Artist Margarita Cabrera, Photo by Jesús Fraire

Artist Margarita Cabrera, Photo by Jesús Fraire

2019 Texas Artist of the Year Award


Houston, TX (March 29, 2019) — Art League Houston (ALH) proudly announces the selection of Margarita Cabrera as the 2019 Texas Artist of the Year. Founded in 1983, ALH established the Texas Artist of the Year award as a dynamic project documenting Contemporary Texas art history. The award recognizes artists who have demonstrated exceptional creativity and outstanding achievement, and whose work has had a significant and positive impact on contemporary visual art in Texas. Those who have been recognized have already produced a significant body of work and stand apart as leading figures and visionary talents within the field of contemporary art in Texas.

Jennie Ash, ALH Executive Director, “It is a great honor for ALH to recognize Margarita Cabrera for her outstanding contribution to the world of visual art in Texas and beyond. Her work not only celebrates community histories and the value of exploration and learning, but also invites audiences to be part of the creative process and embark on their own journey of discovery. Her work truly captures and makes visible the imagination of a community”.

Since its inception, thirty-five outstanding artists have received the distinction of Texas Artist of the Year. Past recipients include Francesca Fuchs, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Terrell James, Amy Blakemore, Havel Ruck Project, Rachel Hecker, Aaron Parazette, Mary McCleary, Joseph Havel, Melissa Miller, Al Souza, The Art Guys, Dick Wray, Luis Jiménez, Bert L. Long, Jr., Jesús Moroles, James Surls, Dorothy Hood, and Dr. John Biggers, among others. Margarita Cabrera will be featured in a solo exhibition at ALH from September 7 - November 2, 2019, and will be celebrated at ALH’s annual gala on Friday, October 11, 2019 at Hotel ZAZA. For ticket and table purchase information please contact Jennie Ash at or 713-523-9530.

Margarita Cabrera, Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra, San Antonio, Texas, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Margarita Cabrera, Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra, San Antonio, Texas, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

For the past two years, Margarita Cabrera, born in Monterrey, Mexico, has lived and worked in San Antonio, Texas, where she is currently finalizing the creation of a monumental, collaborative community tree of life. Cabrera’s Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra, originally commissioned by San Antonio’s River Foundation, is a steel structure standing 40 feet tall and 80 feet in diameter and is slated for completion this May 2019. The “Árbol” sits near San Antonio’s Mission San Francisco de la Espada, and is the artist’s largest creation to date. It serves as a visual testament to Cabrera’s appreciation and belief in the local community, who partnered with the artist to create the tree of life, as well as to San Antonio’s mission history and ranching heritage.

Margarita Cabrera,  Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra , San Antonio, Texas, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Margarita Cabrera, Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra, San Antonio, Texas, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Over the course of the last two years, Cabrera hosted numerous community meetings and taught instructional clay workshops, collaborating with locals, artists and non-professional artists, on what the project visually represented and would entail from conception to completion. The result is a mesmerizingly beautiful symbol of unity and history, reflective of the over 700 vibrant clay sculptures that adorn the tree branches, each created by a local resident and symbolic of their personal and familial histories. The clay ornaments cover Cabrera’s tree of life, visually depicting subjects ranging from fruit, vegetables, local industries, animals, and objects emblematic of the diverse communities of South Texas. The deep, collaborative spirit of this project symbolizes the passion behind Cabrera’s artistic philosophy, synergizing her creative energies as an arts leader and organizer ardently aware of and responding to the social-political zeitgeist of our times through practice and belief.

Margarita Cabrera,  Arbol de la Vida – John Deere Tractor Model #790 , 2007, clay, slip paint, latex acrylic and metal hardware, 100 x 60 x 96 inches, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Margarita Cabrera, Arbol de la Vida – John Deere Tractor Model #790, 2007, clay, slip paint, latex acrylic and metal hardware, 100 x 60 x 96 inches, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Cabrera is recognized for her sculpture and installations featuring a diverse range of media, including fabrics, steel, copper, wood and ceramics. The “Árbol”, however, highlights another key component of Cabrera’s career – her desire for and the importance of community collaboration and engagement. She is an educator and instructor on historical Mexican handicraft methods, encouraging those around her to learn by giving them agency and opportunity through her collaborative projects. Cabrera’s artwork, from her soft-sculpture border plants depicting various species of cacti and desert flora, to her ceramic tractors adorned with fragile butterflies, emphasize her concerns with social-political issues surrounding immigration, border politics, just work environments, and the importance of transforming the local community through art. She often engages with community members through her projects by including them in the act of creation, resulting in a collaborative, public work of art reflective of community energies and the surrounding environment. The “Árbol” is a masterpiece and just such a project – embodying Cabrera’s past and future as an artist and activist. Her projects give a voice to local communities and artists, encouraging their personal growth, artistic education, and support of each other.

