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“Gray”Hound Leading ENMU Women’s Rodeo to Victory.

By: Samantha Smith

Last weekend, Tierra Gray led the ENMU Women’s rodeo team to a victory at the annual Vernon College Rodeo. Gray, a senior from Lovington, won the all-around cowgirl title after placing second in the barrel racing and first in the breakaway roping events.

Tierra and her older sister, TiAda, are known as, “The Gray Girls” throughout New Mexico and Texas for their competitive barrel racing and roping skills. Both girls decided to pursue their education at ENMU after high school, following the footsteps of their mother, Pat, and making a family of “Gray”hounds.

TiAda graduated from ENMU in 2014 after winning first in breakaway roping in the Southwest Region. This year, Tierra is on the right path to do just the same in more than one event!

You can read more about Tierra and her thoughts in an interview below.

How does it feel having your first college rodeo all-around title under your belt?

GRAY: It is actually kind of a breath of fresh air. I have had a rough time at the college rodeos for the past 3 years, so it is very rewarding to see my long hours in the practice pen every week finally paying off.

How do you balance your time between school and rodeo?

GRAY: Balancing time between school and rodeo is much easier said than done. Being an accounting major, the workload is not what I would consider “light” by any means. Time management is something that has to be a priority to any athlete, especially a student athlete. I typically work on homework first thing in the morning, go to class and practice during the day, and then work on more school when I get in at night.

I understand you compete on three horses every weekend. What are their names and what makes each one special?

GRAY: My breakaway roping horse, Booger, age 20, is as lazy as they come, but knows his job well. You’re luck to get Booger to pick his feet up while you’re warming him up because of his laziness. But when it comes time to walk into the box to rope, it’s like a switch flips and he is alert and ready for business.

Gray breakaway roping on Booger at the 2016 ENMU College Daze Rodeo.

Gray breakaway roping on Booger at the 2016 ENMU College Daze Rodeo.

My barrel racing horse, Ching, is 7 and every day with him is like having a little kid. You have to keep him close to another “buddy” horse or he will let out a little squeal and kick his back feet up, which is rather embarrassing to tell the truth.

Ed, the horse I team rope and goat tie off, is 21 and he is a grouch, constantly kicking the fence and wanting to be fed at all times. He gets super excited before the goat tying.

Of all the places you could have gone to, what make you choose ENMU?

GRAY: I chose ENMU not only because it was close to home, but also because of how close everyone is around here. At Eastern you are not just another number unlike many other universities.

After winning your first all-around title at Vernon College Rodeo, how do you plan on continuing your success throughout the remaining fall season?

GRAY: I plan on continuing my success throughout the remaining rodeos this fall by continuing practice and working hard to get better everyday, then letting the rest fall into place.

What is the relationship between teammates on the rodeo team? How do you help each other get better in such an individual sport?

GRAY: I would have to say that we are all pretty close on the rodeo team. We push each other to get better everyday without being afraid of stepping on each others’ toes.

With her work ethic and talent, there is not doubt that Gray will continue to succeed throughout the year. Not only does she have the competitive nature of a true athlete, but she also has a kind heart and always carries a smile on her face. Those lucky enough to call Gray a friend know that she is always willing to lend a hand and would go out of her way to help anyone. In fact, the only complaint anyone had about Gray was that she can be too kind and at sometimes needs to remember to put her foot down.

Here’s hoping that she will continue her winning streak and lead the ENMU rodeo team to more victories in the future! She’s a real “Gray”hound!

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Portrait of the Artist as a Graduate Student

HoundBytes conducted an interview via email with the talented Versia Hodges II, graduate student and instructor, to discuss his recent show at Golden Library. Hodges creates vivid, color-saturated paintings on cardboard, canvas, and other found media.

My first question has to be: why cardboard? Is it the only medium you use?

For one, I have never seen an artist use it so I took it upon myself to experiment with the texture. Plus, it’s cheaper. I use canvas, sketch paper, and any other mediums I can get a hold of.

How do you create your paintings? You mentioned that you use your fingers quite a bit, but are there other tools you rely heavily upon?

I would usually start off by drawing a quick sketch, then stare at the drawing with deep thought, then I would take a nap. When I take a nap or step away for a few days the images in my head become clear; then I get right to it. I use a standard set of paint brushes along with Prismacolor markers.

When did you start painting? A lot of the pieces I’ve seen seem to be pretty message-driven – did you start creating visual art first and add messages later, or was this the best outlet you had for the messaging? Basically, I guess, what’s the backstory of your art?

I started in January of 2014, a friend of mine and I were bouncing ideas around and the topic of painting came up since he is an artist. He encouraged me to pursue painting. So I went out to Michael’s Arts & Crafts store and purchased all the materials needed to begin teaching myself. Ever since the first piece I did in the backyard of a hot pink Los Angeles home with only my hands the art of painting has taken hold of me, and I don’t ever plan on stopping.

The messages I project reveal themselves once the piece is complete, sure I’ve had preconceived thoughts beforehand but my artwork is created through another realm of higher consciousness. To explain this simplistically, the thoughts that I have aren’t my thoughts, they are passed-down thoughts from people in my past lifetime. I’m a sibling to the past, and my creations pay homage to those before me.

As a kid I would draw from time to time, never understanding my full potential since sports took up most of my time. Now that sports is a secondary hobby of mine I can move towards art. Throughout my career in basketball I was ridiculed and belittled for being too short or not good enough. Ever since that point I made it my mission to prove those who didn’t believe in me, who didn’t trust me, and who didn’t understand me wrong. This behavior got worse, I became arrogant and narcissistic because I was trying to prove something to somebody else instead of myself. Once basketball came to a close I needed something to latch on to that would have a healthy balance, and that is painting. I was never held back from my interest as a child, if I wanted to swim, play football, track, draw, travel, ride jet skis and quad bikes, I could do it. My world is a playing field of opportunity, new ideas, and conscious awareness.

Do you have a favorite piece? Least-favorite piece? Do you find there are techniques that bring you successful results more often than others?

The question here is which piece did you have the most fun with? I enjoyed the process of all my artwork, and how they turn out is how it will stay, I try not to criticize my artwork by any means.

A cliché for the ages: what inspires you? Have you ever been artistically “stuck” or taken a hiatus from creating?

By nature I’m a visual artist, my inspiration comes from a galaxy of ideas and images that I scroll through on the internet regularly. Mostly, I’m inspired by the conversations and ‘faces’ I come in contact with. Everyone has their own story to tell and I try to capture a snapshot of that story through their spiritual aura and body language.

I have, in times when I get stuck, stepped away from it for a few days or just for a nap. I found that by taking a nap my imagination begins to recharge and reboot itself, and once I wake I fall straight into painting.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you or your work?

My artwork is a mere glimpse of my life. It’s chaotic, universal, fickle, ironic, and serendipitous. I can show you better than I can tell you, my artwork is a reflection of the past, the present, and the future all in one. I challenge my audience to travel deep within themselves, to understand their world, and to create their own hieroglyphics. Don’t fear the unknown, embrace it.