In honor of International Artists Day, we spoke with William Hernandez, whose work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and is part of private collections around the world. His public artwork and murals can also be seen around the Portland-Metro area.
Since moving to Portland in the early 2000s, he’s dedicated himself to introducing art to the wider community. He has been an artist-in-residence for the Milagros Theater, held workshops through the Portland Art Museum, and teaches painting classes for all ages, including for immigrant workers at VOZ Worker Rights Education Project in Portland. He will also be teaching a painting class in January through Catlin Gabel’s Adult Community Programs(sign up will be available soon)
Ever since William Hernandez was a child, he has found joy in creating art and was determined to pursue the field as his profession. At the age of 17, he spent a year learning from art books so that he would be ready for the National School of Fine Arts entrance exams in Lima, Peru. Unlike most of the applicants, he did not receive any formal training in art, but he persevered and was selected for admission from a large pool of candidates.
William’s art today reflects his commitment to the field, his optimistic nature, and his time in Peru, where he lived until his mid-thirties. “My life,” William says, “is bright, so my colors need to be bright. I’m an optimistic, happy person, and I want to transmit this feeling to the people who view my work.”
Bridge of Love by William Hernandez
He also sees art as a way to create connections with others, and this was especially true of his commission to paint a three-panel mural in the Hillsboro Civic Center. William’s goal was “to make the space more welcoming and to create a sense of connection for residents who may feel intimated to enter government spaces.” This sensibility is especially prevalent in one of the panels that is titled “The Bridge of Love,” that represents for William the way in which all the residents of the area are connected to each other.
The Special Translator by William Hernandez
In addition to creating commissioned work, William is an art instructor at many Portland and Gresham area schools through SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) after school program. He is also an active volunteer for Catlin Gabel, leading art projects and workshops during Experiential Week, and as a member of the Art Committee. The committee installs about six shows a year in Cabell Theater, four representing divisional work and two involve curating art from outside the Catlin community. “I want students to learn to trust their own voices and be honest without worrying about making mistakes. I try to show them the ‘big picture’ of the amazing process of making art.” William has also collaborated in two art shows with Catlin Gabel’s 7th grade English teacher, Christa Kaainoa. Christa’s poems helped inspire his paintings, and together, they published an art book.
He firmly believes in the positive effects of art, especially during these difficult times. “Being creative,” he says, “as well as motivated and carefree without perfection are key pieces to staying active, inspired, and maintaining a positive attitude.”
To read more about William’s commissioned work in the Hillsboro Civic Center, which was installed this summer, click on this Pamplin Media article.