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YASMIN HERNANDEZ: ARTIST STATEMENT & BIO

With my art, I reveal clandestine histories. More recently, I have been utilizing alternative surfaces and materials as political signifiers. Each figure depicted in my portraits—whether a freedom fighter, a spiritual deity, or my mom— is disenfranchised and battles to rise above. I portray them as warriors, goddesses and gods in their own right.

My palette is usually inspired by the color associations of the pantheon of Yoruba deities whose influence is felt throughout the African Diaspora. Each deity is associated with a force of nature and its corresponding color, for instance Yemaya is the blue ocean, Shango is red fire, and so on. Even my recent use of burlap or “sackcloth” is associated with the humble deity Babaluaye. I work with this fabric as a metaphor for poverty, humility and struggle and to represent the jíbaros and all farmers and healers who honor and work with the earth.

Other materials are explored in my work to connect its aesthetic and technical aspects with its thematic content. My portrait of a Vieques boy, a chronic asthmatic because of contaminants resulting from decades of US Naval bombing maneuvers, was created on a military tent, a symbol of the source of his suffering. Manila file folders, file labels and paper clips are the materials used for mixed media portraits of so-called “subversives” targeted by FBI surveillance programs for their involvement in the Puerto Rican Independence movement. I have also been using industrial scraps as witnesses to our daily struggles within an increased state of industrialization and militarism. I also incorporate calligraphy. First taught to me by my 8th grade science teacher, a Chinese woman, its use in my work serves as a tribute to 20th century Puerto Rican printmakers whose posters documented the socio-political changes of their homeland.

I find inspiration in past expressive forms of resistance, reconfiguring them within today’s challenges and experiences. In these times of global conflict, I create art that questions notions of comfort and privilege and challenges injustice. My mission is to incite dialogue and action around these issues within the street, grassroots, organizational, campus and institutional levels.


Photo by John James 2005

b. 1975, Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn born, Puerto Rican painter and installation artist Yasmin Hernandez reveals and celebrates the (s)heroes of hidden histories. Her work is rooted in the legacies and struggles of marginalized communities. Daring to comment on topics that few others touch upon, she received an Artist/ Activist of the Year award in 2006 from the NYC-based organization Art for Change. She is also a recipient of the Ramón Feliciano Social Justice Prize from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and a Mujeres Destacadas/ Outstanding Latinas Award by New York-based Spanish-language newspaper, El Diario/ La Prensa.

Her latest series, ARCHIVOS SUBVERSIVOS, explores government surveillance on suspected “subversives” and the political repression targeting the Puerto Rican independence movement and other anti-imperialist struggles. She has received support from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) to expand this project. Another recent series, Soul Rebels, features portraits of poets and musicians whose work challenge injustice. The series debuted as part of the 2005 installment of El Museo’s Bienal: The (S) Files as a site-specific installation created on 8 theater door panels in El Museo's lobby. The highlight of the Soul Rebels unveiling reception was the surprise appearance of featured Soul Rebel, master Latin Jazz pianist/ composer and 9-time Grammy award winner, Mr. Eddie Palmieri. In 2006 Yasmin was invited to present a special second installment of Soul Rebels, when the (S) Files traveled to El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. She was again invited to Puerto Rico to exhibit her work at La Casa Escuté in Carolina during the Second Annual Symposium on African Cultural and Spiritual Traditions in the summer of 2007.

Yasmin attended the LaGuardia High School of the Arts in Manhattan and earned a BFA in Painting from Cornell University. Her painting series, Realidades de Quisqueya, created with a grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts, has been on permanent exhibit at the Cornell Latino Studies Program Offices since 1997. She recently completed a mural celebrating leaders of the women and queer communities for the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People at Oberlin College in Ohio. Currently, the artist is working on another commission documenting 40 years of student activism for the Intercultural Resource Center at Columbia University. Yasmin has a monthly series of talks and slide presentations entitled RebelArte, based on themes of resistance and liberation. The talks are held at the Cemi Underground Bookstore in El Barrio/ East Harlem the last Saturday of each month. A firm believer that art is an empowering vehicle, Yasmin continues to develop community education initiatives on themes of art and liberation and works on a freelance basis to offer educational workshops and develop curricula for school and community groups at El Museo Del Barrio and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Yasmin’s works can be seen alongside personal testimonials and historical narratives on her website, www.yasminhernandez.com.


photo: Rosann Santos

 


 

© Copyright 2002-08, Yasmin Hernandez. Under no circumstances should any of the images or content of this site be downloaded, printed or reproduced without direct permission from the artist.