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Former Teacher, MFA Alumna Explores Memory, Pursues Art Full Time
Michelle Cortez-Gonzales, MFA ’20, was a Fort Worth ISD high school teacher with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Texas at Arlington when she decided to go back to school to get her master’s. At the recommendation of a friend, she visited UD, and knew immediately from the wooded area around the Art Village, the architecture of the buildings, and the faculty members she met that UD was the place for her.

The faculty have remained an important part of Gonzales’ journey at UD. In fact, for Gonzales, the best part of UD’s Master of Fine Arts program is the faculty. 

“The faculty are deeply passionate about their work, and the work their students are doing,” said Gonzales. 

Having this close mentorship provided by the dedicated faculty and small class sizes was incredibly valuable to Gonzales as she maneuvered the challenging program and perfected her skills.

Gonzales also sees unique value in the difficulty of her program. Although this rigor was one of the things that was most stressful to Gonzales, she appreciates that UD’s program required her to do a thesis exhibition on campus as well as a solo exhibition at an off-site gallery. She now looks back on that demanding, developmental time with gratitude. 

“I now have the experience of all aspects of planning a solo exhibition, which includes marketing, creating a strong written proposal, and confidence when approaching major art galleries,” she said. 

Unfortunately, Gonzales’ presentations were largely hindered by the outbreak of COVID-19. With the university closing the campus to in-person studies last spring, Gonzales lost access to much of her work, which obstructed her ability to perfect her pieces for the exhibitions. In addition, her solo exhibition at an external Dallas-area gallery was postponed until further notice. 

Of course these obstacles were exceedingly difficult for Gonzales to get through, but she courageously chooses to look at the blessings in her life instead; because she documented much of her work, she was still able to share some of it digitally. 

And most importantly, “I am thankful to have my health, family and painting to get me through,” she said.

The topic of Gonzales’ artwork is especially appropriate for times such as these. 

“My work examines memory through preservation, reconstruction and alteration, with sewing, painting and reuse of sentimental objects,” she explained. In a time of so many unknowns, Gonzales has her work to help remind her of good memories, of things known.

Gonzales described how she is able to build her masterpieces according to her focus: “In a series of paintings, I reference family photographs and incorporate found and made domestic textiles and objects to reference childhood, family and home,” she said.  

Gonzales hopes to pursue an art residency program that will enable her to see the world while doing what she loves. 

“With the current situation, everything is up in the air, so I am keeping myself open and prepared for whatever comes my way,” she said. 

For the time being, Gonzales has created a painting studio in the spare bedroom of her home and decided to devote herself to art full time. She has been selected for a few exhibitions for this year and is gearing up for a two-person exhibition at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in November. She was also recently selected for a community artist residency with the Amon Carter Museum in 2021. 

Gonzales is particularly excited to be able to celebrate her graduation regardless of the way her final semester was interrupted: “I am most recently grateful to UD for providing an alternative graduation ceremony ... for the graduating class of 2020.”

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Oct 28, 2020

“She was a very JOYFUL person, and still smiling the last time I saw her, at John Alvis’ funeral here at UD, because she had just received her leg prosthesis and hoped to walk again after a...

Oct 28, 2020

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