September 20, 2017
Posted By Rhyma Castillo on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:45 am
When Ana Fernandez and Ruth Leonela Buentello paint, they’re not just creating art — they’re shaping a legacy. For so long, Latin@s in America have felt a gaping hole where the genuine representation of their culture should be. All too often, there’s a marked discrepancy between their voices and the voices speaking over them.
But by painting narrative works that showcase the intimate inner-workings of Latin@ life, the San Antonio-based artistas are constructing a lasting space where their stories can be passed on without interruption.
“The one thing that I hope other [Latin@s] will see when they look at my work is, really, themselves,” says Fernandez, known for her detailed depictions of Chican@-centered environments, as well as her popular food truck Chamoy City Limits. “We haven’t been represented,” she explains. “We’re overlooked. We’re erased … And because we’ve been erased for so long, I want to make portraits through [the] landscape of [Latin@] entrepreneurs, as [they] exist today.”
As an entrepreneur herself, Fernandez understands the spirit of hard work and resilience behind the success of small-scale Latin@ businesses. Because she’s “living and breathing” the kind of business-centered lifestyle depicted in her work, the scenes she paints are especially visceral to her. In her upcoming exhibition “Eastside Westside,” she paints what the “American Dream” looks like for Latin@s in South Texas, and draws from her own experiences to help document the authentic perspectives of her San Antonio community.
The inspiration behind Ruth Buentello’s exhibition “Domestic Narratives” is mined from her everyday life as a Chicana. “The biggest influence [in my work] has been these experiences with my family,” she explains. “[Experiences] from around the house; some about joy, some about health, coping with family issues and just the things that we do together.”
Buentello’s work, recognized for its cultural richness, depicts the most intimate layers of Latin@ domestic life — from daily struggles with mental wellness and gender roles, to her own Chicana identity. In art school, Buentello’s mentors often discouraged her from creating pieces that addressed these issues for fear of being “boxed in” by her identity. However, she has since come to realize that it is through this identity that she finds her strength as an artist. “You have the power to relate to other people’s stories,” she says. “As Latinos, we have this connection with other Latinos. We’re different, but we all have similar experiences.”
Although it may seem impossible to hear Latin@ and minority voices above all the white noise in America today, this doesn’t mean that no one is listening. Because of artists like Fernandez and Buentello, a legacy of cultural understanding is being constructed, where pivotal experiences are shared and validated through solidarity with one another.
While both Fernandez and Buentello graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, they didn’t know one another until they moved back to San Antonio. Since then, they’ve become good friends and have been looking forward to displaying in a gallery setting together for over three years now. If you’d like to see “Eastside Westside” by Ana Fernandez and “Domestic Narratives” by Ruth Buentello, you can catch their side-by-side exhibitions at Galería Guadalupe from September 1 to October 6. The gallery will also host a group show curated by Fernandez, featuring works by artists Junye Butler, Marcy McChesney, and Rosa Fernandez.
Free, opening reception 6-9pm Fri, Sep. 1, on view 9am-5pm Mon-Fri through Oct. 6, Galería Guadalupe, 723 S. Brazos St., (210) 271-3151. guadalupeculturalarts.org
Staff Pick: Best Visual Artist
OUR PICK: Ana Fernandez, anafernandez.com
Since the term “artist” encompasses a wide array of disciplines, trying to decide who’s “best” feels futile and unfair (like comparing a glassblower to a performance artist). But what about who creates art that best captures San Antonio? A solid answer to that question is Ana Fernandez — a Corpus Christi native who moved here during high school, earned degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of California at Los Angeles, and officially adopted San Antonio as her hometown in 2009. A local favorite and double threat, Fernandez has won over diehard fans with both the creatively concocted raspas she sells out of her Chamoy City Limits food truck and her moody, slightly mysterious paintings depicting old-school San Antonio homes, storefronts, street scenes and parking lots. With a sold-out 2016 exhibition and a CAMMIE Award already under her belt, Fernandez wowed us (and others) with her recent Contemporary Art Month exhibition “Magic Time Machine” and has plenty more on the horizon, including a September exhibition at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
Every room except the bedroom of Ana Fernandez’s East Side home is set up for painting.
Since the house isn’t equipped with central air and heat, the artist, known for her paintings of modest barrio homes and mom and pop shops, moves from space to space depending on the temperature outdoors. Currently, she is set up in the living room, where she has a space heater in front of a fireplace coated with ghostly gray ash.
On a glass table, there’s a painting in progress — a parking lot view of the now defunct Country Boys Meat Market. Propped up against a wall, there’s a canvas where the artist has deftly outlined the exterior of a convenience store with an oversized “Thank you for your business” sign over its entrance. More paintings in various stages of completion are propped against another wall near the door.
But with her career in high gear, she needs the space to stretch out. Currently, Fernandez’s work is featured in three exhibitions: “Magic Time Machine,” a two-person show with Hiromi Stringer at Cinnabar that takes its title from Fernandez’s painting of the theme restaurant; “Reflections on Landscape and Memory,” the Contemporary Art Month Perennial exhibition at the Southwest School of Art; and “multiples” at Galería Guadalupe.
She also is working on a project for the city’s tricentennial celebration next year, creating a series of paintings of buildings that no longer exist, such as Chapa’s Drug Store, which stood on West Commerce.
In addition to making art, Fernandez is back to work on her food truck Chamoy City Limits. She took a three-month break following a series of surgeries. Last year, Fernandez was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Luckily, it was detected in the early stages, and the artist said she is fully recovered and doing well.
The Express-News talked to Fernandez about her art and why she feels compelled to document neighborhood scenes in her work.
Q. How do you balance your art with your food truck?
A. On a personal level, I’m used to living very modestly. I don’t really spend money on extravagant things. And my house is affordable. It needs work, but I haven’t really done anything to it. So that’s the first step, to make sure my expenses are in check for both this business and my food truck. And then from there I try to kind of budget my time. I’ll spend the first half of the week painting and then I’ll spend the latter half of the week prepping and then the weekend I do Chamoy.
It’s kind of hard. That’s why I needed a break, ’cause it got really hard for a while because I was doing the art and the food truck full time.
Q. Do you think your experience with cancer has had an impact on your artwork?
A. Well, I started painting more people. The show that’s up at Cinnabar right now, there’s some people in it. Painting people is always something I wanted to do, but I never rally kind of got into that. I want to do something new that I was afraid to do before. Not afraid, I just never really thought it was me, like, “Well, I’m not going to do that.” It’s kind of made me push things in another direction a little bit.
Q. When did you know that you were going to be an artist?
A. When we were little, like my mom used to teach us how to paint with oil paints. I probably painted my first oil painting when I was 6. But we used to work in oils because my mom’s a painter.
But the moment I realized I wanted to be an artist was probably - I don’t know if there was a single moment because I’ve always been into art, like all throughout school —middle school, high school — and then when I was in college for a moment, “Oh, I’m going to study history” or get some kind of degree where I can teach, and then I walked past the UTSA art building and this huge rush of oil paint smell hit me. I just realized “Oh, I need to start painting.”
