Posted on November 06, 2016
Posted on November 05, 2016
Posted on November 05, 2016
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
Posted on November 05, 2016
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.