View from the Studio: Hector Acuna
I was first introduced to Hector Acuna when he submitted work to the Honey and Ace X Artdose Magazine group exhibition. I was drawn to his use of color, composition, and the narrative created in work. Not knowing much about him, I reached out to do a studio visit at his Cedarburg home studio. For many artists, our homes have become our studios. His studio was small perhaps no larger than 80 square feet. Every wall, corner, and floor had paintings, books, materials, etc. Despite the size of the studio, it packed a punch with figurative works ranging from self-portraits in oil to mini gouache paintings on paper, work in progress surrealistic compositions to older works. His work is a mash up of artistic influences such as works by Antonio Lopez Garcia, Nicole Eisenman, Dana Schultz, and Neo Rausch. The core of his work is rooted in his personal life, which provides us with a glimpse into his psyche.
Acuna’s art weaves together themes of his rural Midwest upbringing, a conflicted relationship with his Mexican heritage, and the human body as a social and cultural signifier. Within his mixed media practice, he traverses a multitude of subject matter and media by collecting, integrating, and juxtaposing visual information. Building on a foundation of autobiography; he looks to better understand the complexities and preconceptions of brown male identity in the United States. Multiplicity functions as a thematic compass for both process and concept in his practice, and diversity develops in the varied visual languages of representation and abstraction. Through a layering of form and meaning he continually examines a sense of belonging between the figure and ground. Symbols and references reappear throughout the surfaces of his work inviting viewers to explore humorous, exaggerated, and uncanny chapters of an ongoing personal mythology. It is his belief that through a consistent practice of depicting natural light, form, and color he can best discover and describe new ideas in his studio. Painting has centered and grounded his approach to image making where familiar and unfamiliar subjects may coexist.
Hector Acuna is a southeast Wisconsin native and visual artist residing in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Hector began his academic career at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where he earned his BFA in 2015 before completing his MFA from Michigan State University in 2020. He has exhibited his work in small group and solo exhibitions at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Scarabocchio Art Museum, Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Kresge Art Center, Re:Vision Gallery, and Noel Fine Arts Center. His work has also been included in exhibitions at Site:Brooklyn Gallery, Baton Rouge Gallery, 440 Gallery, Cedarburg Art Museum, Lansing Art Gallery, and Wheaton College among others. Hector has been awarded the Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2D BFA Arts Bash Scholarship, James R. Hill Award, COFAC Dedication Scholarship, and the Hipstamatic Entrepreneurship Award. He has developed his art through a dedicated studio practice and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Saugatuck Center for the Arts.
View from the Studio: Daniel Fleming
What I like about art is that it attracts all types of people and that attraction can range from stories to genre, medium to color scheme, and artist intent to influential artists. For me, it was learning years ago that one of Daniel Fleming’s favorite artists is Jean-Michel Basquiat. Right away, I felt a connection. This made me take a closer look at his work to see in what ways Basquiat had influenced his work. I could spot some areas in past paintings that reflected some of the qualities found in Basquiat’s work.
I have been following Fleming’s work for almost a decade and have seen his work evolve into paintings that have become driven by emotion today. One particular series that I am particularly interested in is his pandemic paintings. The subject matter, atmospheric mood, interplay between figurative and abstraction, and use of symbolism feel raw and honest. Through a previous conversation I have learned that these pandemic paintings embraced mindfulness and the opportunity to reflect. The pandemic affected everyone in various ways. For me, hearing his stories touched a soft spot.
Walking into his home studio on the 3rd floor of his apartment complex was like walking into antique store with paintings, easels, and sketchbooks everywhere. His studio was definitely full of creativity, artistic influence, and art spanning over a decade, if not more. Once I let my immediate response settle, I was able to focus on his work. Having had the opportunity to do a studio visit allowed me to learn more about who Fleming is an artist beyond what I have been accustomed to seeing online and in exhibitions. Like many artists, he maintains various sketchbooks to record his thoughts, concepts, drawings, and writings. However, these sketchbooks do not necessarily influence his paintings, but rather become a place where he can let his mind rest.
Fleming’s paintings explore ideas of isolation, connection, introspection, loss, distance and an overwhelming sense of the unknown, resulting in an enveloping world of symbol, color, and surreal landscapes populated by mysterious, yet oddly familiar, figures. The paintings take form organically through a process of discovery rather than pre-planning. Marks are made, surfaces are built, and, eventually, scenes and figures emerge naturally and unexpectedly. This meditative process, an almost abstract approach, reveals thoughts, emotions and ideas that connect to the everyday, yet also stand on their own as representations of the human experience that all viewers can find solace and connection within.
To finish this studio visit we drove to a local storage facility where he has been storing his work. When he opened the storage door, I was greeted by a room full of paintings. All of which are carefully inventoried on his tumblr site, danielflemingart.tumblr.com. Throughout the last 10 years he has created over 1000 paintings and individual artworks.
View from the Studio: Della Nohl
Della Nohl has an extensive photography background that began as a curiosity that eventually led to her work – weaved photographs. Over the years I have grown to appreciate the art of photography and its multi-processes that photographers use to capture and produce an image. The work that Nohl is currently working on touches upon two areas of interest – people and weaving. I have seen this type of weaving process before, but what caught my attention is how the story began.
In 2000, she was part of a three-person exhibition titled, “Articulations” in Syracuse, NY. Like many exhibitions, there is a focus or theme for the artists to base work from. During one of the artists’ brainstorming sessions, they were sitting on sit-upons, which are weaved newspaper mats. Sit-upons is a common craft activity that Girl Scouts make and turns out the they were Girl Scouts. This is where the idea of weaving came into play.
In 2014, she had a conversation with her dental hygienist who was masked. This visit sparked the idea of using the mask as a metaphor in her work. Nowadays, anyone with a camera can be identified as a photographer. And printing can be as easy as printing from a laser printer or having it commercially printed. But, what I found fascinating is that Nohl’s silver gelatin photographs are printed via her dark room tucked in a corner of her second-floor studio. All of which welcomed a new series focusing on the duality of every person she photographs. These new photographs became The Reconstructed Portraiture series.
Prior to the pandemic there was a fascination of those who by profession, hobby, or faith, wore material to cover or protect their heads. Through casual observance the viewer was unable to see the person under the guise. The Reconstructed Portraiture series was an exercise in providing a glimpse of who lies beneath by combining two vernacular portraits with and without the head covering. The act of hand cutting and weaving the two black and white photographic prints form a pixelated double exposure inevitably altered the face.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Nohl wondered if the distinctiveness of the project may have fallen into banality where masks are commonplace; that maybe the idea had lost its mystery. It was a friend who reminded me since we were denied the total appearance of family and acquaintances it was vital to refresh our memory and renew our recognition of those behind the mask.
Nohl has been affiliated with the National Press Photographers Association, The Native American Journalists Association, the Native Indian/Inuit Photographers Association, and the Sheboygan Visual Artists. Her photographs have appeared in publications including Indian Artist magazine, The Syracuse New Times, The Arizona Republic, Broadcasting & Cable, The American Poetry Review, A Forever Story: The People and Community of the Fond du Lac Reservation by Thomas D. Peacock, The Silver Man: The Life and Times of Indian Agent John Kinzie by Peter Shrake, and Indigenous Notions of Ownership, (Cover) IFLA.
About Frank Juárez
Frank Juárez is a former gallery director, award winning art educator, artist, author, advocate, and community arts leader.
Juárez brings two decades of art education and arts management experience organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, supporting artists through grant programs, and professional development workshops. This has placed him in the forefront of promoting Wisconsin artists, networking, and attracting regional and national artists to collaborate and exhibit in Wisconsin.