Metro Art has been piloting a new digital art series, and the inaugural exhibition is launching at the Blue Line stations. More People Than You Know features portraits of transit patrons created by local artists. To celebrate the upcoming reopening of the refurbished rail line, we are featuring an interview with each of the commissioned artists. Make sure you look for these portraits displayed on the newly installed digital customer information panels. This is Metro’s first transit corridor with this new cultural amenity.
Alepsis Hernandez – Interview – Friday, July 26, 2019
Lives in neighborhood: Cambodia Town, Long Beach
Alepsis Hernández spoke with Metro Arts and Design about her art practice and lifelong connection to the area’s neighborhoods from her studio tucked into a second story apartment in Cambodia Town.
What is your connection to the Blue Line?
I live and work in Long Beach and have been living in here since second grade. I will be starting the MFA program at Cal State University Long Beach this fall. I do my art here.
I took Metro to the California Science Center in Exposition Park for the first time when I was in middle school. On weekends, my family and I would ride the transit system to Downtown LA. For me, taking Metro was a more interesting way to travel compared to being on the freeway, where I wasn’t seeing as much of the visible features of the neighborhoods.
How would you describe the art you make and how did you get started?
I took an AP Studio Art class in high school and realized that I had potential. I credit Ms. Itson, my art teacher, for encouraging me to submit my artwork to the Congressional Art Competition for the 47th district, where I lived in California. I won first place and traveled to Washington, D.C., where my charcoal artwork was displayed in the Capitol Building for one year; my artwork was also displayed in the Long Beach Museum of Art. Especially when you are young, it’s important to have a mentor for any subject that interests someone who is creative. The mentorship fuels that energy.
Currently, I paint portraits of Long Beach residents, ninety percent of whom are artists themselves or people I meet at art events throughout the city. There are a lot of murals and art shows in this neighborhood. I work primarily with charcoal and acrylic, although I sometimes work with oil paints. I paint my portraits from images that I take on my phone. I don’t print them out. My portraits are painted with an achromatic palette to allow viewers to focus solely on the individuals.
Tell us more about your portrait, Monday Morning.
Caesar is my subject for the portrait. I chose him because he is a full-time social worker who graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach. Caesar also taught art and is now working with kids from difficult circumstances. For a while, Caesar didn’t have a car and used the Metro for public transportation. He is a Latinx person. In the Long Beach and LA communities, there are a lot of Latinxs, so I hope that people can connect with that element. I also used symbols that refer to the specificity of place such as the “LB” and “LA” initials on his baseball cap.