100 Colorado Creatives 3.0: Esther Hernandez

Esther Hernandez gets into character.EXPAND
Esther Hernandez gets into character.
Scott Russell
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#18: Esther Hernandez

Performance artist and RedLine resident Esther Hernandez calls her work a “living collage” or “social sculpture,” but these descriptions only address the performance experience in real time, an interaction between artist and audience. That matters a lot, of course, but acknowledging what it takes to bring the whole idea to fruition — from psychic preparations to the physical creation of sets and costuming — is no less important. To see Hernandez at work is to see how difficult (and intrinsically brave and DIY) a discipline performance art really is. Learn more about Hernandez via her 100CC questionnaire.

Esther Hernandez, "White Eyes."EXPAND
Esther Hernandez, "White Eyes."
Courtesy of Esther Hernandez

If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Alexander McQueen, because of his striking designs and concepts. Or any high-caliber designer or makeup artist, for that matter. Costume is an integral part of my work. I usually have to learn how to do a lot of it myself or employ and collaborate with designer friends on a very limited budget. I am always looking for help from makeup artists…not to mention those who do the actual performing.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

I like what RoseLee Goldberg is doing in New York with Performa. It’s great that she is supporting performance art and creating a platform for people to enjoy it. Being in the art world as a performer, (although I am not strictly a performer) is very different from creating a painting or sculpture that people can buy and sell. The traditional way a gallery operates doesn’t have much need for it. Needless to say, if performance is going to thrive, it requires a system that supports it.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

How about I keep an old trend going by adding another layer to it? Like crafting mustaches out of armpit hair? I’ll make to order. Just private-message me.

Esther Hernandez, “Starving Artist Table,” interactive table centerpiece performance inspired by NEA budget cuts, 2017.EXPAND
Esther Hernandez, “Starving Artist Table,” interactive table centerpiece performance inspired by NEA budget cuts, 2017.
Scott Russell

What's your day job?

My day job is a night job. I work in the service industry.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

I’m not really sure. I feel like the type of artwork I do is sometimes born out of an awareness or frustration with the way things are — it’s a way to say, “Look how absurd this all is!” So the idea of having a lot of money to do that is even more absurd. However, I do believe laughter is a powerful medicine that can affect social change. Maybe I would just use the funds by dreaming up events and creating opportunities that foster creative thinking and involve the community at large. I guess that’s just a fancy way of saying I would keep doing what I’m doing, but in a more professional capacity.

Esther Hernandez, "This Must Be the Place," performance set for the RedLine residents' group show Nice Work if You Can Get It, 2017.EXPAND
Esther Hernandez, "This Must Be the Place," performance set for the RedLine residents' group show Nice Work if You Can Get It, 2017.
Wes Magyar

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

I’m an adventurer who has traveled a lot, but I’ve always returned because I love my community of friends and family. I feel very supported and loved here. Traveling or leaving Denver only appeals to me if it’s connected to a project I’m immersed in. It’s easy to get away to the mountains if I feel the need. The real adventure is enjoying the work I am doing right now.

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Grant money, affordable housing and studio spaces. Programs that support the arts deserve grant money. All schools need to have a big enough budget to have a healthy arts program and allow for outside programs to come in, like Epic Arts and Artcorps.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for the encouragement and support of so many, like Theresa Anderson, Justin Beard, Daniel Nilsson, Luke Leavitt and Sarah Slater. I don’t really have a favorite, because it takes a village, you know. I love that these people put themselves on the line to make things happen that are pretty out of the ordinary and also support others in doing so.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I’m hoping to realize a large-scale, interactive performance installation that would involve lots of people: three dancers, a few musicians and a painter. I liken it to a sort of collaborative, grotesque and mysterious theater: You may wander into the cavern of something unborn yet so alive. I’m thankful to have the support of RedLine, which is allowing me to do crazy stuff like this. Also, I plan on continuing with my ongoing series of stop-motion portraits and hope to get a couple of the projects funded – one of which is a speed-dating food-fight event.

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

I know of an interesting group of people forming a unique collective called Secret Love that will do some really fun stuff this coming year. A lot of great work can come into existence when people get together to look out for each other and the arts by strengthening community.

Esther Hernandez will present a runway-style wearable-art performance, The Obscured Self — A Ghillie Suit Fashion Show, in collaboration with Rachel Mathews and a handful of other artists, from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 28, at RedLine. Learn more about Esther Hernandez and her work online.

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