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CULTURAL GALLERY INTRO
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With the works in my cultural gallery, I hope to share the pride that I have in my identity and reveal elements of that identity that are not often celebrated. For me, cultural pride has thankfully triumphed over elements of self-hate that I experienced as a kid and that many of us who come from a colonized experience have had to or continue to battle.

There is something very disturbing about a five-year old child, rubbing lotion all over their skin and happily announcing that they are now white. I was that child. My early years were plagued by self-denial and misunderstanding. My family openly discussed beauty standards that came straight outta American fashion magazines. Being blonde was the ultimate blessing. Es linda, se parece Americana (she's pretty, she looks American) were two phrases that became synonymous. Looking American meant having typical Caucasian features. Pelo malo (bad hair) was a huge topic among my cousins. If ever I decided to blow dry my curly hair to wear it straight, I'd often get the, "Oh, but I thought you had bad hair." At this point, I barely ever blow-dry my hair. For one, I don’t have the time to spend an hour with a blower to straighten my hair. Second, my natural curls suit me just fine.

I now like to think of that lotion episode as less of an act of ignorance and more as an early indication of my inquisitive nature. Clearly as a young child, I had known that white skin represented privilege in this country. Luckily, by my late teens I realized that Puerto Rican culture was made up of Spanish, African and Indigenous elements that came together on that island. Once I took profound interest in my culture, I embraced it wholeheartedly. I learned that self-knowledge and understanding help to create or sustain balance and harmony in one's life. To examine my identity I delved into these cultural ancestries one at a time. The Spanish, of course, was the most evident aspect of my culture. How many Latinos still go around calling themselves "Spanish"? Though many of us speak Spanish, we are not all Spanish. Spanish might be in us, but unless we, or our parents, were born in Spain, we are not Spanish.

I found the process of uncovering indigenous and African elements in my culture to be most revealing. It was through exploring these aspects that I began to tap into my spirituality. Combined in this gallery are samples of some of my explorations of race and the methods in which race manifests culturally. Also included in this gallery are works that I like to consider products of documenting cultural experiences and observations of such experiences with social commentaries. You will also find images of my family since family is the place where we all begin our identity searches.

gallery

© Copyright 2002-10, Yasmin Hernandez. Under no circumstances should any of the images on this site be downloaded, printed or reproduced without direct permission from the artist.