Ariel Hernandez is a Rio Grande Valley artist, advocate, and creator of DreamHeaux, a label featuring awesome apparel, stickers, and accessories with a Latinx twist.
Hernandez grew up in Edinburg, Texas, and attended South Texas College originally focusing on art as her major. Her passion in art, however, extended before college. Hernandez describes her and her best friends high school fan-art hustle. As comic and cartoon enthusiasts, the high-schoolers would split table cost for events like South Texas Comicon, Omnicon, the Corpus Christi anime convention, and pull all-nighters to draw their favorite characters, make charms, pins and prints. Hernandez made decent money at the events, which helped her as a high school student and allowed her to learn the ins and outs on vending and new skills like mold making. The artist mentions that as a young adult drawing fan art was fun and one of her favorite interests other than computers and technology.
When Hernandez graduated high school and began classes at STC, she didn’t dig the vibe of the classical and traditionally trained art world. She described her style as somewhere between abstract and realism while not being true or doing justice to either category or genre.
“I just think it’s weird,” she laughs.
Hernandez finds inspiration from her favorite things, which include sad faces, hands, and space hookers, the latter she describes as her comfort zone when doodling.
“You know space babes with like multiple eyes and horns and shit,” she mentions. Hernandez likes having a strong femininity in art but also enjoys it being a little bit off-key.
Her biggest influences are the anti-art movements like surrealism and graffiti, “things that were kind of outside what is super duper normal.” Hernandez favorite artists are coincidentally those who stand out as different for their content or style. She sites fantasy artist Boris Vallejo as someone whose craft was classical but who was dismissed by the art critics because of the content he painted which revolved around elaborate sci-fi fantasies, think Dungeon and Dragons or Magic. Hernandez also talked about French street artist, Miss Van, a prolific international street and fine artist who initially was not taken serious by the some in the graffiti movement or the fine art community because of her content and style that breached both art worlds. Personally, Hernandez felt like there was a lot of pressure in traditional art to be deep and adhere to so many standards. She didn’t consider her art that but she didn’t feel bad about i.
She eventually decided to switch majors and follow her interest in technology. Hernandez received her Associates Degree in CISCO Networking Systems and from STC in 2013. She is now working on her B.A in Computer Information Technology and is currently employed with the City of McAllen’s IT department where she utilizes her gift and curiosity for troubleshooting to figure out the mystery of what is going wrong with a system.
Working in technology full-time has allowed Hernandez to do art the way she enjoys: for fun. It has also allowed her to engage in digital art and the ability to invest financially into new ventures. In the past year, the 24 year old has come back to art with new life experiences and perspectives that are influencing her creations. Her current line of work is displayed through her @dreamheaux_ Instagram account. Her style takes a more design-based approach with short concise statements that are geared towards brown communities. Designs like the word Chismosa in a groovy font over imposed on a seductive pair of lips, or Tejano Superstar on an outstretched accordion are examples of the culturally relevant messages in her latest work. Her Del Valle Mazapan t-shirt is also a great example of the Valley aesthetic packaged in a tight pop-design.
In thinking about a way to put these succinct messages out to the public in a manner she had not seen much of, Hernandez decided on transferring some designs onto enamel pins. Hernandez was encouraged by her friends who love pins but also considers them to be a good way to carry art with you and to make a proclamation of who you are. She created the Sad Pack that consist of three pins with designs that include a tri-eyed pink concha, brown hands counting money with a 956 tattoo, and a groovy text that reads Brown and Sad.
“The Brown and Sad design means a lot to me because I feel that in the current political climate there are so many people outside of the Mexican culture and race that are brown and are victims of injustice solely based on the fact that they are brown,” Hernandez says.
Her designs were well received from people out of the Valley and outside of just being Mexican. She thinks that too many people it is like, “Yeah I am sad and I am brown and my sadness is not the same as your sadness and if you are not a part of my community then you don’t understand that.”
“It’s not just about being sad because our president sucks or the economy is shit,” she mentions, “No, it’s about being sad because in this current climate it fucking matters that I’m brown because, people treat me differently because of it. There is a difference in how being brown is received and yes I’m brown and sad.” Hernandez mentions that she is not sad because she is brown, but rather that she is sad that because she is brown, she treated differently. For this reason, Hernandez takes comfort in knowing that what she is making is for the brown community.
She hopes that others see the strong femininity in her work as representative of what it means to be a Latinx women and the attitude that they have to have about certain things. When asked what kind of things, Hernandez described comments made by individuals who questioned her inclusiveness for limiting her designs to people of color and the initial emotions that elicited in her. The artist decided that she feels no regrets for catering to and reflecting communities of color in her work since the mainstream market ultimately excludes or misrepresents them. She wants to continue creating spaces like the Valley in her art.
“How can anyone tell us that we are not beautiful as a community? How can anyone tell us to hate other Mexicans or that we should feel a certain way about ourselves, or that we are not creative or intelligent or that we are not amazing?”
“Nah,” she says shaking her head. “You can’t tell us anything because we have created our own community. We have created our own spaces and in the state of Texas, the Valley is one of the most Democratic places. We are trying to make the most change.” Other than major cities in Texas, communities along the border are more inclusive despite being far from progressive influences in the country and even in the state. “We’ve made this community for ourselves, and we are trying to make it better. And if anybody wants to see true change or real change, it’s happening here in the Valley,” Hernandez says smiling.
To check out more of Ariel Hernandez’s artwork and buy her awesome pins on her Etsy shop DreamHeauxHouse or check out her Facebook and Instagram page at @dreamheaux_ or @dreamheauxhouse, respectively.