By/Por Juan Rodríguez Flores, Editor Ejecutivo de LWR
Translated by Leah Bergman
Lead Photograph by Bob Jimenez
As part of the fundraiser for Bring Hollywood Home Foundation, whose mission is to bring back film production that is fleeing the state of California for other states and places world-wide, the Cuban artist Jake Fernandez exhibited a few of his pieces in Los Angeles, California, a few weeks ago. His work attracted the attention of the guests who said they were impressed with his technique and the range of colors Fernandez utilized to create complicated and fascinating images that were nature inspired and reflected in each one of the paintings.
It is difficult to describe Fernandez’s style comparatively among his contemporary peers. The contemporary works are arbitrarily defined by the personal tastes of critics and academics. However, the works of Fernandez have a multiplicity of meaning which is revealed little by little to those who gaze upon them giving their full attention with careful patience.
The landscapes that flow from the brush strokes of Jake Fernandez transcend the traditional boundaries of Photorealism and conceptual perspective to become its own interpretation of the world around us. It brings us to the crossroads of Eastern wisdom and spiritual mysteries combined with artistic virtuosity and imagination in a surrealistic and dream-like state of creative power.
I had the opportunity to interview this Floridian resident, artist for Latino Weekly Review during the time he stayed in Los Angeles. Here is part of our conversation:
Q. Jake, when did you begin your creative endeavors?
A. “I started very early. I must have been 7 or 8 years old.”
Q. Did you always want to be a painter, or did you realize this later on?
A. “As a child I realized I had some facility in drawing, and I’ve dedicated my life to this endeavor and never looked back.”
Q. What type of formal training in the Visual Arts did you receive?
A. “As a young man I apprenticed under Felix Ramos, a noted Cuban landscape painter. Later I attended the University of Florida and graduated from the Fine Arts Dept. I was accepted to graduate program at the University of South Florida where I received my MFA.”
Q. Which artist do you feel influenced you the most?
A. “My earliest and most profound influence came from a man named Ozmin Perez (aka Andoba) who was sort of a shaman. A humble man with extraordinary abilities, he was a gardener by day and a timbalero by night. He was uneducated yet brilliant. He could communicate with animals and play intricate poly-rhythms with the hand-speed of Jackie Chan. He was a true savant, and was able to foretell events with incredible accuracy. He was a role model and inspiration for living a truly magical existence, which is essential to an artist.”
Q. How would you describe your work?
A. “My work is representational more than “realistic”. It is Cartesian in ways, depicting a graphic equivalent of a place or a state of mind. Not limited by optics, but more ethereal.”
Q. With what style or current painter do you identify?
A. “I admire the Spanish painter Antonio Lopez Garcia.”
Q. What do you think about the saying that art is 95% work and 5% inspiration?
A. “The inspiration to labor ratio depends on the individual, but both elements are essential.”
Q. What initiates your inspiration, and what is the proceeding creative process in producing a work of art?
A. “The initial idea is fast, unpredictable, and mysterious. The actual doing is long protracted, and different in every case. I start with geometric drawings to determine a shallow three dimensional surface (bas-relief). I draw/paint separate layers by using geometric drawings, color studies in pastel, and fragments from my own photographic sources, but relying mostly on memory. Each layer is done separately and rendered one section at time (as in a mosaic) until the entire surface is covered. Applying marks as if I was a human digital printer.”
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Q. Do you have a particular method that you use in creating your work, or does each piece develop in its own creative way that is different from the others?
A. “The technical framework is consistent from project to project. Each step is carried out in an orderly progression, but within each step everything is intuitive and specific, dictated by its own internal dynamics. This makes every piece unique and separate from any of my other work. You can draw a parallel to jazz musicians working from a predetermined chord progression but improvising within those parameters and creating a unique musical composition.”
Q. In what way does intuition and the subconscious play a part in your paintings?
A. “Intuition and the subconscious are fundamental to the way I work. I have used the mandala pattern, as well as listening to repetitive musical loops, while painting to help me go beyond the immediate field of awareness. Intuition is really all we have as artists. The rest is craft.”
Q. What is your opinion about the current paintings of Latinos in the United States?
A. “I don’t see the work of Latino artists in the US as monolithic. The work is very diverse and reflective not only of their individual cultures but also of the region in which the artist resides in the US…… I like the work of Paul Sierra (Chicago) and I’ve recently discovered the work of Julio Reyes (California) an extraordinary painter.”
Q. Do you think that the artwork of Latin Americans is starting to play a larger role within the American culture, or does it continue to play a minor part when compared to the work of Europeans or other industrialized nations?
A. “I think Latin American culture is and has been an important part of the fabric of North American culture. Our presence is so ubiquitous that is sometimes hard to recognize. I can’t make a prediction, but if demographics and auction prices are any indication, Latin American Artists will not be labeled as a separate group in the future. It really makes no sense to artificially brand such diverse work into a single and separate overarching category.”
Q. How do you see your style in comparison to the contemporary art that is produced in the United States? Are you a pioneer? An innovator? A revolutionary?
A. “Like a lone wolf.”
Q. Have you thought about showing your work in Cuba?
A. “That would be my dream and aspiration.”
Q. What are you working on now?
A. “I work on several projects at a time, but my primary focus at the moment is the “Trie Garden” project. It is based on a medieval garden at the “The Cloisters” monastery in New York. I have worked on this series for three decades, assembling drawings and photographs documenting the passage of time from a garden that is both timeless for its medieval architecture and ever changing due to its foliage and the seasons. The finished piece is comprised of four large paintings based on the enclosed garden and depicting the passing of time. I am planning to install the paintings in the Upper Room at the St. Monica church in Los Angeles next year.”