A love of history is the inspiration Rock Ulibarri uses as he puts his brush to canvas.
Ulibarri will display his collection of oil paintings, watercolors, charcoal and pencil sketches at an art exhibit at the UNM-Valencia Campus Art Studio Building on Wednesday, March 20, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The work will be on display through April 17.
Ulibarri was a commercial artist for many years and has just recently begun to try his hand in the field of fine arts. His love of art began as he was a young child growing up in Las Cruces when his mother and older sister introduced him to the arts.
“From a very young age, I’ve always been involved in some kind of art,” Ulibarri said.
After graduating high school, Ulibarri attended the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he studied commercial art.
“I was in that particular field for many years,” he said. “I did everything from small kitchen appliances to high fashion. But, after a while, it just wasn’t fun anymore.
“It really burnt me out,” he said. “It was all day, every day, and you had to do it their way. There wasn’t a whole lot of creativity involved in it.”
When Ulibarri left the commercial art business, he didn’t even doodle for seven years. It wasn’t until he moved to Valencia County and began taking classes at the Valencia Campus that he decided to delve back into his art.
Ulibarri took his first oil painting class last semester and said he had realized what he’d been missing for the past seven years. Vowing never to return to commercial art again, Ulibarri has rediscovered what he calls his medicine.
“I haven’t enjoyed art like this for many years,” he said. “Now, I do what I want to do, what I feel like doing, and when I fell like doing it.”
Ulibarri is aiming for a degree in education with an emphasis on history. His love of history and for his culture has also inspired the local artist to create.
In a series about New Mexico history, Ulibarri tells a story about the resistance to the Santa Fe Ring at the turn of the century. The artist has also used his own family tree to narrate the historical facts of the era.
“There’s a lot of family history that I wanted to paint about,” Ulibarri said. One of his paintings, “Las Gorras Blancas,” tells a story about his three uncles who formed the resistance against the Ring in northern New Mexico.
“I’ve a passion for history, and I have 100 ideas in sketchbooks that I want to do,” he said. “I was first inspired to create narratives when I took an art history class and studied Picasso.”
After years of working in commercial art and perfecting his craft, Ulibarri said he had to change his whole way of thinking and learn how to work in a more abstract and impressionistic style.
His art professor, David Coker, has also inspired him to try different techniques that would make the transition easier.
“Everything I was doing before was about realism,” Ulibarri said. “I was drawing objects that had to be as real as possible. He (Coker) has helped me loosen up and use other extremes.”
Ulibarri has also learned to enjoy different types of materials to create paintings.
“I like the luster of oils, and I like the looseness of water colors, and I like the contrast of charcoal,” he said. “I hope the people will enjoy the show as much as I’ve enjoyed working on these pieces.”