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 Rudy Fernandez  (1948 - )

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Lived/Active: Arizona/Colorado      Known for: mod animal-plant, mix-media sculpture

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BIOGRAPHY for Rudy Fernandez
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Birth
1948 (Trinidad, Colorado)
 
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Arizona/Colorado

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mod animal-plant, mix-media sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the artist.

RUDY M. FERNANDEZ, JR.
BORN: September 21, 1948; Trinidad, Colorado

EDUCATION:
1977 Master of Fine Arts, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington. Major: Sculpture. Minor: Painting.
1974 Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. 1974 - Phi Beta Kappa, 1969-74 - Presidents List

AWARDS:
1993 Production of "MARS Visitation," MARS Art Gallery NEA funded print, Phoenix, Arizona.
1986 Louisa Moseley Charitable Income Trust Grant, Los Angeles, California.
1982 Commemorative Poster, Festival 13, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, Arizona.
1981 Arizona Commission on the Arts, Visual Arts Fellowship in Painting, Phoenix, Arizona.
1975 Scholarship; International Programs, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.
Scholarship; Instituto Cultural Tenochtitlan, Mexico, D.F.
1974 Ford Foundation Grant: tuition, fees and travel expenses for study abroad in Europe (self-written curriculum).

WORK EXPERIENCE:
1980-82 Assistant to the Director, Elaine Horwitch Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona.
1975-77 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Fine Arts Department, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.
Responsibilities: Teach two Basic Design classes; assist in Photography; teach Advanced Level Independent Study in Painting, Sculpture and Drawing.
1975 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Instituto Cultural Tenochtitlan, Mexico City, Mexico.
Responsibilities: Teach one Drawing Class; assist in Ceramics and Mexican Art History.
1975 Photographer, Chicano Studies Program, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.
Responsibilities: Photograph Mexican Art; label and catalogue slides.
Graduate Research Assistant, Chicano Studies Program, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.
Responsibilities: Gather and photo document information for Mexican and Chicano Art History classes.
1974 Coordinator, Chicano Art Component, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.
Responsibilities: Coordinate Chicano Art activities of the undergraduate students; delegate work for subordinate work study students in Chicago Art Component.
1972 Teaching Assistant, Study Skills, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.
Responsibilities: Teach one class of Study Skills.

PUBLIC COMMISSIONS:
1985 City and Country of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, commissioned through the San Francisco Art Commission.
1985 Mural for Zapata Hall, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.

SPECIAL PROJECTS:
1997 Production of Print for College Press, Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado.
1996 Cover for Reproduction for Voices in New Mexico Art, Museum of Fine Arts/Museum of New Mexico.
1994 Production of Print for M.A.R.S. Gallery, Portfolio N.E.A. Grant, Phoenix, Arizona.
1991 Cover reproduction for Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor, Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, Houston, Texas.
1990 Mixed Media sculptural workshop with Fred Borcherdt, Old Pueblo Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
1989 Textbook Cover, De Aqui y De Alla, 3rd edition, Heath Publishers.
1986 Curator Chicano Art Show, Tucson Art Institute, Tucson, Arizona.
1984 Production of Printe for Inauguration of University Press, California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock, California.
1982 Reading Panelist, Grant Proposals, Arizona Commission on the Arts
1981 Selection Panel, "Art in Public Places," Arizona Commission on the Arts.
1976 Consultant to the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington. Responsibilities: Designed, coordinated, and implemented a working model of mural painting.

