Artist Finds Inspiration in the Sky

Mixed media artist Ana María Hernando of Boulder finds inspiration in birds, trees and the natural world

Ana María HernandoANA MARÍA HERNANDO lucked out in lock-down. The artist spent much of COVID-19 quarantine in the south of France, where she was an artist-in-residence at the La Napoule Art Foundation.

“I was very lucky to be there, in the phenomenal chateau on the Mediterranean, in their gardens,” Hernando says.

Back home in Boulder, the multimedia artist is preparing for several exhibitions. Most notable is her indoor show, “Fervor,” which opens Sept. 11 at Denver Botanic Gardens.

“The whole show is about a work I began about birds and sounds of birds. I’ve been paying attention to birds, trees; making the future about trees,” Hernando says.

“In my work, I love to make people intrigued about how other species, other beings, want to be alive,” she says. “How do flowers see the world? What is a bird’s perception of us? I love to see my work open that possibility and curiosity.”

The pandemic made an imprint on Hernando’s artistic understanding of life and death. “After last year and how the whole COVID experience was for the world, I saw how life keeps moving forward with or without us. The whole universe seems called to life,” she says. “When you see water coming down a mountain, the water will find its way down no matter what. That’s how I see life and the enormous intent for life to keep happening.”

Jennifer Doran, co-owner and co-director of Robischon Gallery in Denver, refers to Hernando as “a marvel.” “Ana María Hernan- do and her work often act as a kind of bridge,” Doran says. “As a seasoned artist born in Argentina and residing in Colorado, she embraces the importance of addressing cross-cultural realities while seeking to speak symbolically, through nature, to the best of human nature. Joy and abundance is her message, and beauty is her essential medium.”

Hernando’s mixed-media approach developed organically over the course of her career. “Since I was little, I loved drawing and painting, and I always wanted to be an artist. I always thought I’d be a painter. At that time, art was more divided. You couldn’t move so much from one material to another or, if you did, it would look as if you were not very serious, as if you didn’t know what you wanted,” Hernando says.

“When going to school, my major was painting, but I was doing other things, learning other things. I love painting, but at some point, my paintings began to come out from the canvas. I needed to make more environment, to expand,” she says. She studied art both in her native Argentina and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, receiving a master’s degree, and the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, getting a bachelor of fine arts degree.

For Hernando, working across mediums imparts a creative liberty: “I like that sense of freedom,” she says. “Different materials are like relationships for me. It’s a relationship to discover possibilities of material, and that you can only do it through time.”

Hernando is drawn to flowers as subject matter. “I love flowers, and I have been painting them for 25 years, but I’m a very bad gardener,” she says. “It’s the line of flowers I love and the abstract component and the way flowers are in the world—the reminder that they are for us about life and death.”

With her floral works, the artist hopes to lay to rest any notion of botanical art as namby-pamby. “I go back to the invisibility of paintings of flowers, seen historically as shallow, as not having much weight, as if those qualities are synonyms of the feminine,” she says. “Because of that attitude, I wanted to paint flowers and say, ‘Well, I disagree with you.’ I do installations of this and that, but I always come back to flowers when I paint. It feels like the ocean: infinite.”

For her trademark installations, Hernando often uses her favorite materials: organza and tulle. “I grew up sewing, and women in my family would get together in the afternoon to sew and talk,” she says. “My grandparents founded a textiles factory in Argentina, and I always loved working with fabric.”

About 20 years ago, Hernando began collaborating with cloistered nuns in Buenos Aires who embroidered her designs. “I began to focus on work that was historically women’s,” she says. “I focus on embroidery and knitting and all of that as a metaphor for taking care of others, the generosity of that giving that mothers and women have done historically. That work has not been appreciated. It’s been seen as minor. In reality, it’s what’s upheld the world and allowed humans to keep going.”

Hernando’s fabric installations present an ethereal vision that is much lighter and more interactive than typical sculpture. “When I do installations outside, they’re temporary,” says Hernando. “In sculptural work, people expect stone or metal—hard materials that I don’t use. Fabric doesn’t have the longevity of stone. That component can be challenging, but the tulle or other fabric relates to the wind, the rain. They are in their own conversation with the elements and the changes happening.”

In addition to the DBG show, Hernando also is preparing for exhibits at the Biennial of the Americas opening in September at Museo de las Americas; Sun Valley Museum of Art in  Idaho opening in June 2022; a spring 2022 exhibition at Robischon Gallery; a work based on the memorial honoring victims of the shooting at King Soopers in Boulder; and a fall 2022 show in Boulder at Dairy Center for the Arts.

“I have different layers. My work is a lot about women, women’s circles, and I’m talking about that because I see how it’s a way of coming together to make things happen that is best for everybody,” says Hernando. “That’s underlining all of my work: an attitude about nature and each other and life.”


Ana María Hernando’s exhibition, “Fervor,” opens Sept. 11, at Denver Botanic Gardens in the Freyer-Newman Center. DBG’s art curator, Lisa Eldred, says, “We are thrilled to be able to present this multidisciplinary artist in a manner that highlights her various modes of working and engaging community: sculptural installation, embroidery, poetry and music. Her connection to the natural world and to people resonates throughout her body of work, making it a perfect fit for galleries at the gardens. An artist’s talk and a presentation of a documentary film will complement the exhibition.”

Colleen Smith, an avid gardener who shares the artist’s passion for flowers and fabrics, is a regular contributor to the magazine.

Categories: Art & Design