Capturing the essence of a city

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo A grandmother’s eyes is one of Armenta’s works in progress.

By Liliana Castillo, CNJ staff writer

Ruben Armenta, 49, has seen the essence of Clovis. It is in the intriguing, mysterious and hardworking eyes of the individuals of Clovis as a part of his painting project “Eyes of Clovis.”

• The project: Armenta takes
photos of his subjects and paints their eyes. He hopes to exhibit them in an art show and possibly a book.

• Art history: I started drawing when I should have been taking notes in school. I began painting in the early ’70s. Most people mow lawns for a little extra cash. I painted store windows.

• The eyes have it: I found myself trying to capture Clovis in old barns and windmills, trying for the rustic look. But then I realized, what Clovis is, to me. It’s the people. It’s their stories, waiting to be told. You can see the hurt, joy, youthfulness from their eyes.

• Favorite eyes: There have been some sensuous eyes, some beautiful ones. I’ve fallen in love with some, really. But the cornflower blue eyes of a toddler named Kyan made my heart melt.

• Clovis history: I moved here with my parents when Llano (Estacado) was a dirt road and Wal-Mart was a field. After 20 years in the Air Force, I retired here in Clovis.

• What’s in a face: I always found portraits to be difficult. But once you get the eyes down, the rest is easy. Eyes are the center. They are the most expressive part of the body.

• Two extremes: I enjoy photography and skeet shooting. My friends have joked about how my hobby and my job go from one extreme to the other. But the act of target practice shooting is a stress reliever, just like meditating. You have to control your breathing, relax, slow your heart rate. It’s very effective.

• Eyes are the window to the soul?: I would say that’s true, but I say to the heart, though. There is so much emotion there. They can be deceiving, they can do
anything. They tell what your heart is feeling.

• Looking ahead: I have 62 eyes right now, but we want as many as we can get. I want to get a good cross-section of the people that live here. Ranch farmers, grandmas, children, school teachers, railroad workers, military. Everyone.

— Compiled by Liliana Castillo, CNJ staff writer