BY Amanda Sotelo
With a notepad, pen and camera in hand, Texas State Technical College Digital Media Design student Robert Lopez walked around the J. Gilbert Leal Learning Resource Center (LRC) admiring paintings of vivid color and textures by Macarena Pena, also known as Ma K Art, during Thursday’s artist meet and greet.
“As a designer, artists like Macarena and events like this inspire my work and creativity,” he said. “Everything from the colors and textures are of great significance for me.”
Lopez and nearly 30 other visitors to the exhibit celebrated the artist and her works titled, “Sunday at Chapultepec” and “Remembering Mexico.”
The artist and McAllen native became blind in 1999 at the age of 30 after a sudden illness about a year before losing her sight, Pena had begun trying her hand at art and revived her artistic abilities as a blind artist in 2015 when she became co-founder of Visual Challenges Art.
Pena told students and community members that her memories have turned into dimensional shapes and there is no more darkness because of art and painting.
“It is not what I can do, but what I can inspire others to do that make the difference in my art,” Pena said.
Pena uses a painting form unique to her circumstance with the help of her husband and family. Her art begins with a sketch that is then outlined with a glue gun allowing the artist to feel her canvas and shapes when she paints with her hands.
“I tell everyone that my eyes are blind, but my mind and my brain are not,” said Pena. “I choose designs and colors based on memories from when I could see.”
All of Pena’s art can be touched by spectators. She said she will never put a “Do Not Touch” sign next her art.
“My main purpose with my art is to open doors to people who are visually impaired,” she said. “The texture I use opens vision.”
For nearly a decade, LRC Director Nancy Hendricks, has hosted artists like Pena and their exhibits as a way to expose students to the culture of art and those that contribute to it.
“I do this because I love art and the shows are a great way to engage our students and the community,” said Hendricks. “It’s a fun way to get our students involved and show off our campus.”
Hendricks said Pena came recommended and when she spoke to her and heard her story and journey she knew this was the exhibit she needed to display this year.
“Macarena is a fantastic person and artist,” said Hendricks. “She is an inspiration to many and I want our students to see that no matter what, you can be successful. And we are extremely grateful that Macarena’s work is in our library.”
As for Lopez, he said, “It was great getting to meet Macarena and talking to her about her inspirations for her work. I’m glad that TSTC gives us opportunities like this that we may not get otherwise.”
Pena’s art will be displayed through April 28 at the TSTC LRC. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
For more information on library resources or art shows call 956-364-4708.