First Look at Artists Scheduled for Houston Press Artopia 2017

We're excited to announce the first wave of artists selected to participate in the 9th Annual Houston Press Artopia®, a celebration of culture, fashion, music, food and especially art. (Additional artist names will be announced in the coming weeks.) The deadline for artist submissions is 5 p.m. Thursday, December 22, 2016; click here for more information about participating.

Egyptian-born Houston photographer Fikry Botros is a three-time Artopia exhibitor. He lives in Houston now but documents people and objects found during his travels to exotic places: Israel, France, Peru, India, Argentina and Egypt. He is influenced by a background in engineering and is interested in the symmetry and straight lines found in architecture and landscapes. One of his photographs, Unresolved Mystery, was selected as "photo of the day" by National Geographic.

Illustrator and painter Cliff Franks labels himself an "ever-evolving student of philosophy." His current graphite and colored pencil drawings show fantastical anthropomorphic creatures, often nude and with touches of the occult. The sketches are both beautifully rendered and darkly disturbing, revealing scenes from an alternate reality where Yeti have antlers and winged creatures possess both tails and horns. He goes for "sensationalism" in hopes of eliciting introspection and curiosity in the viewer.

Death and taxes may be a certainty for most, but some will live on when their cremains become part of Wayne Gilbert's art. He takes unclaimed cremated human remains and mixes them with a clear gel medium to create his images. For first-time viewers, it's amazing to see the variety of colors that result from this uncommon medium. In his artist's statement, Gilbert says that, "His intent is to question the phenomenon of art as it relates to humanity and as humanity relates to the art."

Ashley Henry has left her mark on Texas in a big way, with murals at the Red Cross Disaster Command Center, Edwards Cinema and at The Oasis on Lake Travis near Austin. She's exhibiting decidedly smaller works at Artopia, created in a variety of mediums, with many pieces offering statements about commercialism and how it relates to happiness and depression. Born in Houston, Henry was educated at The Glassell School and majored in fine arts at Southern Methodist University.

Versatile artist Jim Hudek is known for his abstract color photography and mixed-media cityscapes and abstractions. His figurative work incorporates collage with pop art and iconic figures, with the sultry sensuality of Marilyn Monroe as a recurring theme. A returning Artopia artist, some of his newer pieces involve collage and mixed media, incorporating scenes of music and hot jazz.

David Huffman utilizes reclaimed material in ways that emphasize their natural beauty and unique attributes. In his artist's statement, Huffman describes the process of transforming discarded, unwanted materials as being "symbolic of the underlying beauty and individuality that we all possess, regardless of our current state." He believes that all humans have potential and hopes that his art will serve as a reminder that we should all embrace our uniqueness.

Since moving to Houston in 1999, Char Koho has become involved in Houston’s local art scene. Using acrylic and oil, she incorporates a specially developed texture into her paintings. Her brain waves gradually slow down when she is creating a painting, and she uses that dream mode to release her imagination on the canvas.

Renaissance man Shaun Phillip Lopez, back from two years studying radio, television and film production, also does seasonal work on an organic farm that helps promote a local food economy and a living wage for farmers. His art is edgy, often focusing on faces, but incorporating themes of patriotism with an underlying message. Lopez also incorporates blueprints in his works, converting them to Mayan symbols or as the framework for his charcoals, oils and acrylics. In the past, he has donated a portion of the sale of his art to the nonprofit Farmshare Austin.

We named artist Shelbi Nicole one of our “100 Creatives” in 2014, and her colorful works and “Signature S Collection” have been a hit the last few years at Artopia. She's been designing large-scale works of late, using her trademark happy colors to paint whimsical caterpillars and dancing watermelon seeds. She also joined dozens of other artists in painting 52 of the 194 football helmets for the traveling Touchdown Tour, part of an initiative presented by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and the Mayor's Office of Special Events.

Melinda Patrick is a Houston native, now living in Magnolia, who creates works that embody both realism and a touch of nostalgia. Some of her signage paintings pay tribute to California beach inns, Houston's Red Cat Jazz Café and Galveston's iconic Star Drug Store. Her interest in art developed early on, in part because of mentoring by her grandfather, an accomplished photographer and painter. Patrick does occasionally work in other mediums, such as gouache and ink, but prefers acrylic on canvas.

Watch out, because surfer, skater and crossfit enthusiast Gabriel Prusmack says he will tag your wall if you let him. He's been a stencil graffiti artist for the past 15 years and loves painting both murals and street art. For Artopia, Prusmack is showing mixed media works made from metal and found objects against a backdrop of wood pieces assembled in an elaborate, fitted puzzle. He mentors youth in the Galveston and Houston areas and, in 2012, established a skate park ministry titled "Skating for Jesus."

One man's trash is another man's treasure, and you'll see evidence of that in the fabricated sculptures of Jeremy Salas. He recycles scrap metal into abstract and figurative sculptures, as well as functional furnishings and decor (his chain-embellished aloe vera planter is amaze-balls). Local art aficionados will recognize some of his pieces recently exhibited in the Houston Art Crawl.

Our photographers and videographers work hard all year, capturing the cool people at hip events, documenting inclement weather or other tragedies, and telling Houston's stories through photo and video. We honor their creativity each year by inviting the Houston Press contributors to show their images at Artopia. It's always a surprise to see their work, as it can include other circles of influence. Don't miss the work of these talented individuals on the big night.

Houston Press Artopia is set for 8 to 11 p.m. January 28, 2017, at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street. To purchase tickets, visit our ticket portal here.

General admission tickets range from $45 to $60. Jumper Maybach VIP admission tickets range from $75 to $100 and include complimentary valet, access to the Jumper Maybach VIP lounge with seating and private bar, a catered spread, and an up-close look at Maybach's colorful art.

For more information, visit
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney