El Paso Times - Interview

Posted on by Zeke Peña

I was honored to be included in a short series of stories Kaycee Dougherty from MCAD in El Paso is writing about the arts on the border. She writes very well and does great work to support the arts in our city. Below is the story in it's entirety. 

2 who count: Very different approaches to multimedia art

By Kaycee Dougherty / Special to the Times

Today's story focuses on two El Paso artists with very different stories and approaches.

Christine Foerster

Foerster is a Southern California native who has sojourned in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. She credits these experiences in equal measure with her formal arts education at the University of California, San Diego.

Foerster is a part-time lecturer in UTEP's art department. She is working on a community art performance, "Goatwalking," which is funded through city Museums and Cultural Affairs Department's Artist Incubator Program. The first exhibition of "Goatwalking" will be June 11-Aug. 4 at the El Paso Museum of Art as part of the museum's Artist on Art series.

Foerster's art defies traditional classification. She is a multimedia artist to the fullest extent, working in textiles, performance, sculptural installation and drawing. She explains the focus of her work as "the creation of textile-based, modular and mobile structures that reshape the dynamics and possibilities of exchange within a given space."

"In the best-case scenario," she reasons, "this hybrid approach makes it possible for a diverse audience to engage with a public art work in vitally unexpected terms."

She experiments with principles outside of the traditional canon of art and often makes unexpected use of permaculture and animal husbandry to create what she has coined as "wearable shelter performances."

Foerster appreciates the liberties that come with having time in the studio to learn about and work on whatever it is that interests her. Additionally, her role as educator is a great source of inspiration and influence on her practice because she believes "we live in a time in which intellectual engagement is a requirement for a practicing artist, and the academic world is an excellent fit."

As a seasoned artist and educator, Foerster advises artists who are just starting out to live simply: "Strip away the excesses in your life, particularly material items and expenses that don't feed your work, so that you can dedicate yourself to your work and not need an all-consuming job that will distract you from what really matters.

"If you can't do that, you might want to consider a different career path."

Zeque Peña

Peña is a multimedia artist from the Sun City and the director and curator of the artist collective known as Maintain.

His artwork is colorful and contemporary in style, yet fused with antiquated subject matter that includes imagery from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. His choice of media is equally assorted: oils, gouache, pencils, aerosol and digital media. Peña says he "portrays individuals in ritual, disguise and transcendence. I think of my images as anthropology written by a magical realist."

He borrows a description from a friend, calling his approach "a distortion of reality to create a more apparent truth."

Peña is experimenting with oil paints by creating large-scale works on hand-carved wood panels. He also is finishing a multimedia comic novel with fellow artist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, guitarist for the bands At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta and Bosnian Rainbows.

When asked about his motivation in joining an artist collective, Peña responded frankly: "Because there is power in numbers and even greater power when those gathered are like-minded."

Peña joined Maintain shortly after its 2007 formation by Ramon Cardenas and Miguel Ibarra. Before long, the group decided to expand to include other artists. The El Paso collective includes 14 artists, but Maintain's reach extends from San Diego to Brooklyn.

Peña says Maintain is fluid and consists of anyone who chooses to contribute and collaborate. He believes this inclusive approach reflects the El Paso way of working with the community. Asked about his outlook and motivation to be an artist, he quoted German philosopher Herbert Marcuse: "Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness of the men and women who can."

Peña's art can be seen at Maintain will take part in the third Neon Desert Music Festival on May 25 in Downtown El Paso. Its work is online at