Artist Judithe Hernández gives dynamic and inspiring talk to students

Judithe Hernández discusses her personal and professional life as an artist in Choi Auditorium at Occidental College in Los Angeles Nov. 12, 2018 Miles Koupal/The Occidental

Judithe Hernández, Los Angeles-born Chicana artist, spoke to a group of Occidental students in Choi Auditorium Nov. 12. The Spanish and French studies departments and the Latino/a and Latin American Studies program co-hosted the event. Hernández is described on the event website as a founding figure of Los Angeles muralism. Professor of Spanish and French studies Alicia González was one of many professors who supported Hernández’s talk at Occidental.

According to González, Hernández has quickly become a student favorite, as much of her work is incorporated into the curricula of various Spanish classes. While the talk was not mandatory for students, Choi Auditorium was full with the exception of a handful of seats, González added. Among the many students in attendance were Zeke Sebastian (sophomore) and Zoë Spearman (sophomore).

“I attended the talk because I love Judithe Hernández’s art. [It] was in our Spanish 201 book. We gave little presentations about her art,” Spearman said.

Sebastian was also inspired by his Spanish class last year and said he attended the talk to hear from an extraordinary artist whose art had appeared in his coursework.

Hernández gained recognition in the 1970s during the rise of the Chicano Art Movement. She became a member of Los Four, a Chicano artist collective, and worked with various groups to paint murals around Los Angeles. Although many consider her a muralist, Hernández considers herself a painter and a drawer, according to González.

“[During the event, Hernández] said, ‘There’s a lot of misinformation about me out there,’ so to hear how she views herself is slightly different from when you read about her,” González said. “She’s never considered herself a muralist. She has received a number of public art commissions that are murals, but she considers herself a painter, but she said, ‘I’m really a drawer,’ because she works with pastels, where the finished products is a painting, but the technique is drawing. So it was very interesting to hear her talk about how she sees herself.”

Throughout her career, Hernández’s work has been showcased in many collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Crocker Art Museum, the Gerald Buck Collection and Bank of America, according to her website. Most recently, she became the first Chicana artist to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Latin American Art. Her exhibit is titled “Judithe Hernández: A Dream is the Shadow of Something Real,” according to the MOLAA website. While her acclamations are long and impressive, she remains humble and connected well with students, González said.

“She’s this very egoless, approachable, even-keeled person. She doesn’t come across as this rebel advocate,” González said.

After the talk, a group of professors who taught first and second-year languages took around 50 students on a field trip to the Museum of Latin American Art to visit Hernández’s exhibit, according to González.

“Hernández talked about her personal experiences with art and motivation, and hearing about the background information of how her pieces were conceived and produced was extremely interesting,” Sebastian said. “It was a wonderful talk that was extremely informative and also gave so much insight into the production of art.”

Due to student interest in the visit and her work, the professors decided it would be a positive experience to have her visit Occidental, according to González.

“It was incredible, it was amazing being so close to her. I was completely inspired,” Spearman said.

After the talk, a reception took place in the Johnson Global Forum. This gave students a chance to mingle and speak with the artist herself in a more intimate setting. The organizers decided to bring Chicanx food like pan dulce and aguas frescas, instead of catering by Campus Dining, to add to the authentic festivities and environment, according to González.

“The reception was a blast,” González said. “We had a lot of support from CDLA. And since we had it in the Global Forum, we had access to the media wall. We put up her work and pictures from our field trip. And one student had a biogical research project about Hernández on display. We had students’ self-portraits inspired by her on display. It was really fun.”

The sponsors of the event received positive feedback from students who attended and are happy with how the event turned out, according to González.

“People really seemed to be interested. She had a really easy style of talking, so I think people really found her interesting and inspirational, and that’s what I’m hearing from students,” González said.