Mari Hernandez is a multidisciplinary artist. A career in non-profit arts organizations led her to explore socially engaged and identity-based art, as well as its contributions to human and community development. Simultaneously, Hernandez became concerned with the lack of representation of women of color in her arts community in San Antonio, Texas. These experiences deeply influenced her artistic development.
Inspired by appearance altering photographers and early Mexican-American artists, Hernandez began experimenting with self-portraiture to address questions about identity. As a co-founder of the Chicana art collective Mas Rudas (2009-2015), her self-portraits focused on Chicana aesthetic. Her solo practice is guided by these early influences, but Hernandez continues to expand her repertoire and skill base.
What/Who inspired you to become an artist?
I have a strong desire to affect the representation of women of color in the arts. Early in my career, the exposure to contemporary art via Artpace and my community work with grassroots arts, organizations inspired me to become an artist and an arts administrator.
What part of being an artist did you not expect?
Being an artist and working in the arts has completely taken over my life, I didn’t expect for that to happen. I have a full-time studio practice, and I work full-time as an arts manager, there is an interrelationship within this work that helps me develop as an artist. Many of the life decisions I make are a response to maintaining a creative lifestyle. Things like eating habits to where I decide to go on vacation to where I decided to live to accommodate this life. I’ve never been as devoted to something as I am to the arts.
Are there any tips you’d like to share with anyone looking for an art studio?
I suggest remaining flexible. Think about the work you want to create and how much space you need in order to do that. Consider sharing a space with other artists, ask your artist community if anyone has access to a space, or can provide recommendations. When I was looking for a studio, I looked at a variety of options: rooms in commercial offices, renting a house to share with other artists, closed up storefronts, storage units, etc. Space can dictate what you are able to produce, work with what you have access to, and the results can be a pleasant surprise.
Who is a curator you are currently following?
Right now, I’m looking at Lauren Haynes, who was recently promoted to Director of Artist Initiatives and Curator, Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges and the Momentary. She has her finger on the pulse of contemporary art. I’m glad to see a woman of color at the helm of this work.
If you could have lived through an art movement, which one would it be?
I’m interested in the female artists of the surrealist movement, specifically the artists who lived and produced work while in Mexico. They were making radical work for their time, based on dreams and the unconscious. I imagine they would have been an exciting and powerful group to hang out with.
Do you have any podcasts or playlists you recommend?
I love horror and scary stuff. One of my favorite podcasts is Snap Judgement: Spooked. Your question makes me realize that most of the music/playlists I listen to are ones that my husband makes (he’s a DJ). So, I’ll recommend a few groups I have on repeat: Berlin-based duo Nu Guinea, sister duo Ibeyi, and Ruru, who is based in the Philippines.
Who is a voice in the art industry that people should be listening to?
I’m paying close attention to the contemporary artists and work on exhibition at Crystal Bridges and the newly opened Momentary. These spaces seem to be setting a tone for contemporary American Art that is important and inclusive.