My whole life I’ve just pieced together odd jobs so I can make my art. But this is like the first time in my life that I’ve been completely self-sufficient on my art-slash-food truck. And I feel the more you put art in the center, the more it becomes easier just to live off of that, even if you have an odd job.
Q. What attracts you to a particular subject or scene?
A. Sometimes I’ll just kind of drive around. I almost feel like I’m just going to see where my car leads me. I’ll go, “I’m going to make a right turn here,” and then I’ll see a dog and photograph the dog. At one point I had described it as almost like a planchette on a Ouija board, just kind of go with it wherever it is you’re going. My car is the planchette. But sometimes one house will really call out to me and another house won’t.
Q. Do you think of your paintings of houses as portraits?
A. Yeah, I see those as portraits for sure. Even if there is a person there, I still think it’s a portrait of the house and the person is just there. I feel like they’re portraits because to me, the houses will have a character, and sometimes it’s from all the people that used to live there, because their spirit is in the house in the way they decorate it. So it kind of becomes a character itself.
Sometimes it’s not even the house. It’s the light. I’ll pass by and I’ll see howthe light hits it. I like to paint light. That’s what painting really is.
Q. Why did you choose to paint the Magic Time Machine?
A. One of the reasons was I’m doing this show at Cinnabar and it didn’t have a title yet. (Gallery owner Susan Oliver Heard) was bouncing around ideas, and she explained to me about Hiromi Stringer’s idea. It’s a little complicated, but basically her paintings are supposed to be done by a time traveler. So I thought it would be kind of a funny pun for me to paint the Magic Time Machine because my paintings are so - quote - literal. So let me paint the Magic Time Machine. And then we thought that was a cool title for it.
Q. Have you ever gone to the Magic Time Machine?
A. Yeah, I’ve been there a handful of times. I think it was ’92. I think (the waiter) was like Robin Hood or somebody cheesy. It wasn’t like the character everyone wanted. Everyone wanted Superman.
Q. Why did you start making painting of houses in the first place?
A. Everybody has that first experience, like, let’s say, the first model car they collected and then they want to collect all of them. My first house was my grandmother’s house. My grandmother’s house was always the place that would be our comfort. So this year, they sold it. … And my other grandmother’s house was demolished. This is really sad because my grandfather built this house and our family was there for almost 50 years. Now it’s just a parking lot.
(But) I’m not just interested in my family only. I’m interested in everyone’s, too. I love looking at historical photos and stuff. The way I look at it is I wish that somebody had photographed the store that was across the street from my grandmother’s house when I was a kid. Because if I could find that now that would be so valuable to me. So by painting I feel like what I’m kind of doing is preserving it.
Q. Do you think painting a subject elevates it beyond what a photo can do?
A. I just feel that it preserves it. It honors it in that way, like, “Oh, this is really beautiful. I want to paint it with respect to how you’ve done everything here.” I’m not going to try to change it or make it different. I’m just going to paint it the way it is, like a portrait.
I just try to get little snapshots, little slices of life - what it’s like right now, 2017, 2016. Eventually 2012 will seem old. So it’s not like I’m trying to make them nostalgic. Over time they become that way, but that’s not my intent, really.
July 18, 2016
With a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from the University of California at Los Angeles, Corpus Christi-born artist Ana Fernandez could have settled into a secure academic career. She taught at San Antonio College after returning to her adopted hometown in 2009, but then an entrepreneurial urge kicked in and she decided to open a food truck, the Institute of Chili.
“I’ve always been enterprising,” Fernandez told Out In SA in her home studio on the near East Side. “In elementary school, I used to sell gum for a nickel apiece. I would draw pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and sell them.”
She had no culinary training, but had grown up helping her mother and female relatives make tamales. She researched the original recipes used by San Antonio’s chili queens at the Institute of Texan Cultures and came up with her own modern version, using better cuts of meat. She sold her car and borrowed money from her mom, aunt and some of her art patrons. She bought an old 1978 fruit truck, painted it herself and started hawking her early Tex-Mex-inspired cuisine at local parks.
In her first year, she appeared on the travel food series Motochefs, with chef Aarón Sánchez, and her chili was rated the best in the country by Food & Wine magazine. But she was working 18-hour days seven days a week.
“At one point, I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing? Why am I working so hard for so little money?’” she said. “I realized I needed to increase my sales; so last spring I decided to add raspas to my menu.”
“Raspa” comes from the Spanish phrase hielo raspado, meaning scraped ice. She bought a high-capacity shaved ice machine that turns 300-pound blocks of ice into fluffy snow. Toppings include tamarindo, mangonada and piccadilly along with handcrafted fruit syrups and chamoy, a Mexican sweet-and-sour condiment that’s become popular with foodies and bartenders. Employing the color theory she learned in art school, Fernandez created fabulous frozen concoctions such as Komodo Dragon, Picadilly Circus and Diablito. When her raspas took off, she extended the name of her truck to include Chamoy City Limits.
“Chamoy is actually Asian in origin and refers to pickled fruit,” Fernandez said. “It’s made with pickled fruit, chili base, sugar and citrus. Pickle juice is surprisingly refreshing served over ice in the summer. The chili base for my chamoy is the same one I used to make chili, so it was easy. I’ve also learned to make my own syrups, starting from scratch, with fresh fruit. But I had no idea how big a hit the raspas would be.”
Chamoy City Limits now has more than 35,000 “likes” on its Facebook page. Instead of seven days a week, she currently operates the truck only two days a week, usually from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturdays at Lions Field Adult Center on Broadway and Sundays at O.P. Schnabel Park in Northwest San Antonio.
She spends two days a week on prep and she’s hired two employees. Raspas from Chamoy City Limits have been named “Best Raspa” in the city by KMOL in 2014 and by the San Antonio Current in 2015 and 2016. During the summer, the wait for one of her raspas can be more than two hours.
“We have people coming in from all over to try our raspas,” Fernandez said. “I have customers driving in from Austin and Houston. I wanted my food truck to be so good that it would become a destination, and I think that’s happened. If you have a good product, it will sell and people will keep coming back. I feel the same way about my art.”
During Contemporary Art Month, Fernandez’s “New Watercolors” show at Silkwörm Studio and Gallery sold out, earning a spot in the online art magazine Glasstire’s “Top Five” and picking up the “Through the Looking Glass Award for Bending Perceptions” at the 2016 CAMMIE Awards. Fernandez has an upcoming show opening August 20 at the artist-run project space Winslow Garage, in Los Angeles. She’s known for her realistic paintings of San Antonio homes, especially inner-city Craftsman-style bungalows from the first half of the 20th century.
“Families in San Antonio tend to live in these houses for a long time, handing them down through the generations,” she said. “What’s inside the house starts to show on the outside. These houses have a lot of character and reveal a lot about the soul of San Antonio.”
She admires another well-known San Antonio artist, Jesse Treviño, who paints hyper-realistic portraits of architectural landmarks. But Treviño tends to paint his houses and buildings in the brightest noonday light, while Fernandez often depicts her homes at dusk, or at night with lights glowing. The nocturnal settings can be unsettling, providing a brooding hint of menace or psychological darkness, or perhaps conjuring the magical and fantastical. Figures sometimes inhabit her paintings, reflecting an existential loneliness associated with the stark realism of Edward Hopper. Fernandez said she especially studied Spanish artist Diego Velazquez, who influenced Hopper.
