Art media

Veronica Fernandez extends empathy through her art

Delving into the depths of his mind, Veronique Fernandez extracts and depicts memories that extend empathy to the viewer while capturing the spirit of his father. The Los Angeles-based, Virginia-born, New Jersey- and Miami-raised artist creates evocative works that tap into the dynamics of family and emotional understanding that exist within all of us.

Speaking with Latina from an in-house audio studio, Fernandez spoke about the intentions of her work and the overwhelming support she received from her first solo show at Sow and Tailor in Los Angeles, on view through July 17. When you hold on to my spirit, will you let your spirit grow? encapsulates lived experiences of both family trauma and tender moments.

With a will to match his passion, Fernandez’s mission lends humanity to the complexities of life. Sifting through adverse experiences overcome through unity, the hyper-aware and deeply connected artist approached dealing with these difficult times through art. Drawing first, then elevating his sketches into vibrant paintings and sculptures, Fernandez documents personal moments of housing insecurity and family resilience. “When you’re younger you don’t really understand it, but you feel the weight of those emotions. One of the paintings in the exhibition [“Take Shelter”] refers to us being in a refuge – we have bottomed out. I remember seeing it [my father], and he was really struggling. He must have realised, ‘Oh, I’m in this situation and I have to get my kids out of this situation’, it was a stressful time,” she explained.

Courtesy of Sow and Tailor

In preparation for this show, Fernandez asked her grandmother for photographs to help contextualize the images that remained at the forefront of her mind. Digging through old boxes and photo albums, Fernandez witnessed memories of her troubled father, sparking empathy in her. Using each photograph as a constant reference, Fernandez never interpreted a family member inaccurately, instead filling in the gaps in his memory. Weaving intergenerational bonds throughout his work, with his grandmother acting as the glue of the family and his father a constant touchstone, Fernandez aimed to portray the memories and impact of his ancestry.

Struggling with his identity, a fusion of Latin America, Fernandez’s solo exhibition depicts cultural specificities from Malta Goya bottles to vintage textiles, embracing his heritage. “I always try to incorporate small details, but it’s also more Americanized because that’s what I can relate to. Growing up, I was very far from my roots. I am Dominican, Puerto Rican and Bolivian; I’m very mixed. […] I think a lot of people in the United States struggle with that kind of assimilation into American culture,” Fernandez explained.

Crossing a self-acceptance with creative ambition, Fernandez needed more than a canvas to express himself, exploring mixed media practices. From a handcart topped with trash bags to a domestic scene of watching baseball, Fernandez opted for off-the-shelf material for his sculptural work, drawing inspiration from its texture and bringing canvases to life. background of his paintings. “It’s as if the artist were present here; someone got comfortable with all those details that really make up those mundane objects. It reflects faith and human experience despite your circumstances,” she said.

Courtesy of Sow and Tailor

Accompanying Fernandez’s exhibition, writer and curator Maria Vogel tapped into the essence of When you hold on to my spirit, will you let your spirit grow?, exploring the essence of the exhibition in an eloquently written essay. Vogul said, “Every work created by Fernandez requires careful reading; it’s impossible to grasp what’s going on in each room just by glancing at the work. She imbues her art with a sense of incompleteness as a means of recognizing the impermanence of emotion. For Fernandez, the house is not a physical space, it is made up of those that exist in space. This notion is illustrated in the formal choices with which each piece is rendered. With When you hold on to my spirit, will you let your spirit grow?, Fernandez asks you to search through his memories and those of his family in order to find your way around. She offers her rawest self in hopes that a piece of it is left for you.

Fernandez has managed to process memories that others may avoid or be unable to face. While a stroke of paint may seem like a one-time action, it’s a sweeping statement of acceptance and vulnerability for the young artist, isolating the feelings that made up every memory. She explained, “I feel like I have to move on. I can’t dwell on the negative. I say; no one really did anything wrong. You forgive, and everyone is human; everyone has their moments. I think talking to other people I realized that this [adversity can be] an overall experience for everyone.”

Understanding the power of growth and healing, Fernandez does not strive to create works that amount to simple journal entries without introspection. Instead, she exemplifies the deepest parts of herself to tap into her community and, most importantly, her family. As a constant backboard and lifeline, Fernandez’s family has succeeded so far thanks to the collective support and encouragement. Although his father and siblings saw his works in progress, awe overwhelmed his entire family once they entered the space embellished by his masterful storytelling. “I don’t think it was fully understood until they [my family] saw the show set up. They were like, ‘Oh, shit, that’s our experience.’ They liked how I made it universal, and it made them feel so loved,” Fernandez said.

Courtesy of Sow and Tailor

As the show runs through July 17 at Sow and Tailor, a Los Angeles art gallery supporting diverse thinking and community programming, Fernandez begins to close this chapter, anticipating the next. With new projects already lined up, the busy artist values ​​her perspective, expanding her body of work that resonates with many. “I am currently working on a giant triptych for an upcoming museum exhibition. I can’t wait to get back to work immediately. Even after my solo, I like to see the community engaged in my work. This love just makes me want to work harder,” Fernandez said.

Spending months preparing for this triumphant spectacle, Fernandez understands that these personal moments will forever be captured, but remains focused on continuing her practice. She said: “Everyone goes through things. Everyone has complex paths and layers. So I always think about that when I work. Carrying the spirit of not only his past but also the spirit of his family, Fernandez’s solo exhibition imbues a sense of collective exhalation, cherishing the moments gone by but appreciating the challenges overcome. With eyes on the future, including new works to be created, Fernandez hopes the memory of When you hold on to my spirit, will you let your spirit grow? will stay with the viewer. Expressing vulnerabilities is often tricky, especially when crystallized in art. Still, the multi-layered artist is grateful to be able to document her journey with her family by her side.

Courtesy of Sow and Tailor