Joe Peña’s series, on display at the COM Art Gallery through Feb. 22, depicts late-night food truck stops and Mexican meals. He will talk about his work Feb. 22 from 2-3 p.m. in the gallery.Eric Thayer’s works deconstruct magazine ads and will be featured by the College of the Mainland Art Gallery through March 7. He will lecture on his work Feb. 9 from 6-7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building Room 133.

Mexican culture and American consumerism take center stage in two new exhibits at the College of the Mainland Art Gallery: Joe Pena’s ‘Lineage’ from Jan. 23 to Feb. 22 and ‘Layout’ by Eric Thayer Jan. 23 to March 7.

Peña, assistant professor of painting at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, will display works from his paintings of Mexican meals.

“My work explores issues of ethnic identity, including aspects of cultural, familial and social traditions, relating to my Mexican heritage,” said Peña  “This body of work pays homage to the food, specifically the organ meats, beloved in my Mexican culture. To put it simply, when I’m painting I don’t see a piece of meat in front of me but rather ‘home.’”

His second series began with a late-night visit to pick up a couple of tacos from a truck he frequented.

“I noticed [that] the streetlight that illuminated the area was not working and the only light visible was the glow coming from inside the truck. From a distance this view gave the truck the appearance of it almost hovering in the rich black emptiness of space,” said Peña  “Since then I’ve visited numerous food trucks and stands to take photos and sketch while observing the atmosphere both in and outside of these locations. Each has its own presence and the visitors become its culture.”

Peña assisted in the development of a contemporary art gallery titled MB Modern in New York City, which operated for six years before relocating to Houston. He was appointed as public arts manager for the city of Corpus Christi, where he served for a year and a half before assuming the role of gallery director for Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi for three years.

While Peña’s work focuses on Mexican and food truck culture, Eric Thayer’s art deconstructs magazine advertisements and their reflection of culture.

In his art, he dissects ads in magazines like Glamour, Shape and Art in America and redacts text and other information. He will present on his work Feb. 9, 1:30-2:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building Room 133.

“Freeing the image from its leading context leaves … viewers free to recode the pictures independently,” said Thayer. “The magazine’s vision of cultural value [is] embedded in the layout choices. Being able to ‘see through’ these layers … unmasks hidden narratives.”

Thayer is a multidisciplinary artist and educator. A two-time Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Scholar for Interdisciplinary Study, he is currently a teaching fellow at the University of Houston. Thayer’s work has been exhibited at Florida State University’s Oglesby Gallery, the Shot Tower Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, and the Houston Center for Photography.

The COM Art Gallery serves as a resource for the study of art and art history and presents works demonstrating contemporary standards of quality. Exhibitions include paintings, drawings, print media, sculpture, ceramics, mixed media, film, digital media (including movie and still photography) and site-specific installations that are culturally significant and creatively express personal views.

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. The gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building and open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., one hour before COM Community Theatre performances and by appointment. 

For more information on the COM Art Gallery, visit or call 409-933-8435.