“I admire the way light can be a character in the paintings of Vermeer,” Fernandez said. “I like the interplay of light and dark. I like history and learning the stories about people and places. But in grad school, everyone thought painting was boring.”
Always interested in art, she received encouragement from her mother, who taught her how to make oil paintings when she was only 6. “My mother took us to the South Texas Museum of Art all the time,” Fernandez said. “She wanted us to be educated about art. My parents never told me not to be an artist.” Fernandez grew up in Corpus Christi and had a tight circle of friends until her junior year in high school, when her father got a job at Fort Sam Houston and moved the family to San Antonio. She attended Roosevelt High School.
Although aware she was a lesbian, she didn’t begin dating until she was in college and came out to the art community in the 1990s. But her sexual identity has never been an issue for her. “I was a big tomboy growing up,” she said. “I liked cars and bicycles. I liked building model cars.”
She started out as a history major at the University of Texas at San Antonio, but had an epiphany one day walking past the art department. “I could smell the linseed oil and oil paint and I thought, that’s what I should be learning in school.” However, she wanted to get away from South Texas and decided to apply to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in part because “My dad’s favorite movie is The Blues Brothers.” She spent three years in Chicago studying and working two part-time jobs. “I’ve always been interested in realism, so I painted a lot of landscapes,” she said. “SAIC is where I learned to draw. I took all the figurative drawing classes.”
Accepted into the graduate program at University of California, Los Angeles, Fernandez headed to the West Coast. “I didn’t care what happened,” she said. “I was going to do what I wanted to do. Los Angeles was great. I found a place in Venice and I worked in the coffee shop at Barnes & Noble. I saw a ton of celebrities there, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Anthony Hopkins. But I’m still paying off student loans.” After graduation, she landed a job at Stamps.com. The online company made it possible for individuals to print their own postage stamps using their own photographs. Fernandez’s job was to make sure the images weren’t going to offend the U.S. Postal Service. She was laid off in 2009 after the financial crisis hit.
“Los Angeles was great, but I had a relationship that ended and decided my home was in San Antonio,” Fernandez said. “It’s the place where I’ve always felt the most creative.”
In her latest, "New Watercolors," Fernandez returns to her roots as she takes snippets of her life — be it on her drive to work or a park to shell out more raspas — using her camera and cellphone. The exhibit will open Saturday, March 12, from 5 to 11 p.m. at Silkworm Studio and Gallery (1906 S. Flores St.).
The images can include anything from fresh catfish sold to a local grocer to restaurant store fronts, like Gorditas, a gouache watercolor that features the custom signage found in most mom-and-pop, hole in the wall joints. It's true — caldo and menudo are served daily.
Though 90 percent of the estimated dozen 9-by-12-inch paintings Fernandez will create for the show feature scenes from her usual routine, we might have to wait a little longer for scenes from inside Chamoy City Limit.
"It's about 50/50 [drawing and truck]. It's our slower season, but last summer it was a 90/10. I didn't paint very much at all," Fernandez said.
Instead, she'll stick with teaching her truck employees about color theory using fresh-shaved ice, house-made syrups and Chinese candy.
"I like having the business because it's completely separate and I love meeting the food people. To me the food is more exciting right now," Fernandez said.
No raspas yet, but it can't be too long as summer and its heat approaches. She'll have to find a way to get out of the sun somehow.
Photo by Josh Huskin
Even in the winter, customers have been known to wait in line for an hour or more for one of Ana Fernandez’s Komodo Dragons. The tangy, colorful shaved ice treat flavored with house-made syrup is just one in a lineup of creative flavors offered from Chamoy City Limits, the little sister of Fernandez’s Institute of Chili food truck. Launched last year, Chamoy will introduce a new lineup of flavors this summer, all served with visual flair, reflecting Fernandez’s other career as an artist.
What new flavors are on tap for this summer?
In addition to the classic flavors like cherry and blue coconut, we’re expanding our line of all-natural house syrups this season. Chili Queen’s Tiger’s Blood is the first one we are going to feature. It’s our own take on the very popular bottled Tiger’s Blood flavor, except ours is all-natural and made using whole fruit and juices—cherries, oranges, grape juice, grapefruit and more. We also make a seasonal Pink Leche flavor from scratch using fresh strawberries, cinnamon and milk—not powdered milk mixes.
How do you come up with your recipes?
The recipes for the syrups and drink combinations are really fun to develop. I like to start with a South Texas classic, such as the Piccadilly (pickles, cherry Kool-Aid, chili salt and lime) and make it our own. In our Piccadilly Circus, for example, we substitute cotton candy for the traditional cherry flavor. The combinations are endless!
What should a newcomer to raspas try?
We’re famous for our chili pepper snow cone syrup and our candied jalapenos. That’s one of the main ingredients in our Komodo Dragon, which is a sour, hot and tangy shaved ice served with cucumbers that includes a base of pickle brine and chili salt. The Chango, which is pickle brine and chamoy, is a favorite and the Isle of Misfits is also a huge seller. It features piña colada with green chamoy, pickles, Sour Patch kids and Kool-Aid.
Chamoy City Limits, 210-744-0000, chamoycitylimits.com
Ana Fernandez added shaved ice creations to her food truck offerings this year. She now runs two popular San Antonio trucks: the Institute of Chili, which serves up traditional chuck wagon dishes, and Chamoy City Limits, which serves shaved ice treats with spicy and sweet toppings.
Red chamoy (ready-made, available in specialty stores or online)
Green sour chamoy (recipe below)
For the green sour chamoy:
3 seeded jalapeńos
1 large pickle
2 skinned plums (pickled in a two-day brine)
1 cup pineapple, macerated (soaked in simple syrup)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup salt
2 tsp. citric acid
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Put vinegar and sugar in a heavy pot and heat on low until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat. Then add salt, citric acid and corn starch. Stir until dissolved. Add macerated pineapple. In a food processor, blend jalapeño, pickle and plums until smooth and add to mixture in pot. Use as a spicy/sour topping for the mangonada. To assemble, layer green chamoy and mango sorbet in a glass dish, green chamoy on the bottom, then sorbet. Coat the top of the sorbet with red chamoy. Sprinkle with chili salt and fresh lime.
The Institute of Chili
While many historians point to the Texas chuck wagon as the precursor to American food trucks, they often overlook the female vendors who used to sell their Mexican fare in the open-air markets like San Antonio's El Mercado. Dubbed the "chili queens" because of their spiced offerings like chili con carne, they "were the original mobile-truck vendors in San Antonio," says Ana Fernandez, a city native and artist who owns the popular Institute of Chili.
Her truck pays homage to the female food pioneers of her state via their spirit and recipes — a fresh take that is attracting the attention of foodies and historians alike.
Fernandez learned her craft by helping out on the tamale line. "My grandmothers were both cooks. They used to make tamales to sell to friends and neighbors," recalls Fernandez. "Cooking wasn't a fancy production. It was a way for women to make a living."