Cabrera has moved frequently throughout her life and career, living in Utah, El Paso, Houston, and working as an assistant professor at the Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in Tempe, AZ. Cabrera often felt a sense of isolation as a young immigrant living in Utah and turned to art as a means of dealing with these thoughts; later moving with her family to El Paso, she became aware of surmounting border politics and social-political issues as a high-school student, which would eventually fuel her artistic process and creative output. Cabrera pursued artistic studies and received her MFA from Hunter College in New York, NY (2007). Early exhibitions include collaborative projects at Houston’s Box 13 ArtSpace and the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center, who helped Cabrera engage with local immigrants that played a key role in the creation of her work Space in Between.

Margarita Cabrera,  Hummer H2 , 2006, vinyl, wood, copper wire, thread and car parts, 84 x 180 x 96 inches,  Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Margarita Cabrera, Hummer H2, 2006, vinyl, wood, copper wire, thread and car parts, 84 x 180 x 96 inches,

Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Forthcoming projects include the monumental installation and community collaborative project Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra in San Antonio, TX (discussed above, slated to open May 2019) and her upcoming Texas Artist of the Year exhibition with Art League Houston, Houston, TX (solo, September 7 – November 2, 2019). Her work is currently on view at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA (Margarita Cabrera, solo, presented at the Ogden by the Center for Southern Craft and Design, March 28 – May 12, 2019). Recent exhibitions include features at the Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, TX (It is Impossible to Cover the Sun with a Finger, solo, January 27 – March 17, 2019), and the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA (The U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility, group, September 10, 2017 – January 7, 2018).

In talking about her work, Cabrera states: “My work centers on social-political community issues including cultural identity, migration, violence, inclusivity, labor, and empowerment. I create sculptures made out of mediums ranging from steel, copper, wood, ceramics, and fabric. I have worked on a number of collaborative projects at the intersection of contemporary art practices, indigenous Mexican folk art and craft traditions, and US- Mexico relations. In addition to studying and preserving endangered cultural and craft traditions, these projects have served as active investigations into the creation of just working conditions and the protection of immigrant rights. My emphasis is on creating a social consciousness through my work, generating solutions to these problems through my art and empowering all members of highly diverse communities.

In recent years, I have especially focused on community art collaborations, producing work that has engaged international and local communities in transformative practices. With these works, we have created art pieces that serve as cultural and historical artifacts that value and document the experiences, struggles, and achievements of those who have found their way, often through migration and exceptional sacrifice, to new places where they now work to contribute meaningfully within their communities. This work is both individually and collectively inspiring to all participants and local populations.”

Cabrera has exhibited her work with several galleries including Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas TX; Ruiz-Healy Art, San Antonio, TX; 516 Arts, Albuquerque, NM; Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York, NY; Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and Snyderman-Works, Philadelphia, PA. Numerous Texas institutions of note have featured her artwork, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, and the El Paso Museum of Art in El Paso.

Outside of Texas, Cabrera’s work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Sweeney Art Gallery at the University of California, Riverside, CA; Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Ketchum, ID; and El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Knight Artist in Residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, NC (2012), as well as a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2007). Cabrera’s artwork is in public collections throughout the nation, including: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; and the El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX.


Francesca Fuchs, 2018

Trenton Doyle Hancock, 2017

Terrell James, 2016

Amy Blakemore, 2015

Havel Ruck Project, 2014

Rachel Hecker, 2013

Aaron Parazette, 2012

Mary McCleary, 2011

Joseph Havel, 2010

Keith Carter, 2009

Melissa Miller, 2008

Dixie Friend Gay, 2007

Al Souza, 2006

The Art Guys, 2005

Richard Stout, 2004

Virgil Grotfeldt, 2003

Sharon Kopriva, 2001

Dick Wray, 2000

Linda Ridgway, 1999

Luis Jimenez, 1998

Gael Stack, 1997

Lucas Johnson, 1996

Robert Wilson, 1995

Karin Broker, 1994

George Krause, 1993

James Surls, 1991

Bert L. Long, Jr., 1990

Jesús Moroles, 1989

Dr. John Biggers, 1988

Charles Pebworth, 1987

Charles Schorre, 1986

Charles Umlauf, 1985

Dorothy Hood, 1984

E.M. (Buck) Schiwetz, 1983


Jereann Chaney, 2018

Lynn Goode, 2017

Poppi Georges Massey, 2016

Mayor Annise Parker (2010-16), 2015

Stephanie Smither, 2014

Leigh & Reggie Smith, 2013

Judy & Scott Nyquist, 2012

Victoria & Marshall Lightman, 2011

Leslie and Brad Bucher, Patrons 2010

Karol Kreymer and Robert Card, M.D., 2009

Ann and James Harithas, 2008

Gus Kopriva, 2007  

Clint Willour, 2006

Lester Marks, 2002

Sue Rowan Pittman, Patron 1989



George Smith, 2018

Jesse Lott, 2016

Forrest Prince, 2015

Kermit Oliver, 2013