By Richard Zagrzecki
Not far from the MetroRail line at the corner of Cullen and Wheeler stands a sculpture that’s hard to ignore.
The 10-foot-tall piece, known as “Fiesta Jarabe,” depicts two middle-aged Hispanic dancers taking part in a hat dance. It was created by the late Luis Jimenez, a former UH faculty member who was known for making large colorful fiberglass sculptures depicting Southwestern and Hispanic themes.
While it is one of the more interesting pieces in the vast UH Public Art Collection, it isn’t unique – Jimenez made five versions of it. The one UH owns is the second of the five. None are exact duplicates, as each has slightly variations, including the color schemes. One is displayed at the Otay Mesa border crossing in southern California. The other three can be found at the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the Fine Arts Center Colorado Springs, Colo.
UH purchased its piece several years ago from a local estate. Before that, it had been on loan to Strake Jesuit High School in Houston. It was cleaned and restored and installed on campus near Cougar Woods Dining Hall in March 2013.
Jimenez died in a tragic accident in his Hondo, New Mexico studio in June 2006 when a portion of a large piece he was working on came loose, severing an artery in his leg. That 30-foot sculpture, “Blue Mustang,” is now at the entrance of the Denver International Airport.
Michael Guidry, curator of the UH Public Art Collection, said Jimenez’s works have been known to create controversy, often for the manner in which he portrayed Mexican-Americans. He wasn’t interested in making his subjects looked pretty, as evidenced by “Fiesta Jarabe.”
“Jimenez, who himself was Hispanic, was sensitive to how his culture was depicted, yet at the same time he wanted to challenge notions about their portrayals,” Guidry said.