While she considered attending culinary school, she instead went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by the University of California-Los Angeles. She then moved back to affordable San Antonio to paint. Living in the hub of the artist-centric King William neighborhood, she walked down the street during the festive open gallery nights and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to have an old-school taco truck to sell here."
That thought came to the forefront when she was let go from her part-time job driving riverboats on San Antonio's famous Riverwalk just three days before Christmas. "I had nothing. I was hustling to sell my painting and it just clicked. 'I should do a food truck.'" What she lacked in money, she made up in moxie, borrowing from her mom, aunt and art patrons. She even sold her car to purchase an old 1978 fruit truck (the same type coincidentally used by Jon Favreau's character in the food-truck comedy Chef.)
"I went all in. All I had was my bicycle and my food truck." Lacking the funds to wrap the truck in logos like other fancy purveyors, Fernandez spent $60 and painted it herself; designed the logo; and decked it out with festive tissue-paper "fiesta flowers." To pay homage to the "chili queens," her first recipe was a deluxe Frito pie with chile, pork tamales, chili and a fried egg with cheese called The Roosevelt, after Teddy Roosevelt who was said to have loved the dish when he visited Texas.
In keeping with her modern chuck wagon theme, she added other campfire-inspired things to her menu, like her grandmother's fideo con pollo, brisket tacos and short ribs and waffles made with an 88-year-old waffle iron she found.
Fernandez works seven days a week, selling in a food truck park as well as local parks around the city, and the pace has paid off. She appeared on the travel food series MotoChefs with chef Aaron Sanchez, and her chili was rated best in the U.S. by Food & Wine magazine. This last spring, she launched a new food truck concept called Chamoy City Limits, which specializes in traditional shaved ices, raspas, with fun toppings including tamarindo and homemade chamoys (a pickled fruit condiment).
"Operating this truck is my cultural and culinary heritage. It's hard work, but it's worth it," she says.
The folks at Alamo Street Eat Bar are probably used to all the film crews after July’s “Eat St.” filming.
On Tuesday night the food truck park and bar was paid yet another film crew visit, this time by “Aquiles en Houston” host Aquiles Chavez and Aaron Sanchez, chef and owner of Centrico, who’s appeared on Food Network’s “Chopped”, “Chefs vs City” and as a season one contestant on “The Next Iron Chef.”
The duo was in town to visit with the Institute of Chili, owned by Ana Fernandez.
“The producer said two celeb chefs would be coming, but I had no idea Aaron would be here,” says Fernandez who watches “Chopped” nightly.
Because of the truck’s tight space, filming took more or less four hours. The production crew filmed Fernandez making her famous chili, and preparing the truck’s most popular item, “The Bomb,” which features brisket on a bun topped with chili, a fried egg and cheese. The chefs also talked about the history of the truck which brings to light the history of the Chili Queens of San Antonio.
The episode will be aired in South America, Mexico and some Fox affiliates in the States sometime in March.
Follow the Institute of Chili on Facebook and Twitter.
September 21, 2012
Ana Fernandez paints cinematic scenes of her hometown — a pickup parked out front of a West Side cottage — but her sensibility is more David Lynch than Disney.
“I combine familiar domestic elements with subtle, sometimes eerie, hints of the unknown,” says the local artist, one of eight in “San Antonio Painters II,” through Nov. 17 at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center.
Following on the heels of the popular summer show “San Antonio Painters,” part two also features the work of Bryson Brooks, Chrys Grummert, Megan Harrison, Chris Sauter, Corbin Spring, Cornelia White Swann and Jason Willome.
The exhibition was again juried and curated by Barbara MacAdam, deputy editor of ARTnews magazine, who reviewed slides from more than 130 local artists and made numerous studio visits.
“It's very distinctive work,” she said, “hovering between abstraction and figuration, continually moving back and forth.”
From Swann's “luscious and sexy” pure abstraction to Brooks' grids to Harrison's large representation of a rat (it will haunt your dreams), the exhibition offers a wide cross section of San Antonio painters.
“You go someplace and you think, ‘Oh, this stuff is going to be so derivative,' but then you discover some very interesting work and by the end you are completely taken in,” MacAdam said of her San Antonio experience.
By Robert Rivard
First Friday-goers: Be nice to the food truck workers tonight. It’s hard ass work, the pay is iffy, the tips meager, and you’ve been drinking. Oh yeah, the tasty food you just ordered will be ready in minutes, and you’ll probably get change back on a $10 bill. I know all these things because I spent a hot Friday night as a food truck worker.
I worked a shift for Ana Fernandez, the artist who owns the Institute of Chili(formerly the Chili Queens) food truck based at the Alamo Street Eat-Bar.
Fernandez said it wasn’t clear legally if she could continue to use the Chili Queens name that hearkens back to the Mexican-American women who sold prepared food in Military Plaza in the 1800s. You can see old photographs of the Chili Queens and their customers at the Witte Museum’s South Texas Heritage Center.
“The food we serve is like the food the Chili Queens served, a mix of Tex-Mex and cowboy, the food that was born here in San Antonio,” Fernandez said. Both her food and her art seem rooted, literally, in her sense of place here. “I am a chili queen, it’s my culinary heritage.”
Fernandez earned a fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago and then a fine arts graduate degree from UCLA. A Corpus Christi native, she experienced life in Chicago and Los Angeles, but found San Antonio offered the right mix of urban life and South Texas culture. Her paintings have been included in an exhibition at the McNay Art Museum, and she has pieces in the permanent collection at UTSA. Collectors from Texas to California have bought her work.
Fernandez still needs to supplement her income, and she isn’t the type to look for 9 to 5 work. Before finding her 1978 Chevrolet truck, a former Frito-Lay vehicle, on Craig’s List, Fernandez worked as a river barge driver. The job paid $6 an hour plus tips and required her to deliver a mind-numbing script to tourists, a spiel that wasn’t exactly designed to engage people intellectually about the city and its history.
So these days Ana, as regulars know her, is in the truck six nights a week, open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. That doesn’t count the hours spent, shopping, cooking, opening and closing.
The late hours, I learned, is why the men includes breakfast tacos.
“The tacos are for the 1 a.m. crowd, the people who have been drinking all night, you can see it in their eyes,” said Jenn Villanueva, the truck cook and friend of Fernandez. Villanueva, a San Antonio native, commutes down to work here from her day job as a private chef in Austin. “People have been out all night and they come here to eat before they go home.”
Mayor Julián Castro is calling this the Decade of Downtown. I’d say 2012 is the Year of the Food Truck in San Antonio. Momentum has been building for two years in terms of the growing number of food truck permits issued, the city’s downtown pilot program and the establishment of food truck court locations. Food trucks have finally become a permanent part of the urban fabric. You can even download a free San Antonio food truck app, the work of SWEB Development, located blocks away from the Alamo Eat-Bar on South St. Mary’s Street.
