Coker, Garoza return to UNM-VC Gallery

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David Coker and Val Garazo — they’re baaaaack!

Submitted photo: Artists David Coker, left, and Val Garoza, right, are shown hanging pieces for their collaborative exhibit at UNM-VC.

It has been awhile, but the dynamic art duo has returned to the UNM-Valencia Campus Fine Arts Gallery for a collaborative show titled “Used Chairs, An Exhibit of Artwork by David Coker and Val Garoza.”

For those fans of Coker and Garoza, you will have the opportunity to view their eclectic mix of images until March 5 at the campus art gallery.

The title of the show refers to the fact that both artists used to be chairmen of art departments. Coker was the chairman of the fine arts department at UNM-Valencia Campus until he retired a few years ago.

Garoza, who works as an academic advisor at UNM-VC, was the chairman of the art department at Marietta College in Ohio before moving to New Mexico a few years ago.

And a few years ago, Coker and Garoza struck up a friendship that has resulted in several collaborative shows that have been featured at the campus. But it has been awhile since the last show — the fall of 2008. Though both tend to work in very different media, with differing styles and different subject matter, their work somehow fits together, complements the other.

The influence they have on each other can be seen in this show. Coker, who was trained and focused for a number of years in doing three-dimensional art, has nothing but two-dimensional work, both paintings and drawings, in the exhibit. Garoza has a handful of three-dimensional pieces in the exhibit.

Coker’s work consists of several pen and ink and colored pencil drawings of several famous doors found at castles and other places throughout the world. He also has several acrylic paintings that are portraits of animals.

“I wanted to do portraits of animals that are not considered beautiful,” Coker explained.

Animals presented in the paintings include a walrus, an octopus, an iguana, a gazelle, a raven and a rhino’s posterior. Though these animals may not be handsome like, say, a peacock or a pheasant, Coker portrays them with a dignity and dynamism that makes the portraits anything but homely.

For one, there are the cracks and the folds in the skin of both the walrus and the iguana that can be a different take on the age-old subject of painting folds in fabric.

Of course there is the humor one can expect from Coker. The title of the gazelle piece is “Gazelle Punk,” because Coker painted silver spikes on the neck of the gazelle. Coker explained that a gazelle with spikes on its neck would be able to defend itself from a predator because “a lion would have a tough time chewing on the gazelle’s spiked neck.”

Garoza provides his viewers with his continued fascination with petroglyphs of the southwest as he has several monoprints and mixed media pieces that play off of that theme. He said that seeing petroglyphs sparked a change in his artistic style several years ago.

He used to be a very “formal” painter, but now he goes for a “primitive look, with sloppy lines, or pieces that include found pieces of wood.”

What is new in this show for Garoza is a recent fascination with dark desert highways.

That fascination started when he was kid and his family would go on vacations in the southwest. Living in Ohio, Garoza did not have vistas of open desert spaces with “empty open roads,” as he put it.

His road pieces quite often include a dark sky with stars.

“I don’t want to be known as the guy who paints starry skies,” Garoza said. “I thought I would have to defend painting them, but a lot of people like the stars in the paintings.”

In any case, Garoza said he has decided to paint desert roads because of something he realized.

“When you sit out there along a desert road at night,” he said, “you realize there is just a little oxygen and dust between you and the universe.”

Coker’s and Garoza’s takes on the universe will be on display through Tuesday, March 5.

The UNM-VC Fine Arts Gallery is open and free to the public, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 p.m.

The gallery is located on the south side of the campus near the south parking lot. The gallery is located in the Business and Technology Building.