El Paso artist Luis Villegas is truly a remarkable man and a good friend. He earns his living as a “fine arts handyman”—his own description of his professional status. For the last eight years or so, Luis has been doing a number of jobs for Lee and me, from painting the inside and outside of the storefront of Cinco Puntos Press to painting a mural on the floor of our front porch. So when the old elm tree in our backyard died, we knew we didn’t want to rip the tree out of the yard. Nope, we wanted Luis to make something special of that tree. And his creation is incredible--two large fishes (a gar and a catfish) that will be hanging on the front porch and in the house and the tree itself, a cornucopia of fishes diving into the heart of our earth. He calls that piece “Fish Swimming Downtree.” Luis, I believe, is a wonderful example of a strong tradition of American art, men and women who work art-making into their working life. They may not become famous or rich but by the insistence on the making of art as an honored and essential profession--indeed, as a celebration of themselves and their vision--they leave an indelible mark on the psyche in the locale of their work.
On November 9th Lee and I had a party to celebrate and honor Luis and his work (our home and our office are truly molded by his imagination and work) and hopefully to get him more creative work like the sculptures and the murals. Below are pictures from the party and also photos of Luis working on a number of other projects at Cinco Puntos and at our home. Some of the photos I have lifted, with her permission, from the blog of Carolyn Drapes. She’s a wonderful photographer. Please visit her blog for more photos of the party at her Flickr site plus other images that reflect the quirky ambiente of the city of El Paso. And of course read Richard Baron’s profile of Luis as well as other profiles of the artistic folks that roam the streets here.
Other photos below are of two of the "float alone" fishes, the garfish with grandson Eddie hung from the front porch and the catfish that swims in our bedroom (our granddaughter, via a contest at the party, named them Garfunkle and Simon) and Luis with his two primos, Henry and Joe.
When asked what one word best describes that life, he matter-of-factly replies, "Oh, I’m still a musician. Everything is music."--from the Baron profile of Luis