So, wondering about the economics of the food truck business as much as the culture of the food truck community, The Rivard Report decided to get a truck-level view. Everyone dreams of owning a bar or restaurant. It all seems so romantic from the customer side of the counter. I have family in the food business and knew better. Friday night was refresher course in reality. I’m not saying I didn’t have fun, because I did, but…
My shift began hauling dirty pots and pans to the food truck court’s kitchen, where Fernandez scrubbed everything used to prep the evening fare. We no sooner returned to the truck when I was sent back out.
“Take this $5 and go up front and ask the guys for two bags of ice,” Fernandez said. At least they trust me with the money, I told myself, walking off.
The beer bar is the center of the Alamo Eat-Bar universe, I patiently waited while Dale Johnson, the quiet guy with the Wyatt Earp handlebar mustache, attended a growing line of customers ordering premium beer on draft. I took advantage of the wait and checked on my old Peugeot roadie locked in the street front bike rack, a paranoid reflex that started a few months ago when my wife Monika’s new townie was stolen from our Lavaca front porch.
My bike had a lot of company as more people flowed in from all sides for an early meal or an end-of-the-week beer. I collected the ice and trudged back to the food truck with a bag on each shoulder. A few vaguely familiar customers stared: “You working here now?”
A food truck park has a rhythm, and the early evening belongs to couples and their kids, and couples with no kids and their dogs. The kids seem content petting the dogs, sitting in the gravel, running free. Alamo Eat-Bar does not offer the familial amenities found at the nearby The Friendly Spot, although both businesses are owned and operated by Jody and Steve Newman. The playground at The Friendly Spot would make a great edition to Alamo Eat-Bar, but the space is smaller and there is a scruffy authenticity to the Eat-Bar that comes from its predecessor, the Acapulco Drive Inn, which closed in 2011. The Newmans lease the property from its owner, Guillermo Nicolas, and there are no plans at this point to make any substantial changes or improvements.
Six trucks occupy fulltime spaces, although they might come and go.
“It’s been a fun business to create and operate,” Jody said. “It’s organic and growing and still only three months old, so we are still in the watch-and-wait phase. Our goal is for one of our truck operators to be successful enough to one day open a stand-alone restaurant in Southtown.”
Authenticity means some bad comes with the good. The bathrooms are pretty grim, about the only complaint I’ve heard as a regular customer myself. The Newmans bring in Porta-potties for the First Friday crowd.
“It’s a 1937 building, which has the kitsch everybody loves and is worth protecting and preserving, but it also has its drawbacks,” Jody said. The Rivard Report agrees, but also believes great cities have great downtowns which have great bathrooms. God help us if Urban Robert visits, I thought to myself during a shift break.
Ana and Jenn took advantage of a slow stretch to teach me how to turn ice into slush and make a raspa, one of their signature offerings. It took me awhile to make my way through the bottles of available syrup flavors, and I had to ask for help filling my first order, which came from a little girl in the company of her mother .
“What flavor would you like, young lady?” I asked, leaning way out the food truck window. “Red,” she said, smiling. Red. There are about 10 red raspa syrups, ranging from watermelon to chamoy, some kind of sour apricot. Big Red, Ana said. The kids want Big Red.
Ana and Jenn did most of the actual work while I savored the differences between the classic chili on cornbread versus the vegetarian chili on cornbread. Even with a small window unit blowing, it’s hot in the confines of the truck with a hot grill fired up. I took every opportunity to deliver food orders to customers seated at nearby picnic tables, a nice Chili Queens touch. If they get real busy, you collect your food at the delivery window. Iff they have time, they deliver the food to your table.
Entrepreneurs with good credit and lot of faith can spend up to $80,000 on a custom, state-of-the-art food truck. It might not be as expensive as opening a restaurant, but’s a big time small business bet that few would be able to justify in terms of return on investment.
Fernandez bought her used truck in north San Antonio from a former produce vendor for less than $15,000, and didn’t have to do much to turn it into a food truck. She spent another $3,000 on a grille and other improvements, and will soon add an exhaust vent to complement the windows and the small air conditioner. I suggested an oscillating fan to keep employee morale high.
Add to the startup costs the monthly truck court rent, diesel and propane fuel, food (Ana, you’re out of Sirachi!) and labor costs, and it takes several $1,000 nights just to climb out of the red each month. That’s an easy sum to make when you’re slammed on a First Friday, or a Fourth of July, but weekday nights can be slow, especially for a new location. On the Friday I worked, business was slow for all six food trucks. The mercury climbed above the 100 degree mark and that seemed to affect appetites. People hang, people drink, but people don’t eat a lot when it’s that hot.
Ana and Jenn split tips, but most customers do not tip. Part of the food truck appeal is affordability. Credit card charges for a $2 raspa are not uncommon. The average food and drink order comes to less than $10. A 15-20% tip is considered customary — if not mandatory — in a restaurant. No such social tradition exists in a food truck court, although the beer bar tip jar always seems full. A buck in the bucket at a truck is a good tip. It’s also the exception to the rule, in my limited experience.
A large man in a wheelchair waved me out of the truck for a consult. How are the servings here? Very good, I assure him. Ample? Quite ample, yes sir. How ample? Ana signals me: Give him whatever he needs. I return to the truck and spoon up a triple serving of chili over cornbread and walk it back out. Got any extra cornbread? Okay, I say. Make it a couple extra servings, friend, and make it all to go. I take the food back inside and Ana helps me wrap everything nicely in aluminum foil and then bag it. The man motors off toward home, a warm bag of dinner in his lap, promising to return soon.
I’ll be back to check out the action on First Friday and probably sample the good food at some of the other trucks: The DuckTruck, Attaboy, Tapa Tapa, Wheelie Gourmet, and Where Y’at. I like them all. It’ll be nice to have a Friday off and just be a customer. Remind me to leave a good tip.Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.
Parked just a short walk from the Alamo in a bustling food truck park called Alamo Street Eat Bar, the truck offers traditional and updated chili dishes: chili on a brisket burger, chili on fajita tacos, chili on tamales, and, of course, straightforward chili served with cornbread. Ana says that “The Institute of Chili” is following in the footsteps of a celebrated group of business women, cooks in the 1800’s and early 1900’s who operated open-air diners in San Antonio’s market square. They “were the original mobile truck vendors in San Antonio.”
American writers like Stephen Crane (Red Badge of Courage) wrote about their first taste of Mexican food as they sat at these diners run by indigenous Mexican women. Crane recalled in 1895 that “upon one of the plazas, Mexican vendors with open-air stands sell food that tastes exactly like pounded fire-brick from Hades — chili con carne, tamales, enchiladas, chili verde, frijoles.” (Jennings)
“Chili,” the anglicized term, for “Chile,” stuck in the English vocabulary and to this day is used to refer to any of the array of chiles used in Mexican cuisine. But the name also came to be used to refer to the actual women restaurateurs. “Chili Queens,” they called them. San Antonio native, Annie Madrid Salas exclaims, “I don’t know who named them the chili queens, probably some gringo!” (Silva & Nelson, 2004)
Open-air restaurants are an ancient Native American tradition. Surviving native documents record that prepared foods were a feature of markets in Tlatelolco, Mexico, founded in 1338. Cooks served tamales, tortillas, atole, beans, chocolate and variously filled and stuffed tortillas. (Solis & Gallegos, 2000). Ballinger, Texas was the site of a huge market fair that annually convened thousands of Texas Indians for trade in the 1400’s.