EXHIBITIONS:
2000 (October); "La Luz Contemporary Latino Art in the United States", National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico
2000 (September); "Arte Latino Treasures from the Smithsonian Art Museum", El Paso Museum of Fine Art; El Paso, Texas
1997 (December); "La Guada Lupana - Images of Faith and Devotion", Tacoma Art Museum; Tacoma, Washington.
1996 (June); Solomon/Dubnick, Sacramento, California. (May); Floriculture: Rapture for the Masses. Terrain Gallery; San Francisco, California
1995 Waxlander Kaduri
1994 "Rudy Fernandez: Mixed Media Painting," La Raza/Galeria Posada, Sacramento, California.
1993 Tom Palmore, Bill Shepherd, Rudy Fernandez: "New Work," John Cacciola Gallery, New York, New York.
1993 "Nichos, Form and Function," Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico.
"Borderless Art," Red Cloud Art Center, Gallup, New Mexico.
1992 Ventanas, "Visiones Culturales," The Plains Art Museum, Fargo, North Dakota.
1991 Four Winds Gallery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tom Palmore, Rudy Fernandez, Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica, California.
1990 Alcove Show, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Group Show, Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica, California. "C.A.R.A. Chicano Art: Resistance & Affirmation." U.C.L.A. Wight Gallery, Los Angeles, California.
1990 "Cactus in Art," Old Pueblo Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
1989 "Artists of the Americans," Gumps Gallery, San Francisco, California.
"Sin Fronteras: Crossing Borders," Mexican-American Artists in the Southwest, Gallery of Contemporary Art, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"Ocho Inspiraciones Contemporanias," University Art Gallery, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico.

One-Man Show, Natoli-Ross Gallery, Santa Monica, California.

"Hispanic Art in the United States," Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California.
1988 "I-40 Connection," Oklahoma City Center for the Arts, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
"Masks and Costumes by Southwest Artists," old Pueblo Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
"Hispanic Art in the United States," Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
"Hispanic Art in the United States," The Lowe Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum and Art Center, Miami, Florida.
1988 One-Man Show, LA Collection Gallery, Laguna Beach, California.
1987 "Hispanic Art in the United States," The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1987 "Artistas Mexico-Americanos de San Francisco, California," Salon de Sorteos, Mexico D.F.
One-Man Show, Elaine Horwitch Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
"Hispanic Art in the United States," The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas.
One-Man Show, Janie Begs Fine Arts, Aspen, Colorado.

PUBLICATIONS:
Power of Art by Lewis, Harcourt Brace College Publishers, Fort Worth, Texas, 1994.
Artists of 20th Century New Mexico, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1992.
CARA, Chicano Art - Resistance and Affirmation, UCLA.
Vista USA, "Skylight Conversations," Alan Hines, Spring 1990.
American Artist, "Artists of Different Cultures in the New Mexico Light," Alan Hines, December, 1989.
The Monthly Aspectarian (cover), Volume II, No. 3, November, 1989.
San Francisco Examiner,, "The Hispanic Vision," page C-1, October 2, 1989.

PRIVATE AND CORPORATE COLLECTIONS
Chase Manhattan Bank, New York, New York.
Chop Keenan, Palo Alto, California.
City and County of San Francisco, Art in Public Places.
Coyote Cafe, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Kemper Insurance Group, Chicago, Illinois.
Otra Vida, Frank Ribelin, Dallas, Texas.
Phoenix News, Phoenix, Arizona.
Prudential Life Insurance.
R.L. Kotrozo, Inc., Scottsdale, Arizona.
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Valley National Bank, Phoenix, Arizona.
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The following is from Julie Saase, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Tucson Museum of Art. She wrote this for Fernandez's solo exhibition at the Museum of Mazalan, Mexico beginning August 2001:

Private Icons, Cultural Perspectives: The Paintings and Sculpture by Rudy Fernandez

Over the last several decades, Hispanic art has grown in scope and visionnot just because artists whose origins lay in Latin America have expanded their oeuvre, but because curators, gallerists and critics have acknowledged the exciting pluralistic qualities of their art. While no one style defines Hispanic, Chicano, or Latin American art, certain images, themes, and compositions which incorporate vivid cultural connections are often exalted, particularly in the United States.

