Eternal Femine

 ...The Eternal Femenine

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The Female Cosmos
by: Germaine Gómez Haro

Women, Mothers & Goddesses
by: Teresa Arcq



The Femaile Cosmos


The work of Laura Hernández is marked by the presence of duality. Its atmospheres oscillate between the earthly and the sidereal orb in a game of exchanges charged with symbolic codes of high poetic content. Between the reality of this world and its irreality, the corporeal and the spiritual interlink in a combination of contradictory and complementary signs. The union of opposing principals in her work is seen as a metaphor of the fullness of being.

Laura Hernández belongs to the intermediate generation of contemporary Oaxacan artists. When she was five, her family moved to Mexico City, where she studied at "La Esmeralda" (Art School). Images, colors, scents, tastes and personal experiences of her birthplace made a lasting impression in her mind, and over time they bore a strong influence on her painting. She stayed in touch with her origins through her grandparents, at whose ranch she spent her vacations every year. During this time her love of nature and animals flourished, and she discovered a wealth of popular myths and legends that have inspired her imagination. Her passion for ancient civilizations has taken her to explore in depth the Pre Hispanic world, whose cosmogony, based on the concept of duality, has been a constant source of inspiration.

Laura lived between Amsterdam and Paris for almost a decade, with intermittent stays in North Africa, India and South East Asia, specially Cambodia. She absorbed the teachings of age-old cultures, whose philosophical wisdom has enriched her spiritual potential. The pictorial essence of Laura Hernández is based on the universal myths that converge in the eternal question about our existence: the enigmatic relationship between the human being and the surrounding Cosmos.

Her recent work focuses on the representation of female energy by means of emblematic figures that refer to our primitive origins: Virgins and goddesses alternate with Eve, Venus, Nut, Coatlicue and Shakti, sacred and profane Muses who are the Mothers of Time and Daughters of the Cosmos. In the realm of the imagination through which the artist rides with a loose rein, human beings and animals fuse and are confused into a powerful form of nature that embraces and protects them. Her ever pensive characters appear to be in communion with nature and in close complicity with the animal species. They look into their inner depths in order to express, as suggested by the Mesoamerican elders —the Tlamatinime— "a dialog with their own heart".

The quiet murmurings of the voluptuous bodies of fire, mysticism and passion that intermingle in an act of love with Nature reverberate throughout Laura Hernández's paintings. The women appear to wear head-dresses made of birds symbolizing freedom of thought, or else their fleshy lips form the subtle silhouette of a bird that represents poetry in the purest and deepest sense of the word.

Fishes and spiral snails' shells are signs referring to perpetual motion, the interior in the human being, the exterior in the Cosmos. This can be seen in the painting Infinite Movement, in which we see a group of birds intertwined in a powerful spiral whirlwind that seems to have no beginning and no end, like the Universe itself or like the human being that occasionally exceeds his limits.

The spiral is linked to the phases of the moon and is a universal glyph of temporality. This figure, full of symbolic meaning, appears in all cultures: in sum, it represents the repeated rhythms of life, the cyclical nature of evolution. Spiral signs marking the sexual organs found on certain female forms dating back to the Paleolithic era are common. In Generation, Laura Hernández uses the spiral snail as a sexual symbol referring to the vulva, the source of erotic pleasure and of fertility.

Her luxuriant women with their dark skin like burnished mud represent Mother Earth and Venus, the Goddess of Love and queen of all carnal pleasures. The imposing Yael, with her swollen breasts, ample hips and thin waist offers herself openly in the form of a gannet that symbolizes access to the Cosmos, a metaphor of infinite eroticism. Shakti is an example of the fusion of traditions: the Hindu goddess portrayed with indigenous traces evokes the energy of the female figure as a universal symbol. In Oriental mythology, Shakti -an emblematic figure of Nature- represents the active principal of energy, and one of its attributes is precisely to reconcile male and female energy, starting with the Tantrism that suggests that man has a feminine side and vice versa, a concept fully accepted today in Biology and Psychology.

Her pictorial technique deserves special attention. Her palette stands out for its fresh, brilliant colors, dominated by a range of blues symbolizing different atmospheres and different states; indigo blue represents the Cosmos, cobalt blue is associated with time and celestial blue refers to water, the wind and the spirits. Her textures are truly surprising: a thick surface shows through superimposed oils and pigments, applied in a meticulous process; the rich layers of materials evoke the forms and shapes of the earth while the fine glazes she uses, reveal acuatic or heavenly atmospheres.

The art of Laura Hernández is the fusion of myths and cosmogonies, of legends and realities, of libido and earth, of the past in the present in the past all expressed through a kaleidoscopic view that sheds light on both the dark and luminous aspects of the world and the human being. The duality in her painting emphasizes the importance of the union of opposites, of the male and the female, associated with ying and yang, inseparable notions on whose rhythm and alternation the continuity of the Universe depends.


Women, Mothers & Goddesses

A look at the vision of gender in the work of
Laura Hernández


How are we different? Weren't you made,
after all, from my side? Don't you hurt for me?
When I am inside of you, when I make myself small
And you hug me and envelope me
And you close on me like the flower to the insect,
I know something, we both know something
The female is always larger, somehow.

