Mauricio Cortes

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Artist Statement

My projects start outside the studio before folding back into my personal life. I collect objects, images and words in hopes of repositioning them with a new kind of familiarity. There is friction in that transition and it is in that energetic moment where I hope new meaning is produced.

The single export of my hometown of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, which has had the most profound impact abroad, is the colorful striped textile known as a sarape. The native Nahuatl name for these sarapes: acocemalotic-tilmatli roughly translates to “rainbow mantle.” It’s most contemporary iteration is easily recognized by its neon colored stripes and found in bohemian settings all around the world. It was when Spain colonized Mexico that the national textile industry changed. With the introduction of European looms and other raw materials like wool and silk, the sarape became an ever more prized possession. After learning about the historicity of the sarape, I began to make paintings using those exact stripes to drape over the bodies that the media was only slowly uncovering.

During a visit to the Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Texas last year, I bought a t-shirt in the gift shop with the agency’s insignia printed on the back. Around the emblem it reads, “In Memory of the Fallen Ones.” My instinct as both an artist and a Mexican immigrant was to assume and misinterpret the t-shirt as homage to those that have attempted to cross the border illegally while in fact the shirt is dedicated to the few that die in service of keeping the thousands out.

At a border town flea market, my partner spotted a bookshelf souvenir known colloquially in the southwest as a siesta man; a palm-sized, stone figurine. The object depicts a stylized man sitting with his arms wrapped around his legs, his head resting on his knees, his umbrella-like-sombrero shielding his face. I made multiple molds of this object and eventually cast hundreds of Siesta Men in a gradient of shades of adobe. The men became my material; transforming my labor into a commodity that takes on a stereotyped shape of my people’s contribution to the American work-force.

I also cast the Siesta Men in sugar — hard, colorful, candy men. But now most of them are puddles; no number of air conditioners can stop the candy Siesta Men from melting.

My collected objects, whether from the Internet and street markets along the US-MX border guide me not only by their sentiment and charm, but also by their geographic origin. I explore meaning that is not strictly personal but shared and implied in symbolic treaties. I am invested in exploiting the latent historical statements and implications, which are undeniable in these seemingly harmless souvenirs.



M.F.A., Yale University School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut
B.F.A., The Cooper Union, New York
Yale University Summer School of Music and Arts, Norfolk, Connecticut


Practice Makes Practice, Mulherin New York, NY, NY
Of Another, Silk Road Gallery, New Haven, CT [two-person exhibition with Karen Dow] Double Dip, Greenhall Gallery, Yale School of Art, thesis exhibition New haven, CT
New Genealogies, Greenhall Gallery, Yale School of Art, New Haven CT
Sunrise/Sunset, Infinity room, Los Angeles, CA
Bienal De Las Fronteras, Museo de Arte Contemporàneo de Tamaulipas, Mexico
Creacion en Movimiento, San Pedro Museo de Arte, Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
Inaugural Exhibition, FRONT art space, New York
Thesis Presentation: All that is between us is a room full of furniture, 41 Cooper Square, The Cooper Union, New York [two-person exhibition with Madalyn Luellen] New Prints 2012/Summer, International Print Center, New York
Menschel Fellowship Exhibition, 7 Cooper Square, The Cooper Union, New York
Radiant Minds, Brooklyn Museum, New York
Radiant Minds, Queens Museum of Art, New York


New England Graduate Media Symposium, Assembling Bodies: Exchanges in collaboration, Paramount Theater, Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts
Schell Center for International Human Rights Travel Fellowship, Yale Law School, New Haven
Bienal De Las Fronteras, Museo de Arte Contemporàneo, Museum Acquisition Prize
FONCA Jóvenes Creadores (National Mexican Council for Culture and Arts), Mexico City
The Ellen Battell Stoeckel Painting Fellowship, Norfolk, Connecticut
The Benjamin Menschel Fellowship Program, The Cooper Union, New York


Spring 2016
Yale School of Art-Teaching Assistant, printmaking undergraduate & graduate courses
February 2016
Scholastic Art and Writing award National Art Portfolio Juror
Fall 2015
Yale University Art Gallery
Conducted two intaglio printmaking workshops for museum visitors in conjunction with the Arthur Ross Print Collection Exhibition
Summer 2015
Yale Norfolk Summer School of Music and Arts, Norfolk, CT
Teaching Assistant to Didier Williams (Printmaking)
Summer 2013-2014
Thornwillow Press, Newburgh, New York
Intaglio Printmaker, Editioned photogravure plates
March 2012 – August 2013
Arts, Letters & Numbers Inc., Albany, New York
Project Manager
– Managed renovation and construction of the site, a historic mill
– Co-taught and lectured as part of interdisciplinary curriculum
– Oversaw finances, creative development, and website
Winter 2011 – Summer 2012
The Nancy Flowers Project, Matto Grosso and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|
Writer, Co-director, Curator
– Collaboration with anthropologist Nancy Flowers (b. 1920), Laura Genes and Hugo Genes.
– Funded with awards by The Cooper Union, Hunter College, and private donors
Alfonso Mena Pacheco, Mexico City
Studio Assistant
– Assisted professional artist in the production of the work for the group exhibition AKASO at Museo Universitario Chopo, Mexico City
Fall 2007 – Summer 2014
Wet Paint! Art Studio, New York
– Taught art classes and presented lectures and tours on museum collections to students between the age of 6 and 16
– Assisted in portfolio preparation