Our staff Art correspondent Cameron Krow reached out to local artist Jodie Herrera to sit down and talk about her art, life and inspiration. The New Mexican born artist from the Taos/ Cuba area offers us a unique look inside her art, which is entirely dedicated to creating homage to the female through personal stories of strength and hardships.
Cameron: How long has art been a part of your life?
Jodie: It’s always been a part of my life. My first memories are of creating art. I assume my last memories will be creating art as well. Some of my earliest memories are of me sitting on my mothers lap with my chubby little brown baby fingers wrapped around a crayon drawing a portrait of my father. His body was a large rectangle with a bunch of little dots. My parents never knew what the little dots were until I told them recently while recalling the memory. They were the sun bumps on his neck; I used to lay my head there while my dad held me. I remember knowing that was an important detail for me to render. I was always known as the artist growing up. It was really the only thing that gave me confidence as a young pup.
I was always picked last in gym and was painfully awful in school. Grade school provided me with a ton of doodling hours that proved to be of more value then arithmetic over the years.
C: Speaking of your mom…She’s a jeweler and ceramicist, right? How much of a role has she played in your passion to create?
J: Everything, she is an incredible role model. She has made a living creating art and has given me the confidence and support to do so myself. She is a strong and loving woman and has taught me to be free with my expression. Not to mention she is the one that taught me how to hold a crayon and how to draw; she introduced me to my life’s path.
C: What a babe. You’re lucky. When did you know you wanted to be an artist as a profession?
J: I’ve always known. There’s never been another option. I need it, or more we need each other (cheesy but shits real). It was clear at an early age to my family that art was my life’s work.
C: And you wear it well. So growing up between Taos and Cuba, with deep family roots in New Mexico, what do these places mean to you and how have they shaped you as a person?
J: New Mexico is my world, my family, and my culture. I think the only other identity that I would label myself other than an artist is a New Mexican. My family has been here for over 500 years and I know it will be my final resting place, leaving behind generations to come hopefully. My upbringing in both places, were polar opposite. Cuba, where my dad’s from, is pure New Mexican, more conservative and traditional and Taos, where I grew up with my mother, was the wild stomping grounds of the eccentrics and artistic. Cuba grounded me and Taos taught me how to fly. My years as a youth were an interesting dichotomy, but necessary to my character and art showing me the value in being open.
C: Not now. Time to cut to the chase. Let’s talk art. Most people know you as a painter. Has that always been your medium of choice? Do you have any interest in producing work through other mediums in the future?
J: Actually drawing was my first vice and main one up until recently. I was pretty much terrified of painting my whole life, I actually took Painting 101 three times and dropped it during my college career. It wasn’t until 2011 that I took it for the fourth time and had a teacher that was open to letting her students paint what inspired them, instead a bunch of boring still life’s. I got over my fear and fell hard for oils; we’re happily married now. Well, that’s not completely true. I actually love to draw still and love learning new mediums. My bread and butter is actually my light boxes, which I construct out of old vintage suitcases, so in all honesty, I’m a mixed media artist as well, I suppose.
C: That’s what’s up. You’re such a rebel. So it’s easy to notice that you like to portray the female form. Why? Where did that come from?
J: My interest in portraying the human form started as early as I can remember. I became primarily focused on rendering the female form in as early as three. No joke, and it actually could’ve been earlier, but just saying that to be safe. And I think honestly it all started with the Japanese version of the little mermaid. I just remember being captivated by the beauty of the female form. Something after all these years never ceases to inspire me. I, as a matter a fact, learned to perfect the human anatomy from comic books and Low-rider magazines. I utilized any resource that was available to me growing up. The female is most relevant and relatable to me for obvious reasons but also, there is the undeniable sacred presence that woman have, something magical yet heavy that I strive to represent in my art. There is a mystery to our abilities, yes we can create life and we are natural nurturers along with other amiable attributes but there is a mysterious presence unlike anything I’ve felt before that we carry. I can only help others and myself to understand it more through painting, or more so connect and feel it.
C: Don’t worry, I will. So, what other kinds of themes or ideas do you like to convey in your art?
