For Women's History Month, PRSUN talks to boricua multimedia artist Mia Roman Hernandez about her many loves: art, life, culture, family and the month of March.
This month is a busy one for Mia. She's organizing and taking part in a lineup of Women's History Month events in New York City aimed at celebrating and highlighting the work of Latina artists. She is participating in a group art exhibit, curating and showcasing her photography in a group exhibit titled "Latinas En Foco/Celebrating Women in Photography" and performing in a poetry show titled in "Her Food For Thought/Celebrating Latina Women in Poetry." For Mia, March is an important time to celebrate sisterhood.
1. What kind of artist are you and what is your mission?
I would say that I am a multimedia artist. I enjoy painting, poetry and photography. I love to sample all types of mediums and touch on various subjects. My mission is to produce art whenever possible. As an artist, I enjoy sharing the love of my culture, spirituality and artistic views with others. I have found a way to express myself with visual arts that I was unable to do in any other way.
2. Did you always want to be an artist?
I never set out to be an artist and never thought I would be an artist. Growing up, I was surrounded by creative people. Watching my mom paint small murals in our Brooklyn apartment, hearing her play the congas, helping her make our Halloween costume and taking crocheting lessons from my grandmother were just some of the daily things that surrounded me. Art was second nature to me growing up. I was encouraged to use my creativity and was always praised when I did. There was no wrong or right to art. It was always a way of self expression even as a child.
2a. When did you realize that art was for you and do you remember what was your first piece of art?
I was always making something. If it wasn't a piece of clothing for my dolls, I was playing makeup artist with my friends. I did crafts, painted clothing and designed jewelry as a teen. It wasn't until the passing of my grandfather that I started painting on canvas. He painted into his late eighties and loved painting landscapes of Puerto Rico. I would watch him paint the patio of the house, build shelves for the flower pots and then paint the flower pots. He painted coconuts, sea shells and anything he could get his hands on. After his passing, I walked into his studio and something came over me. It was almost as if he was passing the torch. I inherited his art supplies, books and sketches and just took it from there. His paint brushes are with me during every show, whether in my pocket or in my bag. It's a way for me to bring him along. My very first piece was a spiritual piece of an altar with offerings on the beach.
3. You mention that life inspires your art. Could you please elaborate on that?
My life experiences are reflected in my artwork: Latino Culture, my travel experiences, people I meet, things I dream, stories I hear. I am a spiritual person, so I enjoy painting things inspired by spirituality. I paint very much like the book "Like Water for Chocolate." My artwork can almost reflect the mood I was in at the moment. I will have very dark and sad pieces because that is how I was feeling, and some will be very bright and colorful. That is the wonderful thing about art: the possibilities are infinite.
3a. You come from a line of family of artists. Please tell me a little about them and how or if they have influenced your art.
On my maternal side, my grandfather was a graphic artist, musician and cartoonist. He designed the logo for the sugar bags in Puerto Rico. He also wrote a cartoon strip for one of the local Puerto Rico tribunes. My grandmother, now 83 years old, still does puntillo and crochets. My mother is an interior decorator and silversmith/jewelry maker in Miami, Fla. My aunt was a photographer and graphic artist and my uncle is a chef. On my paternal side, my uncle was an architect, my grandfather was a painter and my aunt is a jewelry maker. I have a brother that is an amazing mixed media sculpture, my sister a creative writer, younger brother a wonderful sketch artist and my youngest brother plays the piano. Art is in the blood no matter the craft. Each and every one of them inspire me to go forward and have always been very supportive in any endeavor of mine.
4. The subject of the woman is an important part of your artwork. Why is that?
In my family, the women play a very important role. They have been mother, father, friend, and spiritual advisor. They are the band aid to the boo boo. They always made it better no matter how bad it was. They showed strength, determination and will. These attributes are very inspiring. The images in my artwork are of my family, friends, the women that have crossed my path, and the women I admire and inspire to be.
5. You are involved in several exhibitions and activities during Women's History Month? Why is this month significant to you?
The month of March is a very important month for me. It's a month that showcases the achievements of all women. The month of March is empowering and inspiring no matter what the age, field or craft. I am able to take the month of March and bring a group of talented women together and collaborate as a sisterhood on a particular project or endeavor.
6. Who are your favorite artists and why?
Some of my favorite artists are Frida Kahlo, Lola Alvarez-Bravo, Rafael Tufino and Michael Angelo. The styles of their work inspire me. The works evoke emotion, dialogue and culture and that is exactly what I like to convey in my work.
7. What are your biggest accomplishments as an artist and why?
Some of my biggest accomplishments as an artist are not the awards, merits or honorable mentions. They are the smiles on the faces of the youth I teach art to; they are the ones that I am able to help through donating my artwork to charities/auctions. They are the people that I inspired by sharing my artwork. These are the accomplishments that truly give me a breath of fresh air.
8. What are your biggest challenges as an artist and why?
My work is very cultural and I have found it challenging to showcase my artwork outside the Latino communities. I am a self taught artist. I do not have a fancy fine arts degree from a fancy arts school, and my artwork reflects that independent self taught style, which is very nontraditional.
9. Outside of your art, what do you enjoy doing?
I collect books and am an avid reader, so I will read till I fall asleep or organize my bookcase. I love to go to Coney Island for Nathan's French fries, cotton candy and jelly apples, love the water balloon shooting games and enjoy to watch DVD's in my PJ's on a rainy day.
10. Please tell me anything else I didn't ask that you'd like to share.
I have a Golden Retriever named Bingo, which I adopted from North Shore Animal League. He is nine years old and is the son I will never have. He is a major part of the family.
Mia Roman Hernandez was a guest at PRSUN Radio at www.blogtalkradio.com/prsunradio. You can listen to the show online right here.
For more information about Mia, visit her blog at http://artbymia.blogspot.com or her MySpace page at www.myspace.com/1mamamia.
-- Clarisel Gonzalez
Photos courtesy of Mia Roman Hernandez