Feb 11

Pranking perspective: Fernandez’ larger paintings approach Magritte’s doorstep

Courtesy photo

Caninus, a perspective-skewering painting by Ana Fernandez, on view at Joan Grona.

By Scott Andrews

Ana Fernandez makes her local debut at Joan Grona Gallery this month with large oil paintings in which cars and houses sit in a neighborhood that promises the familiarity of home but delivers a rather uncanny air drifting through the trees. If you often happen to live in paintings, the wind shouldn’t blow too harshly.

Fernandez has exhibited paintings from this series in Chicago and Los Angeles, where her scenes depicting San Antonio residences were read as filled with brujaría, a bit of Latina witchiness. The oddly shaped balloons and floating creatures are riffs on figures that the artist has taken from Francisco Goya’s Black Paintings, a group of ghoulish works done after the atrocities of the Napoleonic Wars had rendered the artist a bitter old man. Under the guidance of Fernandez, however, the warnings of doom have more a Halloween or Día de los Muertos appeal, and seem to tease the viewer with impending pranks that won’t harm. Dark scenes are theatrically lit, dark rings around Krieg-lit centers hone the eye to find jokes that the painter has made to herself, like the word “Goya” written slanted on the front of a house.

The biggest prank, however, is Fernandez’ messing with aspects of perspective, enhanced by double vision. She has placed what seem to be two gray iron dogs between columns of leaves in what should be the foreground of the painting Caninus. They are rendered a bit fuzzy, out of focus, countering convention and fuddling with the illusion of depth. The twin cars in the middle space appear strangely crisper, reversing expectations of the near and the far. It is subtly done, however, as both the two dogs and two white cars, twinned in absurd opposing pairs, dominate the scene, a hint that this is not a painting of your mother’s house, but perhaps might be René Magritte’s doorstep.

Fernandez uses symmetry to buffo effect in other paintings, too. A house seems folded in on itself, two more twin cars are joined by matching windows with hearts; even the sky is mirrored down the center.

In contrast to the oils, small gouache works display a quick, deft hand that hints of glamour and a commercial sketch at photorealism. The style would work well with upscale advertising copy. The oils eschew this display of flash, often figuring small details in a smear. Trained at The Art Institute of Chicago and UCLA, Fernandez, who was born in Corpus Christi, has recently returned to Texas from Los Angeles. She has also taken up again her peculiar style of realism after a sojourn in California abstraction that helped net her MFA. The paintings in the show are pleasing enough — she had almost sold out before the opening — but hopefully Fernandez will not allow her work to halt in what is certainly a signature style. Enjoyable painting, it seems to promise yet more.

Ana Fernandez: New Paintings


Noon-5pm Tue, 11am-5pm Wed-Fri, 11am-6pm Sat

On view through Feb 28

112 Blue Star

(210) 225-6334


Feb 11

Lady driver: Ana Fernandez

03 FEBRUARY 2011
Plaza de Armas Culture/Features

Flight (2011) by Ana FernandezFlight (2011) by Ana Fernandez

“When I left LA, it was on fire,” Ana Fernandez says as we eat sandwiches at the Blue Star Brewery before she heads back to finish last-minute installation details at Joan Grona Gallery. All but one of the paintings in her First Friday show already bear red “sold” dots.

“Driving on I-10, you could see the mountains in the distance, smoke trailing off them. You could see flames.”

She laughs out loud at the metaphoric heavy-handedness. “It was just a couple months after an earthquake, and I told [my now-ex-girlfriend], ‘Are you sure you don’t wanna move to Texas? It’s not safe here.’”

Fernandez earned her MFA in painting from UCLA in 2004, but didn’t make it back home until September 2009, just after the record-breaking heatwave that exhausted our city. She’d left a city she thought she would die in, she loved it so much: the climate, the diversity, the sense that “I fit right in. When I lived in Venice Beach, I could wear rags and be happy.”

After grad school, Fernandez got embroiled in a relationship, and a job with a postage company as a screener of sorts, making sure that when customers designed personalized postage, it didn’t contain images of the Unabomber, Monica Lewinsky’s infamous dress, or other inappropriateness.

“Mostly I was approving puppies and kittens,” she says, “but occasionally there’d be some white guy, and I’d have to research to make sure he wasn’t somebody controversial.”

Fernandez has a way of unspooling her past with deadpan humor.

