Like a single thread which becomes an integral part of a woven image, Lilia Hernandez’s artistic journey stems from on strand – family. Originally from Northern Mexico, Hernandez moved to the states at the age of five, on her birthday no less.
She traces her interest in creating back to her Mexican roots, to her grandmother and great aunt. She says, “They taught me to embroider when I was three. I used to cut up my aunt’s sheets and sew them back together, and to this day she still has them.”
On top of this early entry into crafts, her older brother is an artist and her dad a jeweler, so she’s always been steeped in a creative environment, one she couldn’t shake loose when it came time for college.
Hernandez spent her first year at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, studying Mass Communications. Her sophomore she transferred to UALR, in what she thought would be a temporary stay, but she fell in love with the art program.
At that point she knew she wanted to be a working artist, and Little Rock would be a great home base. Also, her professors at UALR were all working artists, something she highly valued. She studied Illustration, but she says, “I practically lived in the applied design studio. I ended up doing a lot of things with crafts – textiles specifically. Mia Hall, David Clemons and Tom Clifton were all extremely influential to me.”
After graduating, Hernandez worked for the Arkansas House of Representatives as well as at the Argenta Bead Company. It was then that she became involved with curating an all-female exhibit – Ovolution. The owners at the bead store offered her some space, and Hernandez put out a call for pieces. “I was really surprised by the overwhelming interest,” she says. “There were some really great pieces and a great response – Argenta was really good about spreading the word.”
In fact, Hernandez became even more Argenta-centric when she became involved with Art Connection, an Argenta based nonprofit organization that works with teen artists.
“The job has turned out to be this unexpected thing that I really enjoy,” she says. As an artist mentor, she spends time with the teen artists and loves how fun they are. She says, “They’re talking, interacting, and critiquing all the time, and they’re excited. It’s really cool and I really like it.” She also gets to work with her fellow artist friend and UALR graduate Justin Bryant, who is an artist mentor as well.
In terms of themes in her work, Hernandez has many. She continually finds herself tracing her Mexican roots, as well as turning back to needle and thread. “That involves color and shapes mainly. There are a lot of female concepts in my work, especially coming from Mexico. It depends on what I’m working on, but I try to incorporate some type of textile, usually it’s embroidery, but lately it’s been some type of need weaving on paper,” she explained.
Sewing holds a special place in Hernandez’s heart. She says, “Even as a little kid I always sewed stuff and made things. Every time I went back to Mexico, they were like, ‘Oh, I got you this sewing kit. I got you this embroidery.’”
Her work also often explores what it’s like to have Mexican roots, yet grow up in the US. “When you go to Mexico you’re kind of Americanized, but then you’re here, and people say, ‘Oh, but you’re Mexican.’ It’s this in-between, and your culture isn’t associated with one particular place, it’s a combination of things. That’s a strong concept in my work,” she says.
In terms of the local art scene, Hernandez senses a gap between artists across generations. She wishes that it wasn’t so divided, as her experience has lead her to believe that older artists are extremely supportive of younger ones. She says, “The older generation really wants to see the younger community succeed. I think as a young artist you don’t realize that. … I feel like as young people we’re pretty quick to judge.”
She would love to see more shows and more galleries, as well as more all-around support for artists on all levels in Central Arkansas. “When you want to find local, cutting edge stuff, you have to search really hard. … We want, as younger artists, more places to exhibit our art.”
She knows that this means working together. She says community efforts are possible, pointing to the work Pop Up in the Rock has done in the past. “You have to rely on each other as a community to actually get things happening and going,” she says.
When not working Hernandez loves to travel or spend time with her fiancé, Russ.