Heart of the Arts: Meet Muralist and Painter Patricia Hernandez
Hernandez is using her platform to reach and recognize the Latinx community and other under-represented groups.
Hernandez at her new studio at the Crum & Forster building.
BY ELLIE HENSLEY
Patricia Hernandez’ new studio at the Crum and Forster building provides the perfect amount of solitude for painting.
Just outside her window, office workers, students and residents stream by on their way to Coda’s Collective food hall. But inside her cozy space, she’s alone with her paints, her easel and her thoughts.
It’s quite the change of scenery from her previous studio at her apartment, a 400-square-foot space she shares with her two young sons.
“I was feeling uninspired making things on my own at home, that was the main reason I applied [for a Midtown Alliance studio residency],” Hernandez said. “So many friends sent me the application, and I thought, ‘it’s meant to be.’”
Hernandez is one of six artists to receive studio space for a year through the Heart of the Arts program, created through innovative partnerships between Midtown Alliance and commercial property owners. Her space at the historic Crum and Forster building, now part of Coda Tech Square, is provided by Portman Holdings.
We sat down with Hernandez to discuss the inspiration behind her pieces and her plans for the coming year. Read more below.
Consagrar, by Patricia Hernandez.
Raising Her Voice
Hernandez is currently working on a series of pieces inspired by her childhood. She was raised in El Salvador around the end of the Salvadoran Civil War, fought from 1979 to 1992 between the military-led junta government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. It was a very traumatic time in the country’s history, and Hernandez said her mother and father’s parenting style was “overprotected and exaggerated.”
“Now I am grateful, but at the same time it built me up to share stories among others not only in my other country, but in other people’s lives,” she said. “These stories speak not only to Latinos, but also undocumented immigrants, single mothers. I carry all facts that people are fighting for — female rights, racism, immigration status, the stigmatization of women and single mothers, low-income families. All of these are a component for me raising my voice.”
Hernandez’ brand for her work is PATL.SV — “PAT” for her first name, “ATL” for her current home in Atlanta and “.SV” because all websites hosted in El Salvador once had the domain name of “.sv.”
“I built my brand not knowing the [English] language, and not having anything, and as a single mother,” she said. “I carry that with me.”
The Mayan diaspora also heavily influences Hernandez’ work. She discovered her Indigenous ancestry in recent years from an ancestry test, after enduring intrusive questions her entire life about her ethnic and racial background.
Atlanta Y Mis Dioses, by Patricia Hernandez.
“We were very targeted for being dark-colored; I grew up actually hating myself because people would say ugly things to me and tell me I didn’t look like I was from El Salvador,” she said. “When you learn and you grow up, I learned how we embrace beauty and now I put physical looks second. Many immigrants here in the United States come in different shapes and from different backgrounds.”
Learning she was 70 percent Mayan pushed Hernadez even more to advocate for Latinx and Indigeonous people, as well as immigrants.
“Anything that comes out that I can integrate my community into would be amazing,” Hernandez said. “Many of my friends are the children of immigrants, many of us are in this position. We have to share stories that encourage each other.”
Watch this short interview with Patricia at her studio to learn more about her work and her connection to Midtown:
Three years ago, Hernandez and her friend and Diego Torres co-founded Nuestra Creacion, a Latin art exhibition in Atlanta to coincide with National Latin Heritage Month. The month-long celebration runs from September 15 to October 15 and recognizes the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.
“I was knocking on doors to be part of different exhibitions that are pretty male predominant, and I just said, ‘do you mind if I do my own show?’” Hernandez said.
Hernandez and Torres, whom she met while she was working on a Living Walls mural, kicked off their first Nuestra Creacion in 2019 by hosting a picnic for primarily undocumented children and hosting an exhibition at Ponce City Market’s The Shed with over 40 artists, DJs, and food vendors.
Last year, Nuestra Creacion partnered with La Choluteca, a queer Latinx party and brand in Atlanta, to host a show to benefit artists experiencing unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the show is moving to Guardian Studios on the Westside and will benefit Caminar Latino, a nonprofit organization that helps Latinos in Atlanta to overcome domestic violence. The show runs from October 11 through 17 and is featured as part of Elevate Atlanta, a citywide art festival sponsored by the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
“I’m excited to see these new artists, to give them the opportunity to show their work and bring some sort of income to what they do,” Hernandez said. “It’s a very grateful feeling to have someone pay you for a painting… I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”
Get tickets for Nuestra Creacion here.
Finding a Strong Community Base in Midtown
Hernandez moved into her Midtown Heart of the Arts studio in September, and she has already participated in a studio crawl and exhibition, which was also part of Elevate Atlanta. She has frequented the Midtown area, especially Piedmont Park, since she moved to Atlanta in 2014.
During the next year, she looks forward to engaging with the community and growing her practice.
“There’s a lot of new people living here and a strong community base,” she said. “It would be amazing to find more ways to collaborate.”
Check out Hernandez’ work on her website here and follow her on Instagram.