Benny Rooftop thanks UTEP for artistic growth


Special to The Prospector

Alumnus Benny Rooftop has drawn inspiration from his days as a UTEP student.

Mike Vasquez, Staff Reporter

Benny Rooftop paints his heartache into moths, flower, and birds by dipping into the world of surrealistic art. The UTEP graduate student and artist said his work is about the darker side of human emotion, emotions he cannot express any other way than to put them on a canvas.

“My paintings are about heartache via failed romantic relationships,” Rooftop said. “They’re about childhood traumas and points in my life when I went through self-discovery. I’ve never been good at communicating my feelings, especially sadness. That’s what all my paintings are me just getting rid of sadness to make room for more people and things to love.”

Working mostly with oil on canvas, Rooftop’s paintings showcase a flutter of moths around objects, whether they are wilting flowers in a vase, a dangling light bulb, or a skull blended into a crescent moon. The heartache he mentions materializes in an especially eerie painting in which blue and yellow hummingbirds contrast against the black and purple background, flying around an anatomically correct heart hanging above them like a fruit. Underneath, a ghost-white woman shaded in pencil closes her lips on a few feathers, suggesting that she swallowed one of the hummingbirds.

A native of El Paso, Rooftop said he owes much of his inspiration to the Sun City and UTEP. His palette choice and artistic style are a good fit with traditional Texas and Mexican art.

“I am a proud product of El Paso,” Rooftop said. “I love this city, its art and especially its people. I have always been grateful to UTEP for allowing a lost kid from the south side projects the ability to choose his own path. Although I love Bowie, my high school, I have always seen UTEP as the place where I got to discover myself.”

Rooftop said the university offered opportunities for him to grow, but it was the people he met after joining the Master of Public Administration Student Association that really allowed him to flourish.

“Many of my fellow colleagues are from different parts the world, which really opened my mind to other ways of thinking,” Rooftop said.

Although he dedicates most of his time nowadays to painting and working towards his master’s degree in public administration, he said he does not want to be held down by artistic labels.

“I’ve been going back and forth between music, art and academics,” Rooftop said.  “I have a bachelor’s in sociology, and I was always lost, never knowing what to do in life. It wasn’t until I understood that I would only be happy if I do everything and that all these elements make up the artist in me.”

If he had such trouble finding himself, it can be difficult to see why he would choose to identify himself through an alias that isn’t his own birth name.

“I started identifying myself as Benny Rooftop after I believed I made a transition from being an artisan to an artist,” Rooftop said. “I felt I was not being artistically truthful to myself, so I created Benny Rooftop so I wouldn’t be ashamed of wanting to showcase my work to a bigger audience.”

The pseudonym has helped Rooftop be fearless in his art, possibly exploring themes that would otherwise be difficult to connect with his true name.

“I still sign my paintings as Ruben Terrazas,” Rooftop said. “Because I desire to be associated with my three talented brothers, all of whom are artists themselves.”

Although his artistic ventures are close to his heart, Rooftop said he doesn’t particularly like displaying his art at galleries and exhibits.

“My exhibits are productions put on by my friends and me,” Rooftop said. “I have never really been a fan of the way art is exhibited. At times, it can be taken too seriously, and in reality there isn’t anything grandiose about artists. I usually have a quasi-exhibit where the atmosphere may be defined as a party. We consume alcoholic beverages and make fun of art, especially mine.”

To see his artwork, search for Benny Rooftop on Facebook and check out his page.

Mike Vasquez may be reached at [email protected]