Artist Spotlight: Mikey Hernandez

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Hernandez in his studio. Photo courtesy of Lauren Antonacci.

What is abstract art? Is it simply embellishing an empty canvas with a single dot of black paint and calling it a masterpiece? For some, the first image that might pop into mind when abstractism is mentioned would be a stuffy room filled to the brim with vogue art snobs gazing upon a banana taped to the wall, harkening back to the infamous Maurizio Cattelan artwork. 

Now, UD art MFA student Mikey Hernandez, argues that abstractism is much more than this “easy trash” viewed by others and that the overall exploration of different artistic mediums and the appreciation of the medium itself are what makes abstractism such a special form of art.

If you’re an art student, or just so happen to be crossing the wooded trails near the art village, you’d be sure to run into Hernandez, a lively art student who’ll be graduating this year from the MA/MFA program here at the University of Dallas. 

When interviewing Hernandez on how he arrived here at the University of Dallas, and why he chose to study art here, he mentioned, “I used to work in corporate America…and because my job was very stressful, [The company] said, ‘You know, hey! We’re gonna give you some money so you can de-stress.’ So I took a painting class.” 

Hernandez enjoyed these painting classes more than he expected and decided to leave the company he’d previously worked at to take part in a long-awaited career change. He joked about worrying about being a starving artist, “There are those terms. I think those keep people from really pushing themselves in art… I was trying to find the way around it but I just kept coming back to art.”

During this time of debating whether becoming a full-time artist was the right path for him, Hernandez became an art teacher, and taught at the high school level for several years. When doing more research about graduate school, he toured UD and was sold on the graduate program’s rigorous curriculum and stunning reputation.

Expressing fears about not fully knowing what type of artist he longed to be, Hernandez discussed how he discovered his calling of producing abstract art, “[T]he very next day I dropped the paper on the ground, threw water on it, and I started throwing ink into it being a little upset – and I liked what happened.” This was the inciting incident that sparked Hernandez’s love of abstractism, and usage of water-based mediums in his artwork.

Now after discovering the type of art he wanted to create, and successfully leaving MA and moving into the MFA thesis exhibition, Hernandez discussed how his thought process grew from “What is my art” to “What themes can I explore with my art?”

He  felt inspired by dance and especially different yoga poses, and how their motion and fluidity could be translated into his ink pieces. His process starts with making sketches of different poses, focusing on the lines of action and tilt of the body. 

He said, “I think about the different ways that I could drop the ink on the paper in this is like gesturally… and I start bringing out the forms that are happening on the paper.” Hernandez mentioned how he wants to portray different stages of learning about yoga, such as mastering breathing techniques and core strength through the “microscopic, topographical” landscapes he calls his artwork. 

 Hernandez joked about the “bad rap” that his beloved art form holds. He mentioned how in his past exploration he shrugged off assignments where he produced classic landscapes and portraits, but when he began to experiment with abstractism, he felt a spark glow within him. 

He cites inspiration from countless abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner and Joe Mitchell, mentioning how he feels that they don’t get the respect that they deserve due to their artworks. 

He said, “[P]eople don’t understand their work… just the fact that for the first time, people are exploring a medium for it being a medium instead of just painting a portrait, I think it’s revolutionary.” 

He  emphasized the importance of toying with certain artistic mediums, and how he found his passion for art through the abstract method of using his supplies to the fullest. “ [Abstract artists] accept the medium for what it is. It’s just a canvas and paint? But why don’t we grab some twigs and scribble in them so we can create this texture?” Hernandez believes in using his artworks to draw out all of the meaning, skill and beauty from his medium that he can, and birth a gorgeous new piece each time.

After finishing his MFA this year at the University of Dallas, Hernandez says he has no plans on slowing down. In the spring Hernandez will be presenting his MFA thesis, scheduled for around March and April. He also mentions a future show at Brookhaven College, taking place in August-October of 2024. In the end, the unstoppable, inspirational, Mikey Hernandez continues to present his elegant art pieces to the world – one drop of ink at a time.

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