“We are the new chili queens,” says Ana, explaining that her cooking is part of a larger history and of community. “I’ve always loved to cook and to serve food to friends, to all people.” Having learned about the “chili queens” when she was in high school, Ana is not only identifying with them now, she is also moving their legacy a step forward. “The Institute of Chili” is a serious business.
A business just like the outdoor tables of those ladies who preceded the male dominated “TexMex” restaurants that sprouted up in the early 1900’s, just at the same time that the “chili queens” were being shut down by the city of San Antonio health department. Dr. Felix Almaráz, Professor of History at The University of Texas at San Antonio says, “Alamo Plaza was more for Caucasians and business people, politicans. …the chili queens were considered an eyesore because their little setups were not, they were not ‘high tone’”
He laments, “When they were here, we didn’t protect them. We didn’t know that there would be bureaucrats who would come at them. And try to get them either to reform or to change or to move out. And it seems that they moved them out.” (Silva & Nelson, 2004)
With her modern menu featuring artfully-blended Brisket Tacos, Ana Fernandez is proclaiming that they are back.
“We really are honored and excited…to pay homage to the original chili queens. We are really grateful for everyone who comes by the truck to support a new generation of chili queens.”
By Sarah Fisch
May 26th, 2012
George Bernard Shaw suggested that every five to seven years, a person should appear before a committee to justify his or her continued existence. Without the attendant possibility that their lease on life might not be renewed, the eight participants in last night’s PechaKucha rose to just that kind of challenge. There are few spectator experiences so rewarding as to engage with somebody who plain-out loves something.
On Thursday night, a lively crowd overflowed the HQ of the Architecture Foundation of San Antonio in the Full Goods Building at the Pearl complex, home to the San Antonio iteration of PechaKucha, the Tokyo-born, now worldwide program of locally held show and tell gatherings. Presenters have six minutes and 40 seconds to do their thing. That’s 20 slides, 20 seconds each, with a running monologue. They can talk about their work, their passions, or make it an apologia of their aesthetics and ethos, or simply to experiment. This is the fourth San Antonio iteration of Pecha Kucha I’ve attended, and the sixth in San Antonio, orchestrated by the Architecture Foundation of San Antonio, the redoubtable Lake/Flato architect Vicki Yuan, and writers Ben Judson and Callie Enlow.
Although the format’s constrained — or rather, perhaps, because the format’s constrained, it’s fascinating to watch as different thinkers compress or stretch to fit into it. There’s a subversive utility in thinking inside the box — think of the rewards yielded by the formal criteria of a fugue, a yurt, or villanelle. Also note that it’s always the grocery store and hardware materials challenges that get the Project Runway folks on their best game.
There have been presenters over the series of evenings who’ve treated the platform as more or less a Powerpoint presentation. This can be very effective — months ago Diana Kersey, ceramicist, documented the painstaking process of her fine art and her object-based, consumerable work, through her series of slides which showed the various processes she’s mastered. It left the crowd having learned something not only about the woman, but the woman at work. Justin Boyd, sound artist, undercut the visual element of Pecha Kucha, using each “slide” as a caption to state the location and date of the 20-second audio sample he played in conjunction, working outwards in his field recordings from the crowded muffle of an elevator’s interior to the majestic openness of a seaside. Other presenters have allowed the slide show to supplement the verbal points they make, rather than sectioning their verbiage into slide-by-slide commentary.
The great appeal of the Pecha Kucha formula lies in its meta-didactic angle, and its economy. There’s almost nothing so boring that you can’t sit and listen for six minutes and 40 seconds, and best case (and more likely) scenario is that you’ll learn something.
"...Newberry provided a good set-up for artist/chili queen Ana Fernandez, no slouch in the absurdism department. Although an in-demand and accomplished painter, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago and UCLA, with a sold-out one-woman show at Joan Grona among her recent credits and an exhibition up currently at Austin’s Women and Their Work gallery, she chose instead to focus on her reign as a Chili Queen. A disclaimer: I collaborated with Fernandez on the catalog copy for her Austin show, and on some of the early copy for her Chili Queen concept. So I can’t be objective.
But I was surprised and impressed that her attitude towards her different modes of artmaking could be summed up thusly; yeah, I’m a painter. Meanwhile, I lost my job as a Paseo del Rio barge driver (true story!) and decided to buy a taco truck, use my talent for cooking, and honor the original Chili Queens of the 19th-into-the-mid-20th century, who sold chili by the bowl in public plazas to swells and workers alike.
Fernandez developed a recipe using the flavor profiles and traditional ingredients favored in Chili Queen heyday. She’s incorporated them into craze-inducing dishes including “The Roosevelt” and “The Bomb.” Very cannily, she featured slides of the food. The audience swooned and gasped. She was funny, too, describing her Botanica to Go, also housed in her taco truck, the signal product of which is a line of incense which, depending on which you buy, ensures friend-requests on Facebook or the ability to control others.
The Chili Queens food truck at Alamo Eats Bar
The Chili Queens food truck at Alamo Eats Bar
Beamer went all puzzled in his follow-up, re-iterating Fernandez’ impressive educational and artistic background. She explained that she cooks at certain times, and paints at other times. It’s not so crazy. She loves good food and the chili queen tradition, so she’s doing that too. She manages a humor in everything without anything being a joke, or an ironic pseudo-dive into the service industry. Contemporary painter? Yup. Chili Queen? Yes."
By Bryan Parker
May 28, 2012
The work of San Antonio artist Ana Fernandez is stark and realistic, imaginative and surreal. In 2011, Fernandez described her art to the online Latino-focused magazine Gozamos.com as “naturalistic and realistic with elements of the fantastic. Supermantural.” The artist in her own words provides as apt a description as anyone could.
The paintings that comprise the show Real Estates and Other Fictions, on display now at Women and Their Work gallery in Austin, TX, are based on Fernandez’s own San Antonio neighborhood. The installation itself emerges as a neighborhood of sorts. The small, framed gouache on paper works on display as you first enter the space are a well manicured lawn, lush and even, that beckon you deeper into the collection. Fernandez’s larger works of oil on cavas are simply breathtaking on first view. Her use of color is impeccable—the black shades are deep and the vibrant pinks, yellows, and blues found on cars and the siding of homes pop with vigor.
Oil is a perfect medium for Fernandez’s multi-faceted paintings, as the paint itself possess depth and complexity. Like a real life neighborhood, the paintings of homes seem innocuous at first, but hide their secrets in shadows, stillness, and simplicity. The outer placidity of the paintings, like an average American neighborhood, begs the question: what lurks beneath that veneer? For example, a police crime scene tape is almost lost in the horizontal brush strokes of the street in front of one of the homes, yet is prominently in the foreground.