Jaime Sabines, Adam and Eve.


Laura puts forth her conception of the Cosmos, her vision of the life and death cycles, and of the origins of the world through her images of woman. That is why the theme of fertility is constant in her work, and she makes reference to it not only through form and texture, which give her work great power, but also through a symbolic code in the use of color. In Yael, Goddess of Fertility, a voluptuous female form made of earth and light prepares to be fertilized by multicolored fish, the dual symbol of fertility and death. These head towards a primitive uterus in ultramarine blue, a color that represents for the artist the origin of the Cosmic cycle: birth, life, death, regeneration. Somehow her women are all "Eves", mothers of humanity, a superior, active element in the primordial couple, embodying the first expression of knowledge and freedom. Upon deciding to try the forbidden fruit, Eve embraces existence in all its aspects, she becomes a participant in good and evil.

For Laura, woman is the "warehouse of the universe", and her greatness lies in the ability to create, to make life in her own body, to transform herself, like nature itself. The First Beat refers to maternity the instant after fertilization, at the moment of gestation of a new being. A dark, black, unknown uterus, in a blend of the primary colors of the origins of the earth vibrates and expands, evoking woman's dream of reproducing. This painting is particularly symbolic, as Laura conceived of it upon' learning she was pregnant with her daughter, Sabina, thus reinforcing her own personal experience of maternity. The woman's face is red, the color of blood and fire, generators of life.

The changing nature of women's bodies has been linked for centuries with the phases of the moon, and the worship of the female body originates in ancient Egypt with the goddess Isis who represented the Cosmic future, the link between earth and the heavens, weekly and monthly cycles, biological rhythms and the different phases of female fertility.

This worship spread across several cultures and in ancient Rome it was linked to Melenis, the black nocturnal Venus, the stone that fell from the skies. Laura Hernandez's Venus takes on the same attributes -feminine, passive dark, but she rules over the terrestrial order through her power of attraction. Her body, in indigo blue, ultramarine and black reminds one of the vastness of the Universe and at the same time of its mystery. As a symbol of reflexive knowledge, of the unconscious, of the imagination and of memory, Venus holds in her hands at the level of her forehead, the ying/yang, the fundamental cosmological principal embodying masculine/feminine duality, darkness/light, negative/positive, all opposing, but eternally dependant principals. She seems to reflect from her condition as a woman on the very origins of the division between the genders.

In her representations of goddesses, the artist questions why the feminine has to be only dark when it can also be light. Her Aurora speaks to us of woman as the full manifestation of the first light of dawn, of the breaking away from darkness and ignorance. She seems to emerge from the body of Venus like a nocturnal mantle welcoming the day.

Laura Hernandez's paintings seem to eliminate the differences. Her work affirms woman's power to produce, while never forgetting that we are governed by a dual principal. Like the earth, woman's body needs man's seed to be able to become the "warehouse of the universe"; it fills up and becomes full through the union of two distinct beings that end up being one.


How are we different? That question crops up several times in the work of Laura Hernandez. On the one hand, there are, of course, the strictly biological differences, but beyond that, there is the question of gender differences that are the result of culturally imposed sexual roles, of the masculine and the feminine, whose origins lie in the myths that attempt to explain the creation of the Universe and establish a social order.

Laura goes back to the origins of life, to the primitive order of the Cosmos, for the answers. In the beginning, everything was "one", and the first step of Creation was to separate the primordial elements: light from darkness, the sun from the moon, water from the earth, and finally from the earth emerge man and woman. In Timaeus, Plato describes how the Demiurg created the human gender using the four different types of earth found at the four cardinal points. Thus the earth became the primordial Mother, the protective universal womb, the symbol of productiveness. Its engendering function lies in the ethymological roots of the word "humus", the Latin term for earth, which has the same derivation as the word "homo" meaning man. In this attempt to integrate the human being with its origins, the artist fills the canvas with vitality, using earth colors of Oaxaca, of India and of Cambodia, and even of the earth her feet were caressing at that time to create the characters of her stories that speak of the union of the Being and the Cosmos.

This cosmic vision of the earth as the primitive substance in the creation of the Being can be seen in the work Generation. Mother Earth, bearer of the origins, becomes the element that separates light from darkness and the earth from the waters. The significant body of this Being, the syncretism of the male and female anatomy, carries an enormous snail that emerges from its body. For the artist, the spiral symbolizes the possibility of evolution, of knowledge and of Creation by means of the union of both genders.

The representation of mothers, women and goddesses is a constant in the artist's work. These images are repeated time and again and they originate not only in Oaxaca but also in ancient Greece, India, in mythology and in the History of Art. The female shapes in her work form a dialogue with the work of Paul Gauguin during his time in French Polynesia, a dialogue that the artist has explored in depth in the study of her art. Both try to return to the origins, albeit by different routes and for different reasons. Gauguin's "Golden Eves", with their rounded voluptuousness, their robust limbs appear to be anchored to the ground and they know they are being looked at; they are objects to be enjoyed and they look away, they never confront. Laura's women, on the other hand, although they share a similar physionomy, appear to be lost in thought with their eyes, either closed or open; they always look inwardly, unaware of what is going on around them; they look for the essence of their being inside themselves.