Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Gamez.
Melissa, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born and raised in San Antonio, TX and attended Colgate University in Hamilton, NY where I received my BA in Art and Art History. At the start of my undergraduate career, I thought I wanted to be a Biology major and boy I was SO wrong. I think if I had more time to get my grades up in Chemistry and Biology Statistics courses, I could have done it, but I realized that if I wanted to suffer for anything, it was going to be for Art. I loved to draw and paint when I was in high school, staying at school very late everyday just to work on my art pieces for class. I kept that dedication for the visual arts somewhere deep inside me. So, I decided to take art and art history courses and thankfully I stuck with it. Attending college in Upstate New York was so different for me and it was so hard for me emotionally to be away from home.
After I graduated from Colgate, I left upstate New York and decided to return to my home town San Antonio, TX. I started to work in public and university libraries for a few years. I had, and still have, this love of learning and appreciation for books and public service. So that is why I’ve worked in libraries so much. Yet in the wake of the presidential election and social and political unrest in 2016, I knew I had to return to graduate school to make artwork that I felt needed to reflect and challenge the current political and social climate. Thankfully, I was accepted at the University of North Texas, so I moved to North Texas to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art Photography.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I work primarily in photography where I focus on photographing family and the everyday in an effort to challenge superficial notions of culture, especially that of Mexican people living in the United States. I have also made screen prints and books as a part of my art practice. My photographic work is very personal because I photograph my family as well as people in my community. I also photograph healing plants and religious objects so as to represent some aspects of my culture which are passed down through generations.
The thread which connects my work mostly is the presence of borders, both national and personal borders. I am very sensitive to what my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, acquaintances allow me to know. I think this sensitivity comes from the fact that my parents left their home land in Mexico to seek a home in the United States. Although I’ve gone to Mexico to visit my family and the land, there is a sense of disconnection for me. I find that this disconnection, this distance that my parents sometimes feel, is passed onto me, even though I was born here. My work is an attempt to become whole. I hope that people will see my work and see themselves in it.
Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
Art has always been critical and is created at critical moments. By that I mean, people make the decision to become artists because there is something in the world and in their life that changes them or makes certain things much clearer. The role of artists has changed in the sense that artists are now more critical. Artists are often critical of systems and society. Artists are also important parts of our society because of the ability and tendency to evaluate our surroundings, society and the world.
My own artwork has recently taken a clearer political shift given the inhumane detentions, family separations and criminalization of immigrants in this country. I have done some photographic work in Mexico and in the U.S. surrounding issues of socio-economic conditions, worker’s rights and family. I have deeply valued conversations I’ve had with people recently, primarily immigrants, concerning their own lives and experiences with this country’s immigration system. Much of my work is still in progress and I’m excited to see where my art practice can take me.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Anyone can see my work primarily through my Instagram page (@melissagamezherrera) or my website! I always appreciate it when people keep up with my work and follow me because that tells me that my work resonates with them on some level. As far as supporting me as an artist, I am actively looking to be a part of gallery exhibitions, artistic collaborations, publications, and the occasional portrait or event gig! I value and enjoy the work that I do, so if there are opportunities to continue my practice and share my work, then I am more than happy to do so.
As an artist, I implore people to please buy art, hire artists to speak on our work, attend exhibition openings, share our work online and offline, and keep conversations about art alive. If people don’t know the importance of art and why we create, then people won’t support us.
- Website: https://melissagamez.myportfolio.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissagamezherrera/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissagamezphoto
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/meligamez_her