Several of the paintings are titled with numbers, often house addresses, acting as a mystic numerology, as the numbers are found in tiny display within the works. The encompassing darkness and ominous spiked fence of “Lions” are as terrifying as the eerie bats flying atop “210.” Many of the paintings, such as “Caninus” and “717,” possess an uncanny symmetry, adding to the foreboding atmosphere of the world Fernandez creates. Even the title of the show (Real Estates and Other Fictions) possesses a contrasting dichotomy, as the opening pair of words implies not only houses, but houses that are real, while the second pair of words belies this idea, instructing the viewer that these representations are, in fact, fictions.
The components represented in Fernandez’s paintings also celebrate her culture and that of the neighborhoods surrounding her home in San Antonio. Especially artifacts of Latino culture, but also American pastimes, are depicted. Moon bounces and dogs stand out as icons that fit these categories, as well as the repetitive use vehicles, parked out front of most of the houses painted in the body of work.
Fernandez’s work embodies light and dark, the sublime and the occult. It simultaneously reflects and hides both the realities and secrets of not just her own neighborhood or ours, but of our own consciousness. The show runs through June 21, and is highly recommended. Drop by Women and Their Work at Lavaca and 17th and check it out.
Tags: #anafernandez, #art, #artexhibit, #womenandtheirwork
By Luke Quinton
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Special to the American-Statesman
Ana Fernandez has a thing for investigating houses. Specifically, she has a thing for visiting the homes where murders had taken place: the house (surprisingly small) where O.J. Simpson's ex-wife was killed, the Manson house (where construction workers let her roam the grounds) and lesser-known homes whose stories caught her interest.
But Fernandez isn't a private investigator; she's an artist. There was something about seeing a house in person that gave her a truer idea of the place.
When she moved back to San Antonio after nine years in California, the front yards of Texas became her muse again, the way you could guess at a home's interiors by carefully documenting the decorations in the yard and the cars in the driveway.
"It's as if what's inside is coming outside," Fernandez says from San Antonio.
Her investigations do attract some attention, though. One man pulled up to see Fernandez framing his house in a photograph with some balloons.
"I got three balloons at a florist's and was driving around and found the house that had the exact type of light that I needed," Fernandez says.
"I'm an artist," she told the man.
The result of that streetside balloon study is a gorgeous and eerie painting that dominates a wall at Fernandez's new solo show at Women and Their Work.
Fernandez doesn't paint the yards exactly as she sees them — it's how she imagines them. From the light of those three balloons she painted one of those truck-sized balloon hearts. Its red and white balloons glow in exquisitely rendered light, left out to glow in the dark, long after the party's over.
"That painting in particular was about a relationship I had had. The house kind of symbolized it a little bit," Fernandez says. "It's kind of like a mirage."
Houses hold some of our strongest memories. We all know people who seem to form an almost symbiotic relationship with the home they've made.
"We were always moving around a lot as a kid. The only places that remained constant were our grandmothers' houses," Fernandez says.
"Maybe that's why I'm so obsessed with houses."
She grew up in Corpus Christi, and now, cruising through the San Antonio neighborhoods inside Loop 410, the homes she paints often remind her of her grandmothers' homes.
The first one that became a painting was "210," a painting of a bungalow and a car that, she says, "Kind of summed up San Antonio, rolled it up all into one." The car has the San Antonio area code (210) stickered on the back, and the words "Most Hated" in big cursive letters on the side.
The car really exists. After she'd painted it, Fernandez saw its owner, reaching for food at a What-a-Burger drive-through with "this manicured hand that had pink painted fingernails."
"I guess the car is so cool people hate on it," Fernandez muses with a laugh.
A house isn't just a house. Paint choices, flags in the window, slogans on the car, the look of dogs, the plants, statues and recycling bins, they all contribute, Fernandez says. "The soul of the house radiates out there and manifests itself in decorations."
This isn't documentary work, though. Many different elements become one composite of the house, with Fernandez's own penchant for evoking mystery.
And you won't find the owners of these homes. "I see the houses as portraits," she says. "Painting the people is a distraction."
"I kind of see (the houses) as a cinematic scene. I want the car to be the protagonist; I want the piñata to be the protagonist."
And that's exactly what happens. Two piñatas, a snowflake and a ghost, float ominously over one house. There is a yellow ribbon in the foreground that says "Crime Scene." Most houses are decorated with Christmas lights, which light up the eaves year-round.
They're subtly surreal. One home's lawn mirrors itself: two white cars, two dog statues, two oleanders.
In Texas, our vehicles are also a vehicle for culture, literally.
Fernandez operates a food truck on Alamo Street in the grand tradition of San Antonio's Chili Queens, a job that came to her after she lost her job as a riverboat tour guide. ("I had a little fender bender on the boat," she says.)
In her painting, there's a bit of Goya and a little David Hockney, but more importantly, there's a fresh look at Texas' front doors, and the mystery of what's behind them.
'Ana Fernandez: Real Estates and Other Fictions'
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays through June 21
Where: Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca St.
Info: 477-1064, www.womenandtheirwork.org
Interview: Ana Fernandez
by Darrell Roberts
June 22, 2011
Can you tell us about your education background, where you lived and went to art school?
I received my BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and my MFA from the University of California at Los Angeles. Prior to that I’d taken lots of drawing and sculpture classes at San Antonio Community College, where I now teach.
What did you get most out of your education and how were the two schools rewarding and different?
As an undergraduate at SAIC, I learned how to paint. The first oil painting I did was a still life: Diet Coke and a plate of white rice (with eggroll) from Sonny’s Cafeteria. It was terrible. During my senior year, I chose to take advanced figure studio classes, rather than independent study, because I wanted to work directly with Susanna Coffey and Dan Gustin. I learned so much from them.
Whereas, in comparison, UCLA was like a paint bomb in a bag of stolen money that went off in my face.
Who did you work with at UCLA?
Most influential to me were my primary advisors, Nancy Rubins and Lari Pittman. I worked with others as well. UCLA was difficult. I stopped painting during the second year and started making large-scale collages in preparation for my thesis show. Although I had gotten mixed reviews from faculty, the show sold-out. Very shortly thereafter the legendary Patricia Faure gave me my very first show at her gallery in Santa Monica.
Can you describe your studio practice?
”Studio practice”. That sounds so tedious. My schedule allows me time to paint every day, but I don’t. I spend a lot of time doing other things that support the work. I get my best ideas while driving around, for example.
What are your favorite painting tools and techniques?
Oil paint is my favorite. But, gouache (opaque watercolor) is a very close second. I love the matte finish that a gouache painting has. I like to describe it as ”liquid pastel” because that’s what it feels like to me. I love it because its difficult.
When is your next exhibition?
I have several projects scheduled for 2012, including a solo exhibition at Joan Grona Contemporary Art and an exhibit at The Institute of Texan Cultures, both in San Antonio, TX.
By Gabriel Diego Delgado
Hither and Thither
A Curatorial Juxtaposition of Environment vs. Aesthetics
Artwork of Darrell Roberts and Candace Briceño
-San Antonio, TX. Hither and Thither, a two person exhibition at Joan Grona Contemporary Art Gallery that opens Sept. 1, 2011 and runs through the month is the brain-child of Guest Curator and San Antonio talent, Ana Fernandez. Her first guest curatorial endeavor, Fernandez eloquently weaves a web of playful pictorial deceit with a color and theoretical apposition of environment acting as leading contextual elements in a comprehensively critical and analytical exhibition. Working on several conceptual levels, Hither and Thither takes the viewer through an overwhelmingly quantitative world of heavily textured paintings divvied with incongruously drawn and dreamy, Neverland-channeling artworks.
