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In the Studio: Ana María Hernando

Ana Maria Hernando, an Argentinian woman with light skin tone and dark hair, sits on a red stool in the middle of a room full of plants, eclectic furniture, art and books. Smiling slightly at the camera, she wears a gray embroidered dress, a black tulle scarf, cropped black leggings, and no shoes.
Photo by Kristen Hatgi

Ana María Hernando is a Colorado-based multidisciplinary artist and a 2023 Joan Mitchell Fellow. We interviewed her about her work and creative practice in February 2024. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

I work with textiles to make sculptures, and I have done that for 20 some years. I’m also a painter. I’ve used different materials to create both paintings and prints, but I have been mostly painting with acrylic inks on paper over the past several years. The fabrics I use, including tulle, have a lot of transparency. It's a little bit like painting with fabric.

When I'm working on a big project, I also write about it. I end up writing poems that help me think through what the work is about. My writing practice is parallel to the making of my work.

“Déferlante” is a sculptural installation in a grand curving staircase with an iron filigree balustrade framed by warm stucco walls. Tulle in hues of pink, peach, and fuschia fill and cascade down the staircase, filling the landing below.
Ana María Hernando, Déferlante / Flood, 2020. Tulle, dimensions variable. Photo by Sebastian Collett.

I have been an artist all my life. Like all artists, I wouldn't be the person that I am without it. On one hand, there is the immediacy of the work with different materials, and the relationships that I develop with them, which is a relationship with my body. But then the work also helps me connect with others in this more horizontal way. Because I work in installation and I bring my textile sculptures into spaces, I’m always thinking about the people who will go through those spaces, and how their bodies relate to that.

That communication with other people that I might never meet fascinates me. I think about the future and about the past, and a way of connecting also with all these other beings that we walk by, but we don't always recognize as entities—like trees and birds and all the life that is around us.

“Only the Air Was Heard” is a sculptural installation on the white wall of a museum space. From a rounded rectangular band of densely ruffled mustard tulle on the wall, a cascading form of bundles of gray and lavender tulle fabric spill down, piling outwards onto the floor below.
Ana María Hernando, Solo se escuchaba el aire / Only the Air Was Heard, 2020, tulle, 125 x 120 x 258 inches.

All the things I make are infused with different layers. One layer is very personal: the things I want to learn, the things I admire, the places where I want to expand. I admire women, throughout the centuries, and I’m motivated by the feminine in the world—how in this constant, sometimes quiet way, women keep going and changing the world, thinking about the big-picture, thinking about what's best for a community. I think women have done that very well in the world.

I am originally from Buenos Aires, and I come from a family of textile makers—of women getting together and working together. That is a tradition I follow and that I want to bring into the future—not only in terms of what we make, but in how we do it. That is important in my work.

I have now lived in the United States for longer than I lived in Argentina, but I see how the culture that I come from, and my Spanish grandmothers that moved from Spain to Argentina, all impact my work. There is a weaving of the individuals that creates a picture of the collective. I want that in my work.

Making a Mountain is a large pile of bunched sections of orange and pink tulle fabric, installed in an art museum with gray floor, white walls, and tall windows visible in the corner.
Ana María Hernando, Making a Mountain, 2023, tulle. Image by Drew Austin, Courtesy of The Dairy Arts Center. Funded by a grant from the Boulder Arts Commission, an agency of Boulder City Council and the Boedecker Foundation.

Scale fascinates me, and it's always something that pushes me to think in different ways. I make some works that are small, but then I also make large installations, including public artworks that might be spread through a whole park. When I create my tulle pieces inside museums, I love how the work takes on the space and just expands it in a regal way, but at the same time makes it intimate, so we can relate to it and feel how our bodies connect with it.

With installations, the other part is working through how to take architecture into account, and how to make visible the places that have been invisible. I like to bring attention to some corner that we don't notice, and then we discover it. If I have a show at a museum, I know a lot of the people that might go through it, might also be frequent visitors. So how can the work bring a rebirth to the space? I like that challenge, and that conversation.

In a large room with wooden floors and wall of windows, artist Ana Maria Hernando’s tools and fabric artworks-in-progress can be seen on various shelves and tables. In the center of a room, a large pinkish-orange length of tulle fabric spills off a long table onto the floor.
In a room with wooden floors and white walls dotted with abstract fabric sculpture, a long piece of pinkish orange tulle fabric lays on a central table. We see other work surfaces and tools in this artist’s studio.
Work-in-progress in the studio of Ana María Hernando, Denver, CO.

I spend most of my time at the studio, so the space of the studio is important. Right now, I’m working in a beautiful studio that has been an in-between space for me for four months. It's in a building called the Evans School. It's an old school, very close to the Denver Art Museum. It has wooden floors and beautiful windows. It's a joy to be working here. I’m moving out in two weeks, and hopefully I'll settle into another great studio.

I come to my work from different places. Sometimes an image appears first, and I have to be very soft with it. I have to listen carefully to what the work wants to be about. With my paintings, I have been painting flowers and patterns for many, many years. It has become more of a way of working in abstraction, I would say. For that, I don't have much of a plan. I choose a shape, a flower. When I travel, I take photos of plants and leaves and flowers, and I’m interested in the sculptural shape of them. I begin with that, but then the painting goes and takes me to places I had not planned.

