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 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