Arts preview: 934 journeys to Hernandez's 'Land of Thunderbirds'

Jim Fischer

Immersion in Adam Hernandez's mythical "Land of Thunderbirds" begins from the time guests are greeted by an exterior mural at 934 Gallery.

Inside, the voyage continues, with images presented in both representational and abstract forms, in bright-colored acrylic, on large and medium-sized canvases and on found wood of varying sizes and configurations.

A little background on the found-wood pieces: Hernandez's work, suggestive of graffiti, both benefits from and enhances the rough-hewn nature of the material, but the artist's first experiments with the medium were more practical. "I was kind of broke, and I ran out of canvases," Hernandez said with a smile. "So I just drove around Campus looking for whatever I could find to paint on."

The quality of the work gained a reputation. "I'm everybody's 'old wood guy' now," Hernandez joked.

Hernandez's work is inspired by his dual fascination with Aztec and Pacific Northwest Native American culture and art. Graffiti art informs his painting in both record-keeping ("It's a history of the streets") and relational (the idea of graffiti as modern hieroglyphs, thus apt alongside images inspired by ancient art) ways.

"Land of Thunderbirds" also stems from Hernandez's admiration for the work of modern comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. "Thinking about these common themes and stories from cultures all over the world got me to thinking, 'What's my myth?'" he said.

The 934 Gallery show will feature primarily Hernandez's current work, but also some pieces, many never shown publicly, that show the development of his "Thunderbirds" myth.

"I'm really delving even more into that world, asking questions like, 'Are there people there?'" he said.

Indeed, the artist confessed one character in his new work is a self-portrait. He tattooed the figure with the words "confidence" and "persistence."

"Those are things I've struggled with," Hernandez said.

Hernandez grew up in the Bronx as part of a very religious, and also very artistic, family.

"My mom sang in church. My dad had a side job as a clown for children's parties. And my grandpa was a badass oil painter," he said. "[The neighborhood] was pretty rough, but my parents tried to shield us from it as much as possible, and they encouraged us in the arts."

Hernandez attended Nyack College in New York, a tiny, Christian school, from which he was asked to leave after one year. He eventually found his way to Columbus eight years ago, "following a girl" to whom he is no longer married. About five years ago, Hernandez rediscovered his passion for painting, and about this time last year, committed to art as a full-time career.

"Everybody has this fantasy to quit their job and do what they're passionate about, but I've kind of always backed away from it," Hernandez said. "I have a buddy who works for himself, and he asked me, 'What's the worst that could happen? You have to go out and get another shitty job.'"

"It's been a year now and I haven't starved yet," he joked.

So now Hernandez is full-on into two fantasies: the idea he could make art for a living, and the mythical "Land of Thunderbirds."

Lacking formal training, Hernandez credits his success to a supportive Columbus art community, a handful of individuals who have "taken the time to teach me some things" and a willingness to engage in a trial and error approach with technique.

"One message I'm trying to show is that you can chase your dreams," he said. "I'm a testament to that."

934 Gallery

Opening reception, 7-11 p.m. Saturday, July 16

934 Cleveland Ave., Milo-Grogan District


934 Gallery's busy summer continues even as the "Land of Thunderbirds" exhibition continues.

On Saturday, July 23, the gallery presents 934 Fest, a daylong celebration of art and neighborhood.

The event has a two-fold purpose, Executive Director Abigail Hartung said: To engage the Milo-Grogan community and the Columbus community at large with arts experiences, and also to serve as a benefit event for the gallery.

The day will include live mural installations, local artists and craft vendors, craft beer from Jackie O's Brewery, MadTree Brewing and Boulevard Brewing Company and food from Paddy Wagon, Ohio Pasture Proud and Acedera Restaurant. A full day of live music will culminate with headliners EYE and Damn the Witch Siren. Suggested donation for admission is $5.

Then on Saturday, July 30, the gallery welcomes fashion designer Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros and his Ferreyros Couture for a fusion of fashion and painting, as both Hernandez and Saenz-Ferreyros will discuss his work. The event begins at 7 p.m.

934 Fest

11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Saturday, July 23

934 Cleveland Ave.,

Milo-Grogan District