A composite image of two abstract wall sculptures made with tulle fabric. On the left, A Piece of Sand and of Sky is a rounded rectangular shape bisected into two sections of color: light pink at the top and salmon pink at the bottom. On the right, Purple and Full of Hope is a rounded rectangular sculpture made with bunches of lavender tulle fabric, with a fan of brown tulle bursting up at the top.
Left: Pedazo de mar y cielo, I / A Piece of Sea and of Sky, I. 2022, tulle, 26 x 23 x 6 inches. Right: Purple and Full of Hope, 2023, tulle, 17 x 15 x 8 inches. Photos by Wes Magyar.

With my installations, the process is the opposite. When I’m creating work for a site, I go to the space, and I feel the space. As I was saying before, I relate to how bodies move in it. Then when I'm there, I have an idea, and I begin figuring out how to make that idea visible. Sometimes I make sketches, which also help me to create the proposals. But then with some other pieces, I just choose a color. I have been working a lot with tulle, which I love. I choose the color, and then I just begin combining it with other colors, to make new colors with the layering and new relationships by placing them together. That's some of the process.

A twilight view of an urban park, with Ana María Hernando’s art installation “To Let the Sky Know.” We see unique, colorful sculptures resembling large mushrooms, against a backdrop of city buildings.
Ana María Hernando, To Let the Sky Know / Dejar que el cielo sepa, 2024. Tulle. Shown at Madison Square Park. Photo Elisabeth Bernstein, Courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York.

Right now I have a temporary exhibit that's currently on view at Madison Square Park in New York. The show is called To Let the Sky Know / Dejar que el cielo sepa, and in many ways it's a declaration of what I want, and my invitation to others: what do we want the sky to know? It's all made out of an abundance of tulle, on structures placed in different places in the park.

One of the things I like a lot about tulle, and most of the textiles I work with, is that they are very soft, but they have a big presence when you present them in abundance. In my work, I want to talk about power, but I never really related personally to the power of bronze or other more definite materials. But with these fabrics, I feel and like its flexibility. It's a soft power. There is an abundance and perseverance in the material, and that's the way I want to talk about power. It relates to the feminine and a presence that is obviously there. It doesn't disappear. I find that these pieces at Madison Square Park, spread out as they are, have a presence. And I like that.

In an urban park with snow on the ground and buildings and trees in the background, Ana Maria Hernando’s sculptural installation, A Spring of Wild Kindnesses, features colorful tutu-like fabric art dusted with snow.
Ana María Hernando, A Spring of Wild Kindnesses / Un manantial de bondades agrestes, 2024. Tulle. Shown at Madison Square Park as part of To Let the Sky Know / Dejar que el cielo sepa. Photo Hunter Canning, Courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York.

I planned this exhibit so that visitors would encounter the work coming from different places. It's such a great opportunity because 50,000 people a day visit the park. To be in such spread out conversation, it's a luxury. People have been posting on Instagram, and emailing me all of the time. With so many posting photos, it's almost, for me, like being there in New York, as if I would have a camera, and I can see how the work changes. I made these pieces with the team in Denver, and then there was the team in New York, but my biggest collaborator is the weather, because the work changes with the snow, the rain, or the wind. It's great, and requires a surrender on my part.

One thing about this show at the Madison Square Park, and also the piece that I'm working on now for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is that I want to make a space for the longing, and a call for us to remember that even though there’s so much tragedy and we have so much disappointment about humanity, there are also a lot of wonderful things that we are working for. I want these pieces to make this thread of connecting our hearts to these wishes and dreams, as a sort of prayer for what we can do and who we can be. I’m hoping that this work from New York can travel. It might travel here to Denver and to Boulder.

An artist’s sketch on white textured paper shows a colored pencil drawing of an abstract form in orange and pink. The artist has added notes in pencil and a small bundle of orange and pink tulle fabric is pinned to the top.
Sketch for in-progress work for National Museum of Women in the Arts
Ana Maria Hernando leans over a large sculpture, created from bundles of orange and pink tulle fabric, that flows down and out from a white wall in a gallery space with gray floors. Working with a bundle of fabric on the ground, she wears a patterned black and white dress over pink leggings and pink sneakers.
Ana María Hernando installing work at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

As I mentioned, I'm working on a new piece for the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It's for a show called Women to Watch 2024, which opens April 10. There are women from all over—mostly from the United States, but all over the world. I'm going to be representing Colorado. This piece is made with a variety of oranges and pinks. I love colors in general, but those colors for me have a vibrancy. I hope it invites what I was talking about before—that idea of connecting us with a life force and longing.

I also have an upcoming show in Switzerland in the fall, another one at La Napoule Art Foundation at the end of the summer. And then I have other projects and commissions. It's one of the challenges of being an artist—how do you keep track of all of it, because when projects are at different stages, they each require so much of you. It’s easy to lose track, and forget the heart. It's like holding a flower in the forest. How do you do that?

I'm also so grateful to the Joan Mitchell Foundation to be participating in the Fellowship program. I can see how it's a community that’s happening and I feel very supported. As an artist, it's so vulnerable to show your work and to be out there. To have a community that holds you, I think it's important for all artists. The Joan Mitchell Foundation’s community spreads through miles and miles and miles. I’m very grateful to be a part of that.

Interview and editing by Jenny Gill. Learn more about Ana María Hernando’s work at and on Instagram.

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Artists' Voices