For one USD senior, college has been a time of personal growth and discovery.
Rayna Hernandez, an art and creative writing double major, said her years at USD have helped solidify her passion for painting. Since choosing to pursue an art major, Hernandez has used her personal background and poetry to create images that address her cultural identity while also being relatable to viewers – a technique that paid off this past summer.
“My series is about my disconnect from my culture because I’m Native American, but I wasn’t raised traditionally. I draw on feeling like I’m in a cultural gap because I’m not exactly a part of a white culture or Native culture,” she said.
Through her work, Hernandez was named the recipient of the 2014 Oscar Howe Curatorial Fellowship. With this fellowship, she was able to work with the University Art Gallery staff to curate an exhibition of Oscar Howe’s artwork.
“The fellowship allowed me to experience the ins and outs of working in a gallery,” Hernandez said.
Because of her fellowship, she was also able to experience selling one of her pieces this past summer at an art show. The piece was purchased by a friend of Hernandez, who also resides in Vermillion. She sold the untitled piece for $800.
Hernandez said knowing her work is still in Vermillion being appreciated by someone who supports local art is a great feeling.
“I tried to incorporate things people could relate to in the piece,” stated Hernandez. “I alluded to the American flag while also drawing on Western culture.”
Since selling the piece, Hernandez said she has received more interest in her work from others. She hopes to maintain this interest while finishing her education at USD. After completing college, she hopes to one day be an art gallery curator while also working as a freelance artist.
Hernandez, whose parents are both artists, draws upon her Native American culture by using her mother’s diamond patches from her quilt work. Her work contains vibrant colors on canvas and imagery that is personal. She also incorporates her own poetry into her work as inspiration while painting.
“Rayna is trying to figure out how the different materials that she’s using come together,” said Andrew Leventis, one of Hernandez’s painting professors. “Things that speak to her Native American heritage and to this Western-European tradition, too. I think in the classes with me she’s going to keep working on that question of identity.”
While Hernandez said professors at USD and her parents have been supportive, she also gets a lot of support from her friends and colleagues. Klaire Pearson, a graduate student at USD, has served as one of those pillars of support for Hernandez.
“Rayna strives to make the best work she can while successfully including different mediums,” Pearson said. “I am inspired by her work ethic.”
(Photo: A painting by Rayna Hernandez sits in front of the art building. Hernandez hopes to become an art teacher. Photo Courtesy of Rayna Hernandez / The Volante)