College of the Mainland students Ariel Miller, left, and Kevin Flores display their collaborative mural.Naerial Cruz with "Anaconda"

Three young artists are unveiling their work at the College of the Mainland Art Gallery exhibit through July 10 “Awakening.”

COM students Ariel Miller and Kevin Flores, of Santa Fe, and Naerial Cruz, of Texas City, highlight their versatility through selected works including cardboard sculptures, wood-fired ceramics, film photography and three-eyed self-portraits.
On July 7 at 5 p.m. in the gallery the students will elaborate on their works in a free artist talk and reception.
“They are serious art students,” said Art Gallery director Mayuko Gray. “They put the exhibit together on their own, picking and hanging their works.”
Miller, 22, displayed her paintings and twice-fired ceramics, their glossy glazes glinting under the spotlight.
“I kind of do everything, 3-D, 2-D art, photography,” explained Miller, a recent COM graduate. Miller instigated the exhibit after COM professor Mark Greenwalt praised a self-portrait mural she created in his class.

“He’ll try to get the best out of you,” said Miller.
Miller also is displaying a digital image compiled from “eight different photos put together in Photoshop. All the photos I took in Japan on the study abroad trip (with COM last year).”
Miller splits her creative time between working in studio classes at COM and in her garage, where she and Flores completed the eye-catching mural of a four-horned Jacob sheep battling a wolf.
The mural was not Flores’ only collaboration displayed. He partnered with the four-year-old he babysits on his mermaid painting.
“I gave her a blank board, and I told her to do whatever she wanted,” said Flores. “It was all just squiggles.”
Flores transformed her bold, red paint strokes into a mermaid’s tail, etching scales with a pencil and adding an underwater vista.
Flores’ approach to art is casual; pointing to his three-eyed self-portrait, he explained that it was his third painting on the canvas.
“I was bored and painted over that,” said Flores, adding a line from a song inspired the third eye.
While Flores works swiftly, Cruz, 19, deliberates over each of the items she juxtaposes in her still-life photography. She snapped the black-and-white compositions with a film camera and developed them in the darkroom in COM professor Kristy Peet’s photography class.
Her series commands attention from the lace-entwined strawberries to perfume bottles encircling rotten oranges. With titles such as “Freedom,” “Lust” and “Conceal,” the works infuse the everyday with enigma.
“The strawberry symbolizes everything you try to conceal,” explained Cruz. “The lace is snakelike (because the truth) will always come through.”
A versatile artist, she created her sculptures in COM class on display from wood, cardboard, found objects and even pig intestines. The latter was not on display, however, as its materials lent itself to a brief artistic life.
The College of the Mainland Art Gallery presents works demonstrating contemporary standards of quality. Committed to making contemporary artwork accessible, the gallery is free and open to the public. Exhibits are created and coordinated with speakers and other events to promote the area's richly diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

For more information about the COM Art Gallery or exhibit, visit or call 409-933-8354.