Marfa High School art students head to regional VASE competition

Alex Luna holds artworks he entered into the VASE art competition. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

MARFA — Six Marfa High School students from Adele Powers’ art class will head to a regional art competition — Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE), hosted by the Texas Art Education Association — in Odessa this weekend.

Seniors Aubrie Aguilar, Alex Luna and Juan Bautista each submitted two artworks to the competition, with junior Jack Marquez and sophomores Kiko Rosas and Ash Marquez each submitting a singular artwork. 

Aubrie Aguilar holds artworks she entered into the VASE art competition. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

Powers and her students plan to wake up “stupidly early” on Saturday to make it to the competition, where they will compete against other Region 18 school districts. Powers said the artwork by Marfa students submitted to VASE this year was particularly strong, and she and the budding artists were looking forward to the annual event. 

Many of the artworks heading to the competition — which were matted, framed and made ready for formal viewing by the students with the help of Michael Roach of The Chinati Foundation — deal with themes of identity, introspection and change. 

Ash Marquez used their older sister as a model for their piece, a mixed media work representing the concept of internal feelings versus outward appearance. While their sister, sketched in pencil, is the main subject, Ash said the work is also deeply personal, reflective of how they view the growth of their identity. 

“On the inside, and how you feel about yourself, and how you feel genuinely is more of an upset [feeling],” said Ash. ”Putting on a mask in front of people and hiding yourself, that’s kind of my inspiration, going through that for a long time.” 

That internal versus external conflict is made apparent in the work by two opposing images: a portrait of a confident subject with organic shapes and warm colors is contrasted by a crestfallen character surrounded by sharp lines and cool colors. Ash said they’ve been appreciative to have the opportunity to get creative in art class and hone their skills showcased in the work, like drawing and shading. 

“I try my best with the proportions, depth, shadow, contrast; I really did work on shadow a lot,” said Ash. 

Juan Bautista holds artworks he entered into the VASE art competition. Photo by Adele Powers.

Juan Bautista, who will be participating in VASE for the second time, entered two self-portraits into the competition. The first, which Bautista said is about overthinking and daydreaming, is a portrait of him gazing out of a window onto a mundane Marfa cityscape surrounded by a starry night sky, a craggy border separating the two realities.

“Everytime someone daydreams they go into a different universe, dimension. I always feel like every time I daydream, the place that I’m in starts to break out and go to a different universe,” said Bautista. 

Another self-portrait by Bautista, a black and white painting done in acrylic paint, will also be entered into the competition. In the image, Bautista wears a bucket hat with a distinct design — a heartbeat that doubles as a butterfly’s trail — which represents a point in time last summer where he wore the cap frequently. Bautista has been in art class all four years of high school, and plans to pursue arts and mathematics at the University of North Texas in Denton upon graduation. 

Alex Luna, a senior, also plans to continue his arts practice after graduation. Like Bautista, Luna entered two different self portraits into the competition. One focuses on simple black paint and marker and exposed cardboard, the other on neon pink and blue tones done with Prisma colors, wax-based colored pencils. Luna said with both of the works, which have a theatrical, movie poster-like quality to them, he wanted to make the most of the materials he had access to.

“With both these pieces, I really just wanted to test the limits of the materials I was using, especially with the Prisma color, because for this piece, it was my first time ever using color like that,” said Luna. “I was experimenting how I would work with the color and the blending and all the shading and the light within the piece.”

Luna will be participating in VASE for the first time this year and said he was eager to see the artwork of other area high school students. “I’m just really excited to be able to go actually see everyone’s different pieces and see what they’re working on and be able to compare myself to other people in my age range,” said Luna.

Luna said he’s been inspired lately by his art class peers, particularly those that were not originally drawn towards making art, and he thinks everyone should continue to be open to creating despite initial reservations. 

“I’ve seen people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have any artistic ability,’ or they don’t have anything to do with art, right? And then every time that they’re either given an assignment or given something to do, they make these amazing works that you wouldn’t figure that they would do,” said Luna. “It’s like this whole other side of them that they didn’t even know they had.”