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August 20 - 26, 2009
editorial@boulderweekly.com

Works of love
Ana Maria Hernando finds inspiration in Andean women
by Barbara Byrnes-Lenarcic

Nineteen stiff cranberry, yellow, peach, green and vanilla petticoats placed upside down float on a river of fragile blue, green and white resin platters embedded with embroidered flowers. Lacy flower forms and bright tassels soften the center of each pod. Ana Maria Hernando’s installation in the east gallery at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art takes viewers on a journey into the lives of women who live apart, yet are connected through selfless acts.

“For centuries, women have performed quiet, silent works of love that nourish and take care of others. This work is an homage to that, “ said Hernando, during an interview in her North Boulder studio.

Hernando’s installation is part of Pure Pleasure, BMoCA’s summer exhibition featuring mixed-media works by eight artists from the Boulder/Denver area and one artist from Springfield, Mo., through Sept. 6.

In “La Montaña Trae Barcas de Azucenas” (“The Mountain Brings Us Boats Full of Lilies”), Hernando blends petticoats crocheted by women living 12,000 feet above sea level in the Andes of Peru with flowers embroidered by cloistered Carmelite nuns at the Monastery of Santa Teresa of Jesus in Buenos Aires with delicate pieces created by Paraguayan women who work in Argentina.

In her studio, Hernando turns the petticoats into pods. She dips the undergarments in resin and wraps them around exercise balls.

Hernando pours resin over the nuns’ embroidered flowers to create the platters. The tinge of color in certain plates is produced by adding blue or green liquid to the resin before it is poured.

A poet, painter, printmaker and installation artist born in Buenos Aires, Hernando’s 1000-square-foot studio is located behind a nursery and auto-repair shops. The right wall features a large flower sketch. The left wall is decorated with flower paintings on squares. A work in progress contains a flower drawn on yellow cloth. For Hernando, a blooming flower is a transparent act of beauty that inspires her to seek out other quiet creators of loveliness.

In 2001, Hernando started supplying the Carmelite nuns with fabric and designs for embroidered flowers. Communication with the sisters was via voice through an opaque wooden window. The Carmelite nuns pray daily for a better planet and embroider to support themselves.

“The whole world is present in the monastery through prayer, but the nuns are enclosed,” Hernando said.

The artist’s connection to the women living in the Andes has a spiritual root, as well. In 2005, Hernando was invited to be a Spanish translator for a Shaman, who was leading a retreat to Mollamarca, Peru, where the women live.

“At first, I was a little bit scared, wondering, ‘What will this be for me? Am I sure I want to do this? Will I feel out of place?’” Hernando said.

Hernando’s fears dissolved as she felt the community’s devotion to the land, the mountains, sky and animals, and saw the people’s strong resolve in the harsh environment. When Hernando watched the women weave ponchos, she saw their work as a prayer. The artist knew she wanted to work with the weavers and spread their story, but she was not sure how.

“In the Quechuan language, the word for the art of weaving and telling stories is the same,” Hernando said.

Touched by the Andean women, Hernando continued to accompany the Shaman as a translator to the village twice a year.

In 2006, while Hernando watched the women dance, she noticed material popping out from under the dancers’ skirts. The edging
was part of a colorful, petticoat crocheted from acrylic wool. Hernando bought six petticoats for a project in Albuquerque. During a 2008 trip, Hernando visualized a mountain of petticoats to honor the women’s strength. She purchased 120 undergarments from every woman in the village.

“When I collaborate with people, I always want them to feel like they are such winners,” Hernando said.

A week later, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver commissioned Hernando to create a tower of petticoats for MCA’s Project Gallery. Then Joan Markowitz, co-executive director and senior curator at BMoCA, invited Hernando to participate in Pure Pleasure.

“You put a wish into the wind, then it comes,” said Hernando. “I have much faith and trust that if the work is to come forward there will be a space.” 

Over the years, Hernando’s relationship with the Andean women has developed into more than an artistic collaboration. She listens to the women’s concerns. She is a godmother to some of the women’s children. She sees beauty in how the women walk.

“They move in groups with the children, their own and others,” Hernando said. “The women are mountains for me.”


On the Bill:
Pure Pleasure is on view through Sept. 6 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-2122, www.bmoca.org.

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