Rudy Fernandez, an artist currently living in Arizona, has achieved widespread recognition for his singular focus on the lyrical and the poignant. His paintings and sculpture, unabashedly autobiographical through the use of identifiable cultural symbols, are intensely personal and private at the same time. Fernandezs art has been called Pop, campy, expressive, hyper-real, and sentimental, at once noted for its cool detachment and compositional control. In actuality, it is all those things.

Concerned, first of all, with making very conscious and personal statements, he follows no one formula except his own personal vision. His mixed media paintings that combine sculpture and painting pay homage to a range of art styles and forms drawn from his personal experiences and vast knowledge of his Hispanic roots. Fernandez sees himself not as a painter or a sculptor, or as a Chicano or Hispanic per se, but as an artist who chooses his medium and his message according to personal preference and expressive need.

Born in 1948 in Trinidad, Colorado, near the San Luis Valley and the New Mexico state line, Fernandez was raised in middle class white neighborhoods as his family moved throughout the Southwest. By the time he was nine years old, Fernandez was settled with his family in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he attended Catholic primary schools and a public high school. While his family on both sides had lived in the United States for generations, his father made him aware of his Mexican heritage. His father is also credited with encouraging Fernandezs early interest in art by working with him on various projects and giving him positive feedback on his many drawings.

Geology, however, was to be his first major once he graduated from high school, keeping close ties with his fathers vocation. It was during this time, however, that a geology professor saw a small oil painting that Fernandez was creating on his own time and implored him to try a full semester of only art studies. This support and awakening of his true passion made it inevitable that he would switch his attentions full time to his art. Finally in the art program at the University of Colorado, Fernandez (encouraged by professors and fellow students who embraced the idea of "Chicano Art) began to politicize his heritage as addressed through his art. Fernandez did not feel pressured to create "propaganda art," like so many of his peers, but took his developing interest in multiculturalism and cultural pride to voice his own respect for his ethnic background.

At the University of Colorado in Boulder he became a teaching assistant and found himself active in the universitys Chicano community as the Coordinator of the Chicano Art Component, directing activities and programs for undergraduates. At Boulder, he received a coveted Ford Foundation Grant for study abroad in Europe. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1974 and motivated by his undergraduate successes, Fernandez moved to the northwest to attend Washington State University in Pullman. There he became the photographer for the Chicano Studies Program, photographing Mexican art and conducting research on Mexican and Chicano art for the Art History department.

In 1975 he received an International Programs scholarship that he used for study at the Instituto Cultural Tenochtitlan in Mexico, D.F., where he taught painting as a graduate teaching assistant. When he returned to Washington State in 1976, armed with an increased interest and knowledge of Mexican mural painting, Fernandez became a consultant to the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington to design and implement a working model of mural painting, and taught basic design classes and independent study classes in painting, sculpture and drawing.

Although Fernandez exhibited his paintings and sculpture in group exhibitions in Denver and Boulder during the early 1970s, it wasnt until 1975 that he was labeled a Chicano artist, signified by his inclusion in the Exhibition Artistas de Aztlan in Seattle, Washington. Following this exhibition, Fernandez participated in "Artists of the Southwest" at the Galeria De La Raza in San Francisco, and the Second Southwest Chicano Invitational at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, firmly placing him among other notable emerging Latino artists.

An indicator of Fernandezs identification with his Catholic upbringing and Mexican heritage is evident in one of his first autobiographical sculptures, Trinidad Brick Cadillac, 1974-55. Documenting his passage through life, he created a glass-paneled, wooden enclosure, not unlike the reliquaries and glass coffins containing images or remains of saints. Instead of this artfully carved box holding such treasures, however, his sculpture holds a simple brick from the artists hometown and other memorabilia precious to the artists past. In actuality, his intention was to create the work to emulate the elaborately carved wood and brass boxes carried by Mexico City shoeshine boys that he had seen on his travels, but the double entendre is clearthe intertwining of everyday experiences with higher, spiritual concerns was as much a part of the artists life as the people with whom he was being categorized.

