A story accompanies every painting that Port Isabel artist Manuel Hinojosa exhibits at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, one of the largest exhibitions of his art to date.
“To paint, you have to paint what you want to paint,” Hinojosa said last week under the title “The Art World of Manuel Hinojosa” as his work was displayed in the museum’s large exhibition halls.
“That’s why I chose these subjects. I like sports, I like painting people and I like collecting, so I combined them. That’s why I have the sports bar (Doubleday’s in Port Isabel.) I didn’t know anything about catering, but I wanted to show my stuff. There are a few people now.
Hinojosa was then diverted to a pair of acrylic-on-black portraits, one of Brownsville singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and the other of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, which he painted early 1970s while still an art student at Pan American University. in Edinburgh.
Hinojosa has been painting since the age of 9 and received her first formal training from the fifth grade. His first painting, made on the back of an album cover in the tempra used by primary school students, depicts a religious person. It occupies one side of a display case. On the other, a historical brass artifact unearthed during one of his many trips to Mexico.
Hinojosa has a lifelong interest in history, particularly Mexican history, and one room in the exhibit will be dedicated to paintings he made of soldiers on both sides of the Mexican-American War, including some fought on battlefields near Brownsville.
But the main attraction will be the watercolor paintings of important sports personalities for which Hinojosa has become so famous.
Front and center is the original drawing of Hinojosa that Dallas coach Tom Landry approved and took Hinojosa a year to paint in 1995 as an 18×100 mural feet on North Conway and Tom Landry streets in Mission, his and Landry’s hometown.
On either side are paintings of Dallas Cowboy greats like Zeke Elliott, Tony Romo, Tony Dorsett, Danny White and Troy Aikman, each with a pair of signed, game-used shoes under the paint. In front of them are pedestals displaying two trophies, one the 2016 Telly Award for a 19-minute video about the mural and paintings, the other the 2017 Lonestar Regional Emmy for the same film by Ruben Garcia.
On either side of the trophies are a game ball signed by Landry and other members of the 1952 New York Giants, and a Dallas Cowboys helmet signed by all Cowboys quarterbacks. In the room behind the wall are paintings and shoes used for the game of great footballers like OJ Simpson, Sammy Baugh, Don Shula and many others, running backs on one side, quarterbacks on the other .
The Emmy-winning video, “What Do You Collect?” in which Hinojosa talks about the mural and paintings, will play on repeat, he said.
“The idea is to back it up, to make it interesting. I’ve seen them all play and I’ve met them all to sign my paintings,” Hinojosa said of the helmet.
“Over the years Nike and some of the other companies were in competition. They gave (athletes) tons of shoes, so it was easy for them to give them away, so I have Marshal Faulk, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen, OJ, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders,” Hinojosa said. “I paint them and then I get them signed.”
Hinojosa said he asked Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr to sign his painting while Starr was in Brownsville when his construction company was building an addition to what is now the Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville.
Among many other baseball paintings is one of the “Bronx Bombers”, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snyder.
“Mickey Mantle was my favorite when I was a kid,” he said. “Here are the winners of the 300 games, Warren Spahn, Carlton Fisk, Niekro, Seaver, Mattox, Clemmens, Gaylord Perry. You know Gaylord Perry played in Harlingen with the Corpus Christi Giants. Baseball is my favorite sport.
Hinojosa often wears a Houston Astros baseball cap and did so during the interview. “We always had subscriptions,” he said. “I can’t attend every game, but I attend as many as I can. I have a closet full of baseball cards.
A signed painting of Los Angeles Lakers basketball great Kobe Bryant was waiting to hang, signed just before Bryant was tragically killed a few years ago.
Amazingly, all of Hinojosa’s paintings are signed, which he admitted is an art in itself.
“In this collection thing, people know me all over the state, so when something happens, people call me. Sometimes I can’t make a game. … I got Kobe Bryant to sign that , which right now, all Kobe Bryant is worth three, four thousand dollars, so I got a guy to do it for me. These guys go to hotels, they get them off a plane. This are hunters, they are headhunters. I’ve been doing this for 30 to 40 years already,” he said.
Hinojosa was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, where he was recognized for “going above and beyond in preserving the history of sports in the Rio Grande Valley” .
Along with his wife Norma and brother Ricardo, he co-owns Doubleday’s Sports Bar and Museum in Port Isabel, which houses the RGV Sports Hall of Fame museum.
“They are art. I love painting,” Hinojosa said of sports portraits, which he continues to paint and have signed. “I’ve got shirts, I’ve got helmets, they sign them. I even got Tom Brady to sign this. He’s a tough guy to get. Johnny Unitas, that guy, Aaron Rodgers, look at that naughty signature, but I had him signed.
Hinojosa’s daily work is that of an architect. He graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana as one of the few nationwide architecture graduates appointed to Alpha Rho Chi, the architecture fraternity. He said he put himself through architecture school drawing cartoons of people from $5 a pop.
“Alpha Rho Chi is the highest honor you can get in architecture. Why me? because I knew how to draw. It was easy for me to draw a building. Since then, that’s what I know from design and I got into it by chance. It wasn’t easy for me, but I held on and I’ve been doing architecture ever since, but my love is art.
As an architect with Kell Munoz Architects in San Antonio, he helped design the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center at 2901 FM 802 and buildings on what was then the University of Texas at the Brownsville-Texas Southmost campus College, including Student Union and Health Sciences. building. Today, he is the architect for the Brownsville Independent School District.
“The Art World of Manuel Hinojosa” runs until May 28.