J: My whole painting career has been dedicated to creating homage to the female. I do this by telling the personal stories of hardship and strength of each of my models. I want to show the resilience in women and reveal that their dark side or dark experiences add to their beauty. Often the female nude is portrayed as a pure angelic figure of prudence or a dehumanized sex symbol in order to be accepted or be appreciated. Both are flat, devoid of the dimensions that real human experience provides. I hope to humanize my models by creating a personal interaction between the image and the viewer through the models story. I do this by allowing the female to unabashedly expose her beauty with strength. I paint monochromatically in a self made “black” using the technique chiaroscuro (dramatic shadows and light) this conveys how a woman’s depth is only fully portrayed with her darkest shadows present. I illustrate her story by subtle using symbolism throughout the painting. I also use the wood as a way as of exposing her beauty with strength and pride.
C: That’s really beautiful, Jodie. I love that element of revealing narratives in your work. Is there anything else about your process you’re willing to share?
J: It all starts with inspiration. Either the model becomes inspired by the project and they want to be apart of it or I become inspired by a particular person and asking them to be a part of the project. There is a story to be told and a relationship that starts. I spend time with these women with hopes of understanding they’re who they are so I can better render their person. We meet and talk about their past, culture, strengths and weaknesses—most importantly a story of hardship they want to primarily portray in the painting. They courageously open up to me and the project, in turn they share themselves to the world. Most models state that the project becomes a part of their healing process, this is the best outcome I could possibly I ask for.
C: How do you feel about the Albuquerque art scene?
J: It’s great! We have a ton of talent here as well as great grassroots initiatives that are geared to push our artists forward. Albuquerque is definitely growing into itself and I’m extremely invested in seeing this city thrive as an art center. That’s why we started doing the Pop-Up Collective.
C: I feel the same way. We’ve got something really genuine going on here. So it was a few years ago that you and some other Albuquerque artists formed the Pop-Up Collective, right? Can you tell me more about that project?
J: The Pop-Up Collective curates one-night only art events. We like to switch up our venues for almost every show, which keeps things interesting. These locations are some of Burque’s most unique spaces and we feel incredibly fortunate to work with the people we do in order to use them. We also, feel incredibly grateful to work with our artists. Our city is filled with incredible artists and performers! Our mission is to reveal the mass talent that New Mexico has to offer, while giving both our artists and the patrons an engaging one night only experience that exceeds all expectations. Guests have proclaimed that our events made them feel good about our city. We want people to feel proud of this place, proud of our arts community! We try to cover all grounds when it comes benefiting our greater community through art. We provide exposure for local emerging artists, we try to only work with venues that can benefit from the promotion that we provide, and we always have a benefit art auction to raise money for local causes. Our focus is to create an exceptional grassroots exhibit while pushing our city forward.
C: Whoa. There couldn’t possibly be enough people like you. So tell us what are you currently working on. When is the next time you’ll be showing work?
J: I’m currently working the same project but with different women of course. Their stories are remarkable, and I’m quite excited to show these new works. I will show my newest pieces at the next Pop-Up show, and all the models from the exhibiting paintings will be there to meet in person!
I have a few shows coming up. I have one running for the month of December at Red Door Brewery. The opening will be Friday, December 4th. Then my co-curator from the Pop-Up collective, Angie Rehnberg and I are brewing up another Pop-Up show. It’s called Manifold. It will be located at SCA Contemporary Art, 524 Haines Ave. NW, Saturday December 12th, from 6-11pm. It’s gonna blow your mind! We have incredible artists, free libations donated by Tractor Brewery, munchies, Birdman spinning records, a performance by our cities first poet laureate, Hakim Bellamy, a secret group performance… you name it! We pour our hearts into these shows, it will be super rad and you don’t want to miss it. Then I will be showing at farina pizzeria of Central Ave. for the month of January. Lastly, come April I will be having an exhibition at The Small Engine Gallery the date is undecided yet, but keep your ear to the ground.
C: I’ll never remember all of that. Good thing it’s going to print. Where do you envision your career as an artist going from here, both in the short and long term?
J: I just hope to continue to learn and grow as an artist and person.
Someday, I hope to travel the world and share the social and cultural differences / similarities of women from a diverse range of backgrounds. It would be awesome to some day represent New Mexico through my art internationally. Long, long term, I want to die a happy viejita, still painting, surrounded by my loved ones in northern New Mexico.
C: That’ll be adorable. I have one last question for you: what is your advice for young people interested in pursuing their passion for art?
A second pair of eyes will help you develop your skills exponentially, it’s important that you trust that person to tell you the truth. You are confident that they have a good eye and will tell you if something is off with your work when you cannot “see” anymore (working too long on piece will do that). Also, draw… and eat your gah dam broccoli!