Higher Ground Books & Media recently interviewed, artist, photographer, and one of our authors, Jen Hernandez. Her art has been featured in the International Women’s Art Exhibit, the Women of Appalachia Project, and as part of the Tejas Millennial Exhibition, to name a few.
Most recently, she completed a project called Naked: the Nude Body Empowerment Project and it is being featured as part of this year’s International Women's Art Exhibition at Ohio University on April 13th, 2020. We asked Ms. Hernandez to answer a few questions for us about the project, art, photography and life. Here’s what she told us:
1. Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up relatively poor in Springfield, Ohio. I was the youngest of three and since we had very little money by the time I came along, I learned to create art with the materials that I could get my hands on. Sometimes I would use old makeup, Kool-Aid, or any other pigment-containing material just to be able to get some color on a page. And my paper wasn’t always paper, either. It was whatever I could use that wouldn’t get me in too much trouble with my parents. I graduated from high school and went on to pursue a music degree at Berklee School of Music in Boston. But I was unable to finish due to receiving a diagnosis of Lupus at the age of 18.
I’ve had to rearrange my plans on more than one occasion; having been married twice, I just never really got going until the second marriage fizzled. It took years for me to recognize myself as an artist and Photographer because I always imagined you had to have some sort of social status to do so. Once I got going, I decided to get certified in Art Therapy and now I teach others art therapy techniques because art helped me to deal with the hardships I encountered throughout my life.
My “day” job is actually in virtual education. I enjoy working on those types of projects as well and even have degrees in Law and Psychology. But my real passion is in doing art.
2. What inspires you?
I am inspired by life. I think we learn something from every part of it. There are lessons in the good and the bad. I feel that if we don't learn something from whatever we go through, then we weren’t paying attention. In particular, I’m inspired by those who aren’t afraid to be themselves. One of the reasons I do a lot of nudes in my artwork and photography is because I think we need to break down the barriers and show the vulnerability of human beings in general. The participants in the Naked project weren’t afraid to show who they really are and there’s nothing more inspiring than that.
3. What has been your most memorable experience as an artist/photographer?
I think that one of my most memorable experiences was my first solo show at The Orphanage Gallery on Front Street in Dayton, Ohio. Quite a few people turned out to see my work, and I got some great feedback from those who attended. Watching people react to my work is an amazing thing for me. I can't wait for everyone to see the exhibit in April at Ohio University.
4. Where can we find your work?
My work is available through Arti St Studio at www.artistreetstudio.com and through my photography company Jen Hernandez Photography. I’m also working on special projects with my sisters, who are both in different phases of their businesses as ‘Empowered Creatives'. I have one sister who is an author and publisher at Higher Ground Books & Media and one sister who is developing all things theater with her company South Wing-G.
5. What words of encouragement do you have for our readers?
Don’t wait to do what you love. I set my art aside for too many years and it always felt as though a piece of my soul was missing. Once I picked it back up, I was whole again. Always make time for the things to which you are called.