Another pivotal work, which began an ongoing series of lead-covered retablo forms, is Homage to Manhood, 1976. Created to be placed in a corner, this small, intimate piece contains a small drawer that holds a delicately carved and painted wooden chile pepper, emblematic of manhood. From this early experimentation of form and painting, though originally simple in composition and unassuming in size, his works grew in size and complexity as his studio situations and opportunities increased.

By the time he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1977, he was included in as many mainstream exhibitions as those with Chicano themes, but such a distinction at that time in contemporary American art opened doors and allowed for a level of visibility that encouraged the development of his ideas and involvement in the arts. Soon his reputation grew to a national level, and institutions from the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., acquired works by Fernandez for their permanent collections.

In 1981, after moving to Phoenix, Arizona, three years earlier, Fernandez received an Arizona Commission on the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, an award that launched a decade of impressive artistic production and exhibitions throughout California, Colorado, Arizona and Mexico. His subsequent participation in stellar exhibitions during the mid-1980s--such as the ones at the Fresno Arts Center, which featured an exhibition of Mexican Artists and Printmakers; "Arte, Arte!" at the Transamerica Center in Los Angeles; and "Lo Del Corazon, Heartbeat of a Culture," at the Mexican Museum in San Franciscovirtually assured Fernandezs place as one of the pre-eminent Chicano artists of his time. The connection between his culture and the individuality of his symbols and forms were evident in the work he created at this time. As critics observed:

"Fernandezs art might be understood best as a ritual encounter process in
the largest sense. This encounter includes a reaffirmation of belonging to
the culture and developing a sense of personal identity. His art is both
individual and communal. It is emblematic with strong regional and ethno-
religious connotations; but once these factors have been internalized
by him, they explode in a universal language of high key color and the
evocative beauty of nature. "

The personalization of his work while embracing emblems and forms from his region and heritage became a necessary formula in the artists expression of ideas, which expanded in vocabulary, scale, and compositional complexity.

As a result of his increased recognition and visibility, Fernandez was invited by the curators from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., who organized Hispanic Art in the United States for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, to participate in this landmark exhibition in 1987. Touring throughout the United States, this exhibition placed Fernandez, then living in Santa Fe, firmly among the most significant artists of Latin American descent. Chosen for his precise execution and ethnically inspired themes, Fernandezs significance is made clear by co-curator John Beardsley:

"His works are exceedingly sincere, even ingenuous, in their use of regional and ethnic images, yet they have few rivals in the care with which they are fabricated. Style in these instances, may be conditioned by cultural preferences even as it affirms them; that is, style may be relative, but craftsmanship most decidedly is not. "

While attention to craftsmanship and its sources in the folk art of Mexico and New Mexico is evident in Fernandezs art, as the curator of this benchmark exhibition observed, it is equal to the seriousness of the metaphoric references to the artists life.

Such attributes can be noted in Fernandezs Sal si Puedes, 1985, which was included in the Houston Museum exhibition. In this mixed media construction, deftly carved prickly pear cacti bearing succulent fruit share a composition with a rooster, a rose, and a female hand, within a retablo format embellished with lead-covered woodcarvings of hearts and painted lunettes. Following Fernandezs iconography, the symbols are simple indicators of the artists life. The prickly pear, although carved with a smooth texture and enticingly luscious fruit , has in reality sharp, barbed thorns--a reminder of human beings and the hidden guardedness with which they protect themselves. The rose, like the many types of flowers he has painted over the years, represents beauty in its myriad forms. In this case, an American Beauty variety, stands for love, but the presence of thorns is a reminder that matters of the heart can also cause pain. The subtle hint of a female hand, complete with polished red nails, stands for his then wife, Denise, with whom he remains close friends. The inclusion of three hearts, a constant motif during this time, signifies intimate love, love of family, and the love of friends, three elements that have sustained the artist throughout his life. The image of the rooster represents a tongue-in-cheek representation of the artist himself, a common image of bravado and machismo. All these symbols have become part of Fernandezs rich vocabulary of icons and symbols, parts of an ongoing personal narrative, occasionally added to as his lifes experiences necessitated representation.

