Who’s Got Next: The Work of Ana Fernandez

Exhibition Detail:
Ana Fernandez
Texas
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.

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