In the studio with Alanna Hernandez, whose work deals with trauma and relationships, and how those are felt in the body.We met with Alanna to tell us more about growing up in Cape Cod, what inspired her to first pursue her artistic journey and unexpected sources of inspiration.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
I have always felt artistic, and I have always felt compelled to make art. I love doing it, and it is my relief, my expression, and how I process the world.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I am from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My upbringing was modest, we moved around a bit. I spent a lot of time outdoors in beautiful natural environments, and developed a sense of wonder for nature and beauty. I was raised Catholic and this gave me an appreciation for symbolism and spiritualism. I had some health problems in my adolescence, and became shy, anxious, and withdrawn. As a result, I developed my inner world to cope. I found a lot of solace in books, journaling, and drawing. I think this is why drawing feels compulsive to me. I am also very attuned to feelings and noticing details.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work?
Making art has always felt natural to me. I never pursued it in school though, because of stigmas that being an artist “isn’t a real job”. And making enough money was a challenge as I first started to live on my own. Because I didn’t go to school for art, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to succeed as an artist. But when I found myself stressed out applying to grad school, taking expensive additional college courses, and in an internship I hated, I decided to make a change. I had my epiphany while hiking on a mountain with friends: that I have just this one life to live and I should do it as authentically as I could. It felt like finally letting go of external expectations, like finally giving in to who I truly was. Since then I have kept a studio practice, have worked to improve my craft, and have pursued professional opportunities.
What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from?
My work deals with trauma and relationships, and how those are felt in the body. I started working with these themes as a way to process the trauma and relationships in my own life. I use abstract shapes to convey motion, and cause and effect. My aesthetic is soothing and balanced, with gentle textured cross-hatching and bodily colors.
Who & what are your greatest influences?
Artistically, I am influenced by Georgia O’Keeffe, Hilma Af Klimt, Christina Ramberg, and other abstract/spiritualist artists. In my own life I am influenced by strong emotions, trauma responses, and the give-and-take of relationships. I also practice yoga and meditation, and am influenced by those principles.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
I have had several day jobs in teaching and education. I am inspired by the kids I work with, and learning about trauma-informed teaching practices. Learning about the traumas and challenges that the families in our community go through, and then being part of the team of caregivers and educators who help them, has given me deeper insights into the themes I work with in my art.
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
I do think of the audience when I create, and I think it is important for art to speak to the viewer. I hope that people find my art to be either healing, soothing, validating, emotional, beautiful, or any other meaningful interpretation that they bring to it.
What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice?
Getting older and becoming more confident in who I am has allowed me the freedom to create the kind of art that I want to create. My art has evolved to reflect my authentic self. I do experiment often in my sketchbook where I can work out new pieces; though I am slow to experiment with new mediums, since I like to take my time and learn a lot about the medium I’m using at the time.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
My best works are created when I have a clear visual and emotional picture of the piece. My works come from thinking and feeling, which can be inspired by something in my life, someone I know, or something that I learned about. I’m happy to create work in my home studio every day, but when I have a clear picture, I feel compelled to create the piece and can work for a long time until it’s finished.
Tell us the inspiration behind your works?
My piece “Animus”, was inspired by the feeling of holding resentment in your mind and body. I wanted to convey intrusion, disruption, and hardening.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
Thematically, I’d like to explore ideas of community and power structures. I’d also like to explore working in oil pastel, which is one of my favorite mediums.