Who: I am art in motion, not easily defined, surviving, mostly thriving, in the face of radical change and adversity. I learned to sing before I could speak. I learned to walk before I could crawl. My approach to artistic expression is much like my approach to life: mostly unconventional and sometimes backward.
My name is Luisana “Lu” Hernandez and I am 37 years old. I am a self-taught visual, literary and musical artist, as well as a community activist, living in Everett. I have been an artist in some capacity for as long as I can remember, and a dedicated activist for the last year. I work for Snohomish County’s Communities of Color Coalition and am a member of the Creative District Formation Group for the city of Everett.
What: I see each creative medium as a therapeutic and transformative tool that allows me to process the deeper nature of my experiences. In that sense, regardless of the medium, my subject matter is often personal. I regularly engage in conscious flow as an active meditation, so my visual art often appears cellular in nature. When it comes to artistic expression, I prefer the beauty of organic evolution to a highly structured, predetermined endstate.
Mixed media is one of my favorite outlets as a visual artist. It has the least amount of constraints, and satiates my need for adding textures and dimensions. I favor earth tones, but do not limit myself to specific color palettes when creating.
I also write poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction and creative non-fiction. As for my music, I am an acoustic singer-songwriter with folk roots that favors simple melodies with heavy-handed lyrics. I have become more political with my musical sentiments as of late, and hope that others hear within them a call for social justice and political reform.
Where: I have a small studio in my garage where I work. I have played shows and displayed art in Everett, Snohomish, Seattle and Bellingham. You can see some of my work on Instagram and Facebook, though I am still learning to utilize and navigate those platforms effectively. Simultaneously, I am in the process of building a website that should launch early next year.
COVID-19 tanked the entertainment industry and turned that economic sector into a temporary dead zone. A lot of venues have either gone under or are on the brink of the fall. Most of the artist communities I engage with have shifted gears toward a heavy online presence with limited opportunities for private showings. Private sales and patrons have been my means to keep creating art during these times.
When: Now more than ever, we must support and uplift the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and disabled artists in our communities. This year, many of the marginalized surrendered the tools of their trade for protest signs and rallies, in support of the massive push for social and political justice and equity. It is an important time to be an artist. We are the heralds of these movements, communicating the truth of what we see, unapologetically. Our voices are necessary, and we must remember as a community that our silence regarding the atrocities and traumas experienced by BIPOC communities is itself, an act of cultural erasure. Our creatives are drivers of social change, and we are desperately needed at the forefront.
Why: We are born creating and will die creating; this is the way. Life is a temporary, albeit eternal cycle. The gift is the lived experience. So often we create to capture and encapsulate, yet we can hold onto nothing, as everything is in a state of constant change. The end of one creation will birth the beginning of another, and even our death will create an absence felt by many. In that sense, I see no beginning or end.
The creative process allows me to accept transformation and the nature of truth, however unpalatable I find it. It allows me to build upon and appreciate my experiences, while not feeling defined or limited by them. It provides me the tools I need to pick up the pieces of what I perceive within and outside of myself as broken or torn and begin the mend by breathing life into something new. Whether I begin with remnants and rubble or nothing at all, what I create reflects this.
How: I make a lot of alcohol ink from dried up and discarded markers, and often use it to prime my larger pieces. Oversized coffee filters have become a staple for me and catch the excess ink. Once they dry crisp and saturated with color, I use them in other pieces. Most of the visual art I create has upcycled and recycled components, which helps with the cost of creating. You can often find me deconstructing unwanted costume jewelry for its shiny bobbles. Whether I am writing, painting or gluing, I love working in layers that add texture and depth. I do not direct the art that I create, so much as I surrender my hands to its inherent nature. Simply put, I function as a conduit.
Favorite piece: Unlike conscious flow, crafting a song can be grueling. Sometimes the amount of emotional labor required to produce something meaningful is exhausting. Perhaps that is why I am particularly attached to words. Here is an excerpt from a song I wrote called “I Will Never Run For Office:”
“An eye for an eye would leave us all blind / There’s a cost for every favor / It costs to be born and death it costs / More than the grief that it brings /We’re all fightin’ for a piece of a pie / That is stuffed with our guts and our busted-up wings / Some will kneel on the neck of another / Taking their time left to savor / The privilege and power of color / That deals in the lives of the people we wager”
— Sara Bruestle, Herald writer
Coming up: Lu Hernandez will sing and play guitar live on Facebook to celebrate her 38th birthday at 7 p.m. Jan. 29. Go to www.facebook.com/swimmingthefeels to watch the show. Donate to Hernandez via her PayPal tip jar.
More mixed-media art: See more of Hernandez’s work on Instagram @swimmingthefeels.
An artist on exhibit
This story is part of an occasional series in which local artists share the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How on their creative careers — plus the story behind their favorite original artwork. Do you know an artist worthy of a feature in the Panorama section? Email email@example.com.