Darrel Roberts, inspired by the ever present construction-site landscape of the “Urban” spread of Chicago, creates works of art that successfully attempt to capture that unrelenting buzz and hum of the inner city Chicago heartbeat. On the other hand, Magic Hat #9, a drawing series is a composite of 24 works on paper that metaphorically mimics the late evening and nocturnal sensibility of rural Vermont. Fernandez couples this visual display of pure painterly emotion with a new and fresh, but border-line poignantly playful and garishly distorted Wonderland-esque landscapes by Austinite Candace Briceño.
Taking all aspects of view-ability into account, Fernandez captures a kind of curatorial cornucopia, doing justice to these two unique artists by finely walking the ultimate and questionably ethical art based curatorial role of when does the “organizer” stop being a Curator and cross that hampered line to Installation Artist. Fernandez’s ability to analyze audience demeanor plays a concrete role in her aesthetic decisions of how and why to hang the overall exhibition. Working with 50 plus paintings by Darrell Roberts, Fernandez’s decision to anticipate a right to left viewing enabled her to think conceptually and intuitively when hand-picking the individual paintings. Then expressively designing an exhibition wall composition reminiscent of what she visualizes as a whimsical explosion of a dandelions blowing in the wind; a concentrated curatorial effort to display an asymmetrical but fairly random alignment. This is all achieved by building up the arrangement of canvases to a larger cluster of overpowering and multi-layered cityscapes, popping in very small and randomly placed paintings. These miniscule artworks are subtly different than their immediate company, in that at their core they exist only to capture a few moments in time when the artist’s eye rests for a minimal amount of time on arbitrary peripheral elements like building facades, water reflections, horizons and other miscellaneous banality.
Roberts makes sure we are all well aware of his coveted artistic lineage to the historical forefathers of Abstract Expressionism-with his deliberate color soirees; emotionally driven abstract paintings that take on aspects of sculpture, but hold true to a two dimensional security. Roberts comments on his ability to “condense the Macho Man” of the Abstract Expressionist era and micro-size the scale, but maintain the signature expressive attributes of overall composition and gestural flare.
Featured on the right wall of the gallery, Candace Briceño’s art has trouble holding ground to such adjacent color explosions. However, her minimally hued agave sculptures convey an organic responsiveness to the exhibition; that up until now was an absent artistic contribution. Her simplistically brilliant and ephemeral sense of nature is only reinforced by her material choice. Felt, a fabric lending itself to a distinct look and feel is the perfect selection for sculpture- albeit an entirely opposite characteristic of the real deckled leaf features of this native plant. White, with one color accents, these carefully constructed Oldenberg-ish sculptures are a breath of relief and a much needed visual break in this color saturated environment.
On pedestals placed through-out the gallery sit Briceño’s mushroom sculptures; eloquently contrasting the garish and gritty paintings of Roberts. Potentially threatened by his overpowering and parasitically pigmented painterly pieces, Briceño’s clean linear seams and meticulous constructive qualities of the fungi prove to be key components that highlight the artist’s intention on overall presentation. Evident is her intuitive understanding of artistic gestalt; fluid are her aesthetic decisions concerning such cartoony and suggestive low-brow subject matter.
Solidifying this first curatorial effort is Ana Fernandez’s choice to create a visual juxtaposition on the immediate left wall of the gallery space. A wall never used to capacity previously, Fernandez is able to maximize spatial limitations while creating an environment that changes the meaning of both artists work into a curatorial derived environment. Roberts’ drawings from the Magic Hat #9 series make up a pictorial grid- now construed into a visual assimilation of an all too familiar skyscraper facade. Systematically placed in front of this wall is the larger of two agave plant sculptures, titled Agave #1. Now more decorative landscaping and curb appeal aesthetic than artist owned imagery, this Austin based sculptor’s intent is assimilated into an overall visual cue- organized by one curator’s vision.
In the end, a one local’s curatorial revelation plays a solid hand against two poker faced artists, each grappling with a hidden sense of communal acceptance and environmental analysis; eluding to a distorted but inviting artistic paradise.
Intern, UTSA Art Collection
By Lenora Weakley
March 9, 2011
Ana Fernandez subtly, but surely captures a bit of the old masters into her contemporary work. Fernandez creates a hybrid of South Texas culture and surrealism. The artist recently showed a series of oil paintings at the Joan Grona Gallery in the Blue Star Arts Complex.
Fernandez' eerie mood is inspired by Goya, but the artist's methods for rendering a mysterious sensation are her own. Fernandez uses a great amount of contrast, greatly appealing to one's curiosity. Several paintings show houses decorated for festivities, but there is no one there to celebrate, a house is painted in a cheery palate, but just above it ominous birds are rising toward the sad sky. Along with using juxtaposition, the artist's technique is crucial to creating a theatrical tone.
There are more than enough clues to start a narrative, such as a clock in an odd place by the door, a crime scene ribbon across a harmless looking home, a window where there is a picture of a ship on a stormy sea. A puzzling, yet incomplete, storyline is part of the works magnetism. The effects seem effortless, but without the sensitive attention to detail the somber mood of the work is compromised.
The work's atmosphere is reminiscent of surrealist de Chirico. Both painters capture a sense of loneliness, a desolate setting. The lack of figures or people in Fernandez' paintings makes one wonder where everyone has gone off to. What has happened to make everyone disappear? When asking the artist why there are no people she replied that she "did not want them to become the focus of the paintings."
The decision to leave people out has a strong effect on a spectator, the result being a fervent feeling of the enigmatic and wanting to investigate more. Whether it is the lack of people or a highly individualized landscape, there is an air of something missing. While the yards are sprinkled with remnants of inhabitants there is an inescapable feeling of absence.
Yet Fernandez' series does not invoke a sense of impending doom per se; the work is not so much dark as it is cast in shadows. Yes, there is a chord of slight melancholy, but not without a definite note of humor and playfulness. Christmas lights hang from the houses, but it's the wrong season; Spurs posters are up, and two dogs attempt to part ways after a brief "romantic" encounter.
Fernandez has taken elements of romanticism and surrealism incorporating them against the setting of South Texas, bringing out a side of the city where the ghosts are apt to dwell playfully. These paintings promise something new with every visit. The work charms you, draws you in and allures you, all the while never revealing its secrets.
The recent show of works by Ana Fernandez at the Joan Grona Gallery was curated by Arturo Almeida, archivist of the UTSA Art Collection.
By Scott Andrews
February 9, 2011
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
Plaza de Armas Culture/Features
by SARAH FISCH
03 FEBRUARY 2011
"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
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.
San Antonio Express News Arts By ELDA SILVA - STAFF WRITER
February 1, 2011
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."
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.
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: 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.
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!
By N. Reyna Amaya
June 3, 2010
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.
Ana Fernandez \"Texas\" May 8, 2010. Winslow Garage Los Angeles, CA