Artist Jaime Ruiz Otis gives new life to maquiladoras waste products

Artist Jaime Ruiz Otis

“Jaime Ruiz Otis: Mined Matter” is a mix-media exhibition of collage paintings that incorporate engraving and printmaking. The works reflect Ruiz Otis’ life experience as a trained artist and former maquiladora (factory that provides inexpensive manufacturing and assembly for foreign products) worker.

“This exhibition is the result of relationships the Center for Creativity and the Arts has been developing with various Mexican cultural institutions over the past  1 1/2 years.  In this particular instance, with Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT),” said Dr. Cindy Ruth Urrutia, Director of the Center for Creativity and Arts at Fresno State. “It is a testament to cultural exchange, the values of the College Arts and Humanities, as well as those of Fresno State that promotes discovery, diversity, and distinction.”

Ruiz Otis creates works using waste products he collects from the maquiladoras. According to Ruiz Otis, before working at the maquiladoras, he was painting with acrylics. He was always interested in the idea of found objects and the history behind them.

“My favorite piece was the gold foil totem that reached the ceiling due to its monumentality and dual references to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures as well the impact of modern industry and industrial waste at border towns,” said Urrutia. “It is a highly complex piece with multiple layers of meaning. Additionally, it requires mastery of itching and transfers techniques. It is also a stunning piece that merges beauty, artistry and social content.”

Martin Valencia, Art and Design Department Chair, takes a picture of the gold foil totem
Martin Valencia, Art and Design Department Chair, takes a picture of the gold foil totem

Ruiz Otis began acquiring materials from dumpsters of industrials plants and began to experiment with different techniques and ways working with found material. According to Ruiz Otis, his work is a “primitive process of collecting—hardcore dumpster diving.”

“I think the Ruiz Otis exhibition had a significant impact on students. Particularly his technique, materials used and social content/ commentary.  Ruiz Otis’ embodies what creativity can express,” said Urrutia.

Ruiz Otis’ work is multi-layered, from the idea of found objects and their histories to the fluidity of border cities maquiladoras and the intersecting of U.S. and Mexican cultures in those cities.

“There are few artists can take literal the concepts of ‘dumpster diving’ and recycling, and produce beautiful and provocative works of art that are edgy, pleasing to the eye and have multiple layers of meaning and significance.  Ruiz Otis challenged students to think about how they use materials in their works–traditionally and non-traditionally,” said Urrutia.

In border towns ideas on commerce, culture, economics, and environment coalesce. Much of this is seen in the materials Ruiz Otis utilizes and lends his works to engaging with multiple dialogues and different perspectives—the effects of industry on border cities, waste, recycling, upcycling, etc.

“Jaime Ruiz Otis: Mined Matter” is part of the Center for Creativity and Arts 2018-2019 yearly theme programming “Crossroads” and is co-sponsored by the Department of Art and Design and Centro Cultural Tijuana.

“The exhibition embodied all of Fresno State’s values.  It was also an opportunity for the Fresno State community to interact with the art of well respected international artist.  Otis has exhibited works in Latin America, the US, the UK, Spain, and China,” said Urrutia.

The exhibition opened on Oct. 25 with an artist talk followed by a reception at the Phebe Conley Art Gallery. The works remained on display through Nov. 24.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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