She enrolled in UCLA after getting a BFA at the Chicago Art Institute. In Chicago, she recalls, she lived in a neighborhood she didn’t know was dangerous, because she moved there in winter and “it wasn’t until spring when things started to thaw out that the gang members appeared.”

She’s passionately opinionated about her work, art in general, her family, her city, social constructs, and her career, but her anecdote delivery borders on tannic dryness. There’s the one about Grandmother Fernandez, who gave her a Ouija board despite the strictly anti-occult beliefs of her mom’s more religious family. She also gave little Ana an Avon-made, pistol-shaped cologne container she kept between her couch cushions. She had Ana aim it cop-style at the front door to ward off intruders while Grandma visited the store across the street.

“She threw an entire [container] of holy water at her cat, too” Fernandez muses. “She said, ‘It wouldn’t stop staring at me.’ But it was a black cat with two white spots above its eyes … the holy water got all over the TV, the VCR … ”

Fernandez’s dad is an electrical engineer who moved the family from Corpus Christi to San Antonio when Ana was 16; her mother, a pre-K bilingual school teacher, is also a visual artist. The Fernandez family lived with her full-wall mural of a jungle scene, which included “tigers, snakes … she made the snakes seem biblical, which was …” she considers a second, “interesting to grow up looking at.”

She has loved to draw and paint cars, in particular, since she was 6. They represent identity, aspiration, value, self-expression, “and are individual, almost like people — they have some kind of living energy.” The first images she remembers making were of now-vintage 1970s vans with murals on their sides. She can still tell each one of her aunts what kind of car they drove, and when.

She graduated from Roosevelt High School in the Breakfast Club era, and took jobs, mostly on the River Walk, as a waitperson and a San Antonio river barge driver, while studying with the mighty Willome, Pritchett, and Susan Witta-Kemp at San Antonio College, where she now teaches.

And there are traces of Fernandez humor in her meta-realistic, subconscious-infecting paintings. Take her Joan Grona show — you’ll see her highly accessible, immediately recognizable portraits of humble, one-story San Antonio bungalows, bedecked with balloons or Christmas lights, with a car or cars, naturally, parked out front. But there are details, such H-E-B shopping bags wrapped around shrubs or the Spurs logo in a window, that act as local in-jokes. One of Fernandez’s cars bears the area code 210 in a swirly pink font, and a legend on the side reading “Most Hated.” It’s based on a real car; Fernandez has seen it around town. She assumed it had a male owner, but then found herself behind it one day at a Whataburger drive-in, and saw a pink-manicured hand emerge from the window.

She tends to photograph specific structures, trucks, and other details and then composite them later into one painting. Each work is realistic but, upon close inspection, loosely painted, with a tricky surface brushstroke she changes to express either solid line or quick motion; in one painting, a canopy of linear winter branches explodes into a furious flap of birds.

She went through a collage period in Los Angeles, during the latter part of her three-year MFA program, splicing together parts of other paintings she made, creating graduated bands of color made of refrigerators, say. She got her first one-woman show as a result but decided, against the advice of some friends, to return to her earlier preoccupations and fully inhabit them. She’d developed a realistic technique back in Chicago, sometimes bordering on photo-reality. She’s since abandoned attempts at photorealism because “what’s the point, then, of it being a painting? I want people to see the paint, to take in the layers, and the surface,” but she knew the subject matter she wanted to focus on. She knew this had to happen in San Antonio.

“In Los Angeles, you’d see a certain landscape that would be interesting to paint, and think ‘that looks familiar,’ like you’d seen it before. And you had seen it before; it was in movies and on TV.”

So call Fernandez’s San Antonio paintings a highly personal form of regional landscape, or architectural still life. They document man-made scenarios with human touches all over, but remain strangely uninhabited. With this void, Fernandez effects a couple of things. “When you paint [people], there’s always the notion of whether it looks like them, and i don’t want to get sucked into that.” Also, it heightens the sense of mirroring and the meta-real; Fernandez’ scenes “aren’t completely realistic. I want them to appear like a hallucination.”

One unsettling large-scale painting shows a house shrouded in hedges, with two stone dogs facing each other. “It could be a witches’ house,” says Fernandez, who counts Goyas’ The Flight of the Witches as an inspiration for another painting, in which a gaggle of pointy-hatted piñatas hover above a roof. Another unlit house is framed by a white-and-red balloon heart, which references both San Antonio’s exuberant public face, our love for celebration and knack for rasquache decor, and something deeper, darker, and more ambiguous. It’s an implied narrative that could be affectionate, or terribly wrong.

