Artist Luis Henriquez, of Warsaw, was just an average high school student with less than stellar grades. When he began looking for colleges, his options seemed bleak.
“I applied to multiple universities,” he said. “Nearly all of them denied my application. The University of Mount Olive was one of the only colleges that decided to give me an opportunity, by not only accepting my application, but also by assisting me with financial support.”
Currently in his junior year at UMO, Henriquez is double majoring in graphic design and visual arts. The budding artist, who didn’t seem to have a path for his future, has taken the opportunity given to him and transformed his life and his art into a remarkable testament of possibility and potential.
“Luis Henriquez is quiet, humble, and respectful,” said UMO Professor of Fine Arts Cheryl Hooks. “He works diligently and is resourceful. There is a unique depth to him; a keen awareness and the ability to translate this awareness into amazing works of art. While he is willing to try new approaches and techniques to advance his creative spirit, he has developed a personal aesthetic more often reserved for professional artists. In and out of the classroom, he is an inspiration to us all.”
For Henriquez, his artistic ability is a combination of talent and hard work. “The work I am able to do is the product of many years of practice and dedication to get my current mastery level.”
Henriquez began his interest in the arts at the young age of five. “I began with coloring books and art guides as a form of exploration into the field,” he revealed. “In middle school, I was desperate to create pieces that looked realistic. It was difficult to advance when all I was limited to was notebook paper and crayons.”
Henriquez became frustrated when his skill level did not match his expectations. He began to research materials to use, and this was key to improving his skills. He now works with multiple mediums to create works of mixed media.
Henriquez believes his art is an expression of who he is. “I connect to my craft as an escape and form of expression,” he shared. “I get focused on my projects, because my art is a representation of who I am, and I want to present myself as a passionate, focused, and driven person.”
Henriquez’s creative process begins with contemplation and sketching. “Once the sketching is complete, I go in and begin to throw colors together and blend them to create the perfect hues,” he said. “This process can be lengthy. Despite this being the case, with enough patience and dedication, works of realism are brought to life.”
Using vivid colors is something relatively new to Henriquez. When he was younger, he only created in black and white. “I used to create very smudgy work that came out dull, so I feel like many of those pieces were very opaque in theme,” he recalls. “Now, that I’ve got a sense of what looks best, the works that I make contain a variation of hues that allow viewers to actually feel an emotion rather than just looking at a gray smudge.”
Henriquez has multiple pieces on display at the University of Mount Olive. They can be found in the Teresa Pelt Grubbs Art Gallery located in Laughing Hall. “The quality of his artwork is stunning,” said one visitor to the gallery. “I can’t believe how real his pieces look, they almost look like photographs, except better.”
“The works of realism I create are done to cause an illusion,” Henriquez responded. “I work to create the most realistic works of art that I possibly can in order for a viewer to believe that it is so real they could reach out and touch the art.”
Former teachers, family, and friends have served as Henrique’s creative mentors. “They have encouraged me to pursue what I really love,” he said.
Japanese Manga Artist Akira Toriyama has been particularly inspirational to Henriquez. “As a child, I enjoyed watching his creations come to life and I would enjoy replicating them.”
Henriquez is also inspired by oriental themed arts and culture. “I find places with rich culture such as Japan and China very interesting as they are full with very rich and beautiful arrays of artistic works.”
Henriquez hopes that he, too, will one day become the kind of artist that will inspire others. “I want to become a role model like those who inspired me and to serve as a mentor to younger artists,” he said.
On track to graduate in the spring of 2023, Henriquez plans to pursue his dream of becoming a graphic designer or illustrator. He is forever grateful for the opportunity he has received from the University of Mount Olive to work towards achieving his dream.
“UMO has given me an opportunity I didn’t believe I would have,” he said. “The University has provided me with the knowledge to improve and apply my skills in ways that will benefit me and my family in the future. I cannot say enough about UMO and the professors who go the extra mile to ensure that their students succeed.”
Henriquez is the son of Jose Alvaro and Rubidia Henriquez. He has two brothers, Osvaldo Mena and Juan Carlos Henriquez, and a sister, Lupe Mena.