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Interview with Sergio Hernandez
Questions from Jennifer Bird's students,
Littlerock High School Littlerock, California
1. What inspired you to paint in this style?
Sergio: Dear, (student name) after many years of experimenting with different styles I paint this way because it is the most natural and comfortable for me. I have forced myself in the past to paint in a more formal manner but it is restrictive and confining. However, that's not to say that I discount other forms or styles of art. In fact I'm taking a very basic head, body and drape drawing class by a very respected artist Glenn Vilpuu. You see the trick is to see something (subject) in a different way and to have the basic skills down so you can change it anyway you see fit. If you can't draw it the way it should be then your going to have problems modifying it.
2. Were your parents creative?
Sergio: My father was an excellent artist... he won a high school student scholarship to art school in the 1940's from May Co. However this award was during the depression and he needed to go to work to help support his family. He dropped out of school went to work and then to the US Army to fight in WW2. All during his life he doodled on just about everything like I do!
3. Are you interested in any other forms of art?
Sergio: Yes (name of student) I have carved wood and made things out of clay and concrete. My only problem was that I didn't have a studio of my own. I shared space with my, washer, drier and refrigerator. Just recently I got my own studio and now I have a place of my own where I can have different projects going at one time. I also draw political cartoons. I'm not a writer as you can see but I love to comment on the human condition, the political absurdity and life in general through my cartoons. The AV Press has published several of my cartoons. (Note from Judy Decker: I have several of Sergio's original cartoons and will forward them to an art teacher wishing to do a unit on political cartoons/social commentary)
4. What artists or artists do you look up to most?
Sergio: I love them all... Wyeth, Remington, Russell, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Kandinsky, Norman Irving, Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, the impressionist, Modigliani, Cezanne, the great Masters and I could go on and on... they are all important to me. When I get to a museum you'll catch me staring at a piece... I get the docents nervous... they think I'm a nut, but what I'm looking at is the way the artist deftly put down the paint to suggest light or some other movement...!
5. Why so you use skulls so often?
Sergio: I used the skulls in my "Death of Frida" to illustrate the coming of death to Frida. Also skulls are very prevalent in day of the dead (Dia de Los Muertos) paintings and festivals. You may want to ask your teacher about the Day of the Dead festivals that started in Mexico with the indigenous peoples (Aztec, Mayas) and is spreading to the United States. I also use skulls to to dramatize the death or impending death and destruction in my painting, In "Ghost Dance" you see is the images of the long dead warriors being conjured up by a little girl dancing the ghost dance. The Ghost Dance cult led directly to the "Sand Creek Massacre"...read about the Ghost Dance and you will see how I tried to integrate those many images including the skulls into one painting. My piece, "Night Crossing" (sold last year to the Latino Museum and was featured in the UN Conference catalog on xenophobia and Racism) uses the skull image to illustrate the point that...
6. Did you attend art school? If so where?
Sergio: Yes I did (name of student), I was very lucky as a junior high school student to get a PTA scholarship to one of the premier art schools in the country. I attended Otis Art Institute for one summer. I knew then that I wanted to be a professional artist. The instruction was at a college level and It set the tone for the rest of my life. I also attended and graduated from CSUN where I minored in Art. I've also attended classes at the "Learning tree University" in Chatsworth. I took Children's Book illustration and airbrush, both classes helped me immensely.
7. Do you ever mentor or help other artists?
Sergio: Yes (name of student), I am of the opinion that one of the responsibilities as an artist is to mentor to other artist, especially young emerging artists. I was in a group who's initial mission was to mentor to young artists. What happened is that some of those artist's ego's got in the way and it became a self promotion club with the initial mission forgotten. I dropped out! Like any other profession you have your bizarre, temperamental, egotistical I am always available to answer questions and urge young people to take a shot at the art world. My wife and I urged a young San Fernando art student to try and get into Cal Arts in Valencia, he was really good. I showed him how to put together a portfolio for submission to Cal Arts... make a long story short he got into Cal Arts and received a scholarship...
8. What was the largest artwork you have created?
Sergio: (Name of student) when I was 20 years old I was invited to be one of four artist to paint the first "Chicano Mural" at UCLA, this was about 1970. It was 30 feet x 20 feet and the biggest thing I've worked on.
9. At what age did you decide to be a professional artist?
Sergio: Jason I think I always knew... as soon as I could formulate those thoughts I knew I wanted to draw cartoons, work for Walt Disney or be an artist for Mad Magazine. I loved their cartoons and I even met Mad Magazine artist Sergio Aragones. When I went to Otis at about 15 years or so I was convinced that I wanted a life in art field.
10. I see strong connections to Mexican Art and culture in your work. What sparked this interest?
Sergio: Judy I think when I started CSUN and I took art history classes I was blown away with all the great artist I was beginning to experience. But as a child I used to vacation in Mexico with my parents and saw the original murals of Diego Rivera. I was amazed with his work and I think his work inspired my early work... maybe even still inspires me today!