“Anybody can gain access to the images,” she says. “Somebody will look [at the paintings] only as San Antonio houses, others will read and project much more into them.”

Arturo Almeida and UTSA present Ana Fernandez
Opening reception 6-9pm Thu. Feb. 3
Joan Grona Contemporary Art
Through Feb 26

Feb 11

UTSA and Joan Grona Gallery present exhibit of paintings by Ana Fernandez

Fernandez painting

“717,” oil on canvas by Ana Fernandez

Intern, UTSA Art Collection

(Feb. 2, 2011)–UTSA and Joan Grona Contemporary Art will present the detailed, mystical paintings of Corpus Christi native Ana Fernandez this month at the Grona gallery.

>> Free and open to the public, the exhibit runs Feb. 3-26. An opening reception, free and open to all, is 6-9 p.m., Feb. 3 at Joan Grona Contemporary Art.

Curated by Arturo Almeida, art specialist and curator of the UTSA Art Collection, Fernandez’ paintings capture everyday scenes in neighborhoods in Corpus Christi and San Antonio. Her work utilizes a realistic yet fantastical element and style that complements the quotidian yet magical culture of San Antonio.

According to the artist, the painting series features some of her favorite subjects including magic, true crime, paranormal activity, sex, murder, occult, mythology, witchcraft and superstition — all set in her hometown of Corpus Christi. Her attention to detail will strike a familiar note with San Antonians and others from South Texas.

Born in Corpus Christi, Fernandez moved to San Antonio at age 16 with her family. She received an M.F.A. from UCLA and a B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has presented numerous exhibits across the nation and currently lives in San Antonio.

Joan Grona Contemporary Art was established in 1992 and is in the nationally known Blue Star Arts Complex. Representing local, national and international artists, the gallery fosters an understanding and appreciation of art in a friendly environment through exhibitions, lectures and guided tours. The gallery collection includes a broad range of innovative, original artworks by established and emerging artists.

Joan Grona Contemporary Art is in Blue Star Arts Complex Suite 112 at South Alamo and Probandt streets in San Antonio’s Southtown district. Gallery hours are noon-5 p.m., Tuesday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday; and by appointment (call 210-225-6334).


>> Visit the UTSA Art Collection website.

Feb 11

Little houses that make big statements

Published: 12:00 a.m., Tuesday, February 1, 2011

  • Ana Fernandez works on the painting “717.”

    Since Ana Fernandez‘s grandmother died in 1991, the artist has had a recurring dream.

    In it, she is compelled to return to her grandmother’s home – recently demolished – in Corpus Christi.

    “I feel like I forgot something, and I need to go in there and get it,” Fernandez says.

    Homes and what their exteriors both reveal and conceal about the inhabitants are a source of fascination for Fernandez, and the subject of a series of paintings. An exhibit of her work opens with a reception 6 p.m. Thursday at Joan Grona Contemporary Art, 112 Blue Star.

    Curated by Arturo Almeida, it is Fernandez’s first solo show since she moved back to San Antonio a little more than a year ago. Though she previously had one-woman exhibits in Chicago and Los Angeles, where she attended the School of the Art Institute and the University of California, she considers this her first real solo show “because it’s the first one where I’m really happy with my work,” she says.

    The exhibit includes 15 works, including oil paintings and graphite drawings, of houses, particularly modest, weathered casitas such as those typical of San Antonio’s West Side and South Side barrios.

    Works such as 210, a nighttime image of a 1940s-style wood structure where Halloween and Christmas decorations, a Spurs banner and a pair of mating dogs chronicle the passage of time, are imbued with a sense of the unseen occupants’ presence.

    “I kind of see them like portraits,” Fernandez says of the paintings and drawings. “It’s a traditional landscape but also kind of a portrait of the house itself, maybe the people that live there. Maybe something that’s inside kind of comes out.”

    Fernandez, who teaches drawing at San Antonio College, works from photographs. She sometimes conflates details of different houses and adds fictional elements to create a narrative. In 717, for example, Fernandez incorporated a red-and-white, heart-shaped balloon wreath into the image of a small house illuminated solely by Christmas lights and a carpet of stars visible through bare tree limbs.

