Lenore Hernandez Talks Tradition, Queerness, and Scott Pilgrim

Updated: May 5

by Marcia Hunt

Hernandez’s mural for the Stood (via Lenore Hernandez)

Recently commissioned by the PSGA to paint a mural for the Stood, junior drawing and painting major Lenore Hernandez has taken time to reflect on how they’re going to leave their mark on Purchase. Like their portraits, Hernandez’s mural is a bright and colorful homage to the people and places that continue to shape how they navigate through the world and their ever-evolving art.


Tell me about how you were commissioned for the mural.


Let me go back in time. It was all before COVID hit. The PSGA was looking to replace the art on campus and I was like “Yo, it would be sick to leave my mark.” I applied [to make the mural] the week we were all going home. I just applied on a whim.


To be completely honest, I forgot about the mural because I didn’t think we’d be going back to school at all. At the beginning of this semester, they got back to me and I accepted the offer to make the mural. And here we are.


I know you’re into lots of colors and you focus on people and portraits. What was your journey as you were finding your style?


It’s always been people. That’s always been my thing. But more or less, the change has been the way I approach a painting style or composition. It’s been a whole rollercoaster of experiments and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. That was really a big transformation for me in 2019.


Why?


I was in Painting II and the professor came up to me and poured water on one of my paintings and she smeared it. I was furious. But then out of that came these scratches and heavy brush marks and water drip and I was like “This is one of the most intense paintings I’ve ever created.” I’ve taken different aspects of that painting and incorporated it into everything else I’ve done. It’s been what message I can convey to the people and will they get what I’m thinking.

What are you thinking?


Well, I guess more and more I’ve been having all of these meetings with advisors and professors who ask me what I want to do and what I want to achieve. And I’ve been thinking about tradition and queerness and how I can combine the two into one. For example, I have a painting of me gutting a pig. All of my life it’s been a mega tradition that the men gut the pig whenever I visit family in Puerto Rico.


So I was like “What if I painted myself doing it and I look gay as fuck? How cool would that be?” I’ve been really experimenting with my traditional background and incorporating my queerness into it.


Can you actually gut a pig?


To be honest, the amount of times I’ve seen it happen I probably can do it.


God, I love that for you. You were talking about leaning into that more progressive thinking and making everything have a message. What’s the message you want your mural to say?


If people were to look at it, I want them to know it happened in 2021. I want them to wonder why it says ‘ACAB’ [All Cops Are Bastards] and what ‘1312’ [ACAB] is and why there is ‘no justice, no peace’ written on it. So it’s capturing that moment, even with the everyday people you see on the train. I want to bring a little bit of New York City to Purchase.


Are you from the city?


Yeah, I’m from the Bronx. That’s why I really wanted to bring the city here; I don’t really see anything that represents the city here despite there being a large population of students who are from the city.


I’ve got to ask. Who are your top artistic inspirations?


That’s always a question I get and I never know how to answer it. Whenever someone asks me this, I say the people around me. My number one inspiration is my peers. That’s why going home really stung. Seeing everyone’s motivation and passion has always fueled me. It’s still awesome to see that through social media but I just wish I could see everyone painting all in the same room together and having the vibes be great.


But now I’m in Junior Studio and a lot of it is about who you look up to. So I’d say Nicole Eisenman because the way she captures groups of people is stunning. She has a unique perspective capturing people in really realistic ways and then making it have an abstract way about it. And then there’s my queen Alice Neel. She and I have a very similar perspective about subject matter. Seeing a portrait done of very queer people in the 70s was a woah moment for me.


Besides the mural, what else have you been up to?


I’m literally just trying to survive the rest of the semester. Other than art and stuff, I’ve been dealing with my RA job and it’s a little stressful. Sometimes stuff crashes and burns but I can always get up again and keep going. I’m just trying to make the most out of COVID school and be optimistic.

Speaking of your RA stuff, aren’t you hosting a movie night?


Yeah! I want to watch “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” in the Olde and project that on a wall. I’m hoping people will chill out and vibe.

We’re having like popcorn and snacks and so I’m hoping that people will stop by. It’s on May 6.


There’s a lot of art and comic book style animation and stuff in “Scott Pilgrim.” Are you at all inspired by other forms of media like that?


Yes! I love movies and I’d really like to animate for a film someday. But music is my biggest influence. It’s always a big motivator to see all my friends releasing their own music and it all sounds so good always.


What’s on your playlist right now?


I’m listening to some crazy stuff. I’ve got Funkadelic, Parliament, 10 CC, David Bowie, just a lot of different stuff. I’m really into really old 70s and 80s funk, rock, underground kind of music.

Is there anything you wish you knew before really digging into this long, artistic journey?


I’m very stubborn. I always thought I’d be an animator but people were like “teach yourself everything. Do ceramics, do drawing, do printmaking, do graphic design, do it all and see what you like.” But I was so stubborn.


Now I’m so glad I actually listened to that advice when the right time came. I’m so glad I’m listening to that advice now, but I should have just listened earlier and went back to the basics and technical stuff sooner. I wonder what path I’d be on if I had.


Updates about the installation of their mural, commissions, and future art can be found at their Instagram len.dez.

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