Feminist Fistbumps: Mari Hernandez, A San Antonio-based Feminist Artist and Activist Speaks on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Pitfalls of the Mainstream Art Community


Welcome folks! This week, we feature Mari Hernandez, a Chicana feminist with an appetite for activism, art, and enlightenment! She donated to our online art auction held last year, and continues to give much of her time and efforts to the San Antonio community! Check out this amazing Chicana below!

 
 


 
 
Mari Hernandez

Mari Hernandez

 

Third Woman Press Collective (TWPC): Hey there, Mari! Thanks so much for making time for us! Can you tell us what your geographic location is?

 

Mari Hernandez (MH): I was born, raised, and am currently based in San Antonio, TX.

 
 

TWPC: Awesome! So Mari, how do you define your feminism?

 

MH: I identify as a Chicana Feminist. During my time at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I took a lot of Women’s Studies classes and around the same time, I read Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa. Borderlands changed my life and offered a sense of validation I had never felt before.  At that point, I started to explore Chicana Feminist Theory and, over the years, I have molded my own feminist theory based on personal experiences.

 
 

TWPC: That’s wonderful! That initial exposure we have to Women of Color feminism is so important and revitalizing! We definitely know what you mean about that sense of validation. What things do you keep busy with?

 

MH: I am the Manager of a program at San Anto Cultural Arts. San Anto is a non-profit arts organization located on the Westside of San Antonio. I am the editor of their community-based newspaper, run after school programs for youth, work in local schools, and do much more. This job takes a lot of my time. I started volunteering for this organization about 13 years ago and have been on staff for two years. I am passionate about the work I do there, to say the least. Therefore, it’s easy for me to get lost in the work.

Additionally,  I am one of four founders of a Chicana art collective called Mas Rudas. Mas Rudas has been creating installations together since 2009 and we have completed 8 all together. We have recently been published in an academic journal, presented for TEDx San Antonio, and just got back from Fresno State University where we were invited to present on the work we do. Outside of Mas Rudas, I also create work on my own. I am primarily a photographer and concentrate on self-portraiture. I am constantly making art and increasing my body of work.

 
 

TWPC: Those all sound so exciting! Kudos, mujer! We love how active you are in the community. What influenced your decision to help fundraise for Third Woman Press?

 
 

 Untitled (Julia Pastrana)  by Mari Hernandez, 2013.

Untitled (Julia Pastrana) by Mari Hernandez, 2013.


 
 

MH: Chris Davila, who helped organize your fundraiser, is one of my closest friends. I had heard of Third Women Press and I immediately became a supporter of the work you all do. High five! I am also a huge fan of the work of Cristy C. Road who has done some illustrations, including the TWP Revitalization poster, and her work drew me in.

 
 

TWPC: We see your high five and we raise you a feminist fistbump! We thank you again for your donation, we had such wonderful contributions from local artists in San Antonio! What tips do you have for emerging feminist artists?

 
 

marihernandezquote

 
 

MH: I feel like we are at a time when feminism is at the forefront of our culture, more than it has been in a very long time. There also seems to be a variety of new interpretations of what feminism is.

As an artist, if you’re going to embrace and identify as a feminist, I feel that you have to be completely comfortable with the label and willing to defend your views. I have found that labeling yourself within the art world is not favorable.

When Mas Rudas initially started working together, we were told that by calling ourselves Chicanas and feminists, we were pigeonholing ourselves. We were told what we wouldn’t “make it” and lose out on opportunities because of the way we identify. When we were told this, we knew it as bullshit. We were and still are unflinching in our identities.  We don’t feel as if we need to compromise our identities in order to “make it,” and we don’t feel as if we are lacking in opportunities and offers. It’s quite the opposite.

My advice would be to represent your feminism in a bold and proud way. Take influence from the many feminist artists that have come before you and pay homage to the work they have done. Help others around you and surround yourself with likeminded individuals. Know your history because you’re going to have to defend your work.

I feel that if one day the offers to show my work were to stop, I would still continue to be an artist without a pause. I don’t create work so I can fit into an art world. I create work because I have something to say. For me, the process of creating and finding resolution in making art is more important than “making it.” I feel like these are the questions we have to ask ourselves to really get at the root of our creativity. You have to have tough skin in the art world.

 
 

TWPC: Absolutely! We love your fierceness. And we salute you and the other artists of Mas Rudas! Is there any specific area, field, or place that you feel really needs a feminist intervention right now?

 

MH: The media. Specifically journalism. I am the manager and editor of a community newspaper and am an avid believer in the power of the media.  I read with a critical eye because I know how news and information is twisted, fabricated, and sensationalized. I feel that for the most part, dominant media perpetuates female stereotypes and has the tendency to demean the role of women in society. It’s very important to take in our news with a critical eye and teach others around to us process information in the same way.

 
 

TWPC: We couldn’t agree more. The media absolutely works to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and the best we can do is see them for what they are, and expose them to others along the way! What do you like to do for fun?

 

MH: I make art for fun and I also enjoy being active outdoors. I spend a lot of my free time with my husband, who is my biggest supporter and a feminist and artist in his own right. As a photographer and artist, it’s important for me to be alone with my own thoughts. I have a pretty busy life so I don’t have a lot of free time. I feel like if you’re an artist, creativity spills over into every aspect of your life, I have embraced that idea and it eases my anxiousness to create even when I can’t.

 
 

TWPC: Rock on! We’re glad to hear that your art has a healing effect on you. Are there any activities you do specifically to recharge after doing community organizing?

 

MH: I am an advocate of self-care but tend to over commit myself often. When this happens, I suck it up and work as hard as I can knowing that in the end, I will have peace. After a stint of hard work, I like to sleep in and enjoy some peace and quiet. It gives me time to reflect and recharge.  I also make it a point to attend conferences or activities that cater to individuals that do the same kind of work I do. Working in nonprofit, as a public servant, and as an artist who creates work with heavy themes, I tend to become emotionally and mentally drained after a while. Meeting up with liked minded individuals provides me with the motivation and inspiration to keep doing the kind of work I do.

 
 

TWPC: May you always find inspiration and peace in the work you do, mujer. We’re glad to hear you’re finding time to take care of yourself, in spite of being so busy. Since you helped TWP raise money, what is one thing that excited you about the revitalization or what would you like to see TWP do overall?

 

MH: It makes me happy that TWP exists and provides space for women to feel comfortable in expressing ourselves. I am a huge fan of feminist art and I hope to look to TWP as a space to document and archive the work of women who deserve to be recognized.

Thank you!

 
 

TWPC: Thank you, Mari! We are striving to make the various works of women of color accessible, the future is bright.

 
 


 
 

We send our love and thanks to Mari for her contributions to Third Woman Press! To see more of her works, check her out here. We would also like to thank our readers for your loyalty and continued support! We have many more wonderful people to feature, stay tuned!