    “I like to think of them almost as backdrops, like landscape backdrops to some kind of story or drama that’s happening,” she says.

    Home for Fernandez is a Southtown duplex with high ceilings that she shares with a 100-pound pit bull-mastiff mix named Smoky and a dark brindle French bulldog named Geeta. Her living room, which doubles as a studio, is dominated by large canvases and metal shelves holding supplies, including glass jars of murky thinner with thick layers of paint sediment at the bottom.

    Originally from Corpus Christi, Fernandez moved to San Antonio when she was 16. After high school, she attended San Antonio College before leaving to go to school in Chicago. After graduating from UCLA with a master’s degree in painting in 2004, Fernandez intended to return to San Antonio. She stayed in L.A., however, after she landed a job “that I couldn’t leave” screening images for a custom postage web business. Fernandez was laid off in 2009 when the company eliminated her department.

    “It was actually the best thing that possibly could have happened to me because I moved back here; I started painting this series; I got a great job at SAC, which I’ve always wanted to work at SAC,” she says. “I mean, everything has gone great.”



    Feb 11

    The Bewitching Art of Ana Fernandez

    by Gilberto Zamora

    June 4, 2010

    In viewing Ana Fernandez‘s paintings, there is an invitation to wonderment, darkness and a bit of humor. Her new series, “Texas,” combine familiar domestic elements with subtle, sometimes eerie, hints of the unknown. We couldn’t wait to ask her a few questions. She was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. She holds an MFA in Painting from University of California at Los Angeles, and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She exhibits nationally and has solo exhibitions this spring in Los Angeles, this summer in Chicago and at Joan Grona Gallery in San Antonio in 2011.

    Check out our interview with this fascinating artist, below.

    Ana Fernadez's 11:50

    Prove&Confusion: The invitation I received to your show described your work as magic realism. How do you feel about the label magic realism?

    Ana Fernandez: I would describe my art as naturalistic and realistic with elements of the fantastic…supernatural. I remember seeing the dioramas at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science when I was a child. The museum was kept cold and really dark. The 15-foot mythical sea monster mural was terrifying. The sea loomed over us like a frozen tidal wave, and the monster was so creepy! It was better than any painting that I’d ever seen in the art museum, at that age. It really had an effect on me.

    Prove&Confusion: In reading your bio, I see that you’ve lived in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Antonio, Texas. The series you’re showing at 2nd FLR Gallery is called Texas, so have the major Cities you’ve lived in influenced your work?

    Ana Fernandez: Los Angeles and Chicago are both amazing and inspirational places to live, but San Antonio is my home and is the stimulus for this body of work. The content of my series as a whole contains some of my favorite subjects: magic, true crime, paranormal activity, sex, murder, occult, mythology, witchcraft and superstition all set in the neighborhoods of my hometown. And, here in San Antonio, we believe in that stuff. This city is haunted and its inhabitants are superstitious. (And we are very festive, too.) It’s a wonderful place! My painting called “210″ is a vanitas themed painting, for example.

    Prove&Confusion: Your series “Supersonic” back 2004 was a lot more collage and abstract than your current “Texas” series, has your approach and style changed or do you alternate between them?

    Ana Fernandez's work from 2004's series, Supersonic

    Ana Fernandez: When I began at UCLA I completely shifted gears and started doing something completely different. Before, I was making paintings very similar to what I do now. The Supersonic show you referenced was an exhibition in 2004 featuring MFA candidates from eight of Southern California’s art programs. At UCLA, It was as if I just threw everything in my studio- magazines, old paintings, drawings- into a heavy duty wood chipper and spat out large scale collages. I did that for three years. My dog used to eat bits of the collage material when I wasn’t looking. I used to find little compositions in his poo. I should have photographed some of them.

    Prove&Confusion: As an artist were there any particular Latina women that influenced you?

    Ana Fernandez: One of my favorite artists is Remedios Vara, a surrealist painter who was born in Spain in 1908, but lived in Mexico most of her life. Her work had aspects of mysticism, geometry and and alchemy in it that I feel relate to my work. My all time favorite painter would be Francesco Goya in terms of style and content, particularly the Black Paintings and his depictions of witchcraft.

