Fine Arts

UH graduate finds her voice

Alumna Debra Barrera didn’t grow up as an eccentric child whose parents bought large canvases for her to splatter with paint. She grew up as an average kid from Corpus Christi who really enjoyed drawing.

“As a child, art was not a big part of my life. We didn’t have access to big museums. Once I got into college I got the opportunity to explore it and I ended up really enjoying it,” Barrera said.

In college, Barrera double-majored in English and studio art. By the time she finished her undergraduate work, she had a big decision to make: She could either become an English professor or pursue a career in art, her true passion. She took a chance and decided to pursue art.

“In the beginning my family didn’t quite understand it. My brother was pursuing a career in medicine and (while I was) growing up, my parents thought I would end up being a psychologist, not an artist, but in time they came to understand it,” Barrera said.

In 2007, Barrera accepted a full-ride scholarship to UH’s fine arts bachelor program.

“Unlike other fine arts programs, UH’s is three years long and really helped me become a more confident artist. My professors were always really positive and thoughtful,” Barrera said.

During her time at UH, Barrera also taught beginning painting and drawing, which enriched her experience.

“Some of my students were paying their own way through school and many came from a wide range of backgrounds. It was very humbling,” Barrera said.

After graduating in 2010, Barrera has shown her work at various venues including Moody Gallery, Blaffer Art Museum and Lawndale Art Center.

Barrera’s work is on display at the Blaffer Art Museum’s exhibit Windows Into Houston. Her piece, “Drive Me There and Back Again,” features the restored front and back ends of a 1986 Pontiac Firebird, painted glossy red and set against a matte background.

“For this piece, I was influenced by the NASA (Johnson) Space Center and the Challenger Memorial (Youth) Center,” Barrera said.

Barrera was also influenced by various types of human odysseys. Whether journeying through the vast space between Earth and moon, or simply moving out independently, journeys are part of the human experience, Barrera said.

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