miles away from home; she crossed rivers in heavy rain, hills under the burning sun and valleys in the dark.

Today, I am looking back to our lives, and I say we are living a miracle today. However, it is very sad thinking about my people who are still living in the village. That's the reason I am making arts, and I am hoping the world will know about them very soon.

art show family of the valley

"Family of the Valley" by Van Thang

Kynzie Amarilla, a visual art major who works primarily with paint and plans to graduate in December 2019, discussed her honorable mention:

What was the title of your work? What is the purpose of the piece? What inspired you to create the piece?

The title of my work is actually "Kyrgyzstan." The names of my paintings were accidentally switched at the art show, and I was presented for an award under the name "Ukraine," which was the name of the other painting I had entered.

People are my favorite subject. I love observing the differences in people and cultures. At our core, we are all the same, although we may interact or look differently from one another.

I painted from a picture that was not my own, and I was inspired by it the moment I first saw it. I love looking through photos of people from around the world. I'm always inspired when I look through them.

How did your time at as a student at ENMU prepare you to participate in the art show?

My time as a student at ENMU has helped me to challenge myself, and to create a body of work that I could enter into an art show. I wouldn't normally paint this fast, or press myself to come up with a body of work. But, being a student at ENMU has helped me to progress and prepare for working in the arts and entering shows in the future.

What was your experience at the art show? What was your favorite part?

I prepared my first two paintings from the fall semester to enter into the art show, and I dropped them off at CCC. During the show, I looked at all the art around the museum. My favorite part was seeing the artwork of my peers hanging on the walls at the show. I had seen them work on some of those pieces from start to finish that semester. It was fun to observe the process and know the amount of work and thought that went into making each piece. I really appreciated the opportunity to participate in a show like this because I would like to make a living off of selling my artwork; and, I know that being familiar with how art shows run will be a tremendous help to me in the near future.

What does it mean to you to receive recognition for your work?

As an artist, it is always very encouraging to receive recognition for my work. To receive encouragement from the judge of an art show gives me the impression that I am headed in the right direction; and, it gives me incentive and the challenge to continue working hard and developing my skill level.

art show kyrgystan

"Kyrgyzstan" by Kynzie Amarilla

Raven Lente, who plans to graduate in 2021 with a bachelor's degree in art with an emphasis in visual arts, shared details about her honorable mention:

What was the title of your work? What is the purpose of the piece? What inspired you to create the piece?

I had two pieces in the art show, one of which wasn't labeled correctly. It was a ribcage with flowers and the original title was, "Kill them with Kindness." There is multiple meaning behind this piece; however, the simplest would be the idea to not let others change you. It's easy to reflect negativity and allow it to grow, but I always want to try and be the best version of myself because that is the truest form of revenge.  My second piece was a white skeleton on black paper titled "Gravity." Once more, this piece is mostly open to interpretation however the one core idea I had while working on it was death. To me, death isn't something to be afraid of necessarily and in many its grounding. There will be an end for each of us, no matter if you believe in an afterlife or an eternal oblivion. In many ways, these pieces work together as a reminder that we only have one chance at this life, so we might as well make it a good one.

How did your time at as a student at ENMU prepare you to participate in the art show?

My professors at ENMU have always been encouraged other students and me to showcase our work, to our names out there. In the artistic field it all about taking chances that may or may not pay off, but they have reminded me that if you don't take the chance to begin with, then you will never know where it might have led you.

What was your experience at the art show? What was your favorite part?

The opening reception and rewards ceremony were quite nice but jarring at the same time. I am naturally introverted and shy, so when I was put on the spot, you can imagine how I might have felt. My face got so red; I was worse than a tomato. However, at the same time, it was amazing to see my work displayed and admired by dozens of people.

What does it mean to you to receive recognition for your work?

It means everything to received recognition for your work in this field. For years and years I have one too many people tell me that I can't make it as an artist, but the few seconds where you hear your name attached to an award for the work you slaved over…well, suddenly the words of negativity don't matter anymore because I know I can do this.