    Ana Fernandez


    Come see Ana Fernandez’s work at 2ND Floor Gallery
    903 W. 19th St. Chicago, IL 60608 on Saturday June 5, 2010. 6PM. You can also read more about her in her interview with Gozamos!

    Feb 11

    Who’s Got Next: The Work of Ana Fernandez

    Exhibition Detail:
    Ana Fernandez
    Curated by: Arno Mayorga
    2ND FLR Gallery

    903 W 19th Street 2nd Flr
    Chicago, IL 60608
    June 5th – June 26th

    Ana Fernandez is a visual artist whose most recent series, Texas, will be shown at Pilsen’s 2ND FLR Gallery beginning June 5th from 6-9pm. Her work has been exhibited in cities throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, San Antonio and Chicago. Fernandez holds an MFA from UCLA and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I had the pleasure of chatting with Ana prior to the opening of her Texas series exhibition in Chicago.

    So, where are you from? Where do you live now?
    I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. My family moved to San Antonio when I was sixteen. I then lived in Chicago for three years, Los Angeles for ten years, and now reside in San Antonio.

    How did you like Chicago when you lived here?
    I absolutely love Chicago. It’s one of my favorite places. Chicago feels very much like home, very friendly and cozy. Coming from Texas, I also noticed that Chicago has a very large Latino community and the city is not at all pretentious.

    When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
    My mom is an artist and we were exposed to art at a very early age. I remember using oil paint for the first time around age ten. I entered different contests. I was always doing something creative as a child. I used to take toys belonging to the neighborhood kids and bury them in our backyard. I would present them with an elaborate hand-drawn map by which the toys could be found. I think they had more fun finding the toy than actually playing with it… But, I never really made a conscious decision to be an artist, because I believe that you either are an artist or you aren’t. They can’t teach you that in school. I did make a conscious decision, however, to study art formally–which was a natural progression for me. At one point, when I was in college, I thought, well, maybe I should study something else so I could actually get a job. Like law or something. But, I soon realized that I need to do what I love to do. There was not another option.

    How would you describe your art?
    I would describe my art as naturalistic and realistic with elements of the fantastic. Supernatural. The content of my series as a whole contains some of my favorite subjects: magic, true crime, paranormal activity, sex, murder, occult, mythology, witchcraft and superstition all set in my hometown, San Antonio. My painting called 210 is a vanitas themed painting, for example.

    In terms of your content, from where do you draw your interest in these subjects–magic, true crime, paranormal activity…?
    Do I sound like a psycho? [Reyna, laughing: "No, you do not sound like a psycho."] The subject matter of my work is taken from observations of my world, personal experiences and my own personal studies in those subjects. As a painter, I never consciously thought “I’m going to mix all these subjects together” rather they just seeped out from my subconscious. Eventually, whatever you put in your head will surface in one way or another.

    I recently read that your work contains elements of “Chicano mythology and ritual.” Can you elaborate on that?
    We are very festive here in San Antonio. People leave Christmas decorations out all year long. There are altars and religious statues in yards, sports memorabilia, you name it. People stick styrofoam cups in their chain link fences and spell out words, like “mom.” [Reyna: "That's awesome."] That’s just how its done here. I have painted a similar scene in one of my pieces. I’m just capturing where I am from and what is around me.

    What advice would you give to a young person who is contemplating a career as a visual artist?
    I would encourage them to find good teachers and learn all you can about art history and contemporary art. Find out as much as you can about the business end of the art world. That’s something else they don’t teach you in school. Also, watch Paul McCarthy’s video “Painter.” He’s referencing someone who wants to be a painter in the piece. Really, he’s referencing the archetype of the heroic male painter–but also the business aspect of painting. It’s a very funny performance. It’s actually more of an anti-painter video in that it sums up a lot of contemporary attitudes some students have about painting like: “I’m going to make lots of paintings and people will buy them and I’m going to be famous.” What the video works to create is an awareness. It makes us question some of those commonly held attitudes about art and should make students think: “Why do you want to touch on something? Why do you need to make something? Why do you need to make an object?”

    Ana Fernandez’ most recent series, Texas, will be exhibited at 2ND FLR Gallery June 5th from 6-9pm. In conjunction with the Texas series opening, 2ND FLR Gallery will host the United Latino Pride Week Launch Party June 5th from 9pm-12am. To learn more about Ana Fernandez’ work and upcoming shows, visit her web page.