Art alumni gaining widespread recognition
At home and abroad, UTA artists are making their mark on the world.
Former student Michael Gonzales recently won the grand prize in the AGFA 2004 International Black and White Photography Contest. His image of a boxer at a Hollywood gym was judged best out of more than 1,800 entries from 52 countries. The photo will appear on the cover of AGFA's 2005 black and white calendar as well as on every box of AGFA black and white multicontrast paper produced next year.
Gonzales, the only American photographer among the top 30 in the competition, gives much credit for his development as an artist to UTA professors Leighton McWilliams, Andrew Ortiz and Kenda North.
At his first meeting with Gonzales, McWilliams noted that the aspiring photographer had two prime qualities for an artist: "He was curious about art and photo, and he wasn't afraid to ask questions. Some students are here because they want and need this information badly and they have to make art. Michael has that need."
Gonzales began taking pictures as a child but never considered photography as a profession, so he earned an engineering degree. After seven years in engineering, he realized that art was a necessity in his life.
He turned to UTA for help.
"Early on, the professors at UTA believed in me," he said. "They took me in as mentors and friends. They saw me as talented. My courses at UTA allowed me to improve my abilities and to put together a portfolio that I could use to get into graduate school."
Gonzales earned a master of fine arts degree this year from the University of Arizona. It was in Tucson that he began pursuing the images that eventually brought international renown.
"I started photographing the barrios here and did an artistic documentary of an old, historic diner. I got a lot of publicity for it, and the owner of a boxing gym in another barrio invited me to come photograph at his gym."
"I like to photograph people. This gives me an opportunity to really learn about the boxers as individuals--to really understand the people I'm working with. Boxers are very open, down-to-earth people. They're really appreciative and flattered at my attention and my work."
Other UTA art alumni have received international attention. Two years ago, ex-student Keith Alcorn, who studied animation at UTA, was nominated for an Academy Award as co-creator of animated boy-genius Jimmy Neutron. Today, Jimmy Neutron is a Saturday-morning TV cartoon favorite, and Alcorn is an animation star.
Earlier this year, the stars lined up well for alumnus and sculptor Darrell Davis, who's enjoying a bull market for his bears -- at least in Chicago, where he recently completed three gigantic bronzes for the Lincoln Park Zoo. The black bear family is 15 percent larger than life and surveys the zoo grounds from a 10-foot-tall limestone pedestal.
Former UTA students Clifton Crofford, Kevin McGehee and Mark Alexander have taken their glass art to a studio and shop in Grapevine. The Grapevine Glass Studio offers an opportunity to watch the glassblowing operation in action as well as purchase finished works. Vases, bowls, sculptural pieces and even glass sinks are available from the UTA-trained artists.
— Sherry W. Neaves