Melding expressive abstraction with stylized representation and hyper-realism, Fernandez created Mocking Me, 1985, another powerfully symbolic work revealing still more motifs representing his life and emotional map. In this work, a mocking bird sits attentively atop a prickly pear pad and gazes at a three dimensionally carved wooden heart wrapped with jagged lead shards. To the lower right of the composition, another carved wooden sculptural elementsuggestive of a large carving knife--is a jarring reminder of the passions of the heart and, perhaps, an indicator of his failing marriage and conflicting romantic entanglements during this time. Tellingly, another mixed media work created a year later, entitled Entangled, continues his personal narrative with the inclusion of neon frets, flowering cacti with luscious red blooms, and floating three-dimensional hearts. The heaviness of the lead- covered frame, the rich reds of the neon, flowers and hearts, and sense of frenzy in the background reveal the intensity with which the artist merged his life and art.

Not all work by Fernandez has been entirely autobiographical, however. The artist has also addressed certain political issues over the years. In 1991, while living in Santa Fe, he created 1492, a large, dramatic mixed media painting in wood, lead, neon and oil on canvas. This work is significant, because it makes a departure from his more personal works to address the controversial conception of the "discovery" of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. Here Fernandez used the symbolism of fifteenth-century Spain to express his view of a much-debated time in history. In this work, three lead- covered crosses, embellished with delicately carved lunettes, represent the Roman Catholic Church (perhaps implying the same fate for native peoples as Christ experienced on the cross) and the three ships of Columbus. Perched on a green cactus branch, a black raven represents ominous tidings, a warning of the profound changes to come as a result of European explorations. The upper right side of the composition reveals a cascading white drape, symbolizing both the purity and the innocence vanquished by greed and corruption in the name of religion and national superiority. Accentuating the scene are two signature lead-covered, carved high relief hearts which frame a seductive red neon fret element bordered by white neon bars. The fret symbol represents a portal, or passage between past, present and future. Such elements intensify the metaphoric nature of the painting, suggesting through color and symbol the concept of lust and greed connected with early Spanish conquest.

While Fernandez adroitly tackles historic and political issues, he is at his best when he reveals himself through his emblems and symbols of his passage through life. The last ten years, for example, have marked profound changes in his personal life, including the death of his youngest brother in 1995, with whom he was very close. More contemplative than ever, and addressing his sense of loss, he created a series of "momento mori" paintings, paying homage to his brother. In these works, the rose symbol moves from romantic love to brotherly love and the poignant sense of grief and loss of a family member. In another progression, images of flames in two and three dimensions (long a part of his artistic vocabulary which represented the burning of the pre-Columbian pyramids by the Spanish during the Conquest) present a different view. In Fernandezs Destruction by Fire #2, 1997, flames become a symbol of the violence and emphatically terminal nature of death. The trout, a repetitive emblem of the "witness" once representing a professor who acted as the artists mentor and champion, now becomes the artist himself as he stands witness to the uncontrollable changes that swirl around him life and death are inevitable and we must all stand as witnesses to the events that unfold before us.

Throughout his career, Fernandez has been a reluctant pessimist, standing in resolute determination to overcome the pathos of his life. Noticing the element of wry humor in his work, writer Robert Cauthorn aptly noted, "There is an edge of impending tragedy to a game of catch with a persons heart, but in this dreamscape the trout mitigates the tension. If fish can fly, things cant be all that bad." Through the support and closeness of his family and friends, and the cathartic qualities of his art, Fernandez has renewed his sense of connection to loved ones and his past. Acutely aware of the power of symbols to express himself autobiographically about his emotional journey, he continues to successfully employ his special vocabulary of emblems and images to make poignant narratives about the transitory nature of life.




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