NewsPositive News


Texas artist shows the dignity of immigrant workers in new Denver exhibit

Guadalupe Hernandez created the collection at the Art Students League of Denver to shift the narrative around immigration
Artist Guadalupe Hernandez
Posted at 7:45 PM, Apr 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-29 22:42:41-04

DENVER — Through oil paintings and intricately cut paper, an artist from Texas is showing the dignity of immigrant workers in a new art exhibit on display in Denver until June 1.

Guadalupe Hernandez crafted the collection at the Art Students League of Denver, a nonprofit art school and exhibit space offering residencies to artists from around the world.

For half a year, Hernandez was given his own studio space in the historic building, along with art supplies, a housing stipend and opportunities to teach and learn with the Denver community.

Hernandez calls his exhibit, “Not the Best: But Either Way, Work Needs to Get Done.”

Guadalupe Hernandez Art Students League of Denver
Guadalupe Hernandez depicts his mother working in a kitchen in his portrait titled "Amor de Madre" or Mother's Love.

“It's in response to really a lot of the negative rhetoric revolving [around] immigrants where it's geared at dehumanizing them,” Hernandez said.

The exhibit name is a direct response to former president Donald Trump who launched his 2017 campaign with a speech claiming, “when Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.”

Hernandez said his exhibit is meant to “shift the narrative around immigration and immigrants.”

“I really wanted to kind of portray the humanity and the dignity in these individuals,” he said. “What better way than to depict those that I'm closest to, which is my family.”

Guadalupe Hernandez Los Hijos Mayores
Guadalupe Hernandez painted his two oldest brothers with their tools as welders.

Hernandez started with painting life-size portraits of his mother and father before coming to Denver for the artist residency. Then, in the Denver studio, he created portraits of his four brothers and himself.

Each portrait portrays his family members with dignity and personality, looking lovingly at the viewer, while doing their jobs. They work in kitchens, construction, welding and trucking. A self-portrait shows Hernandez with paint brushes in hand.

Guadalupe Hernandez self portrait
Guadalupe Hernandez depicts himself holding paint brushes with his namesake, La Virgen de Guadalupe, behind him.

"It really was like an homage to my parents for the sacrifices that they made,” Hernandez said. “They abandoned their homeland, they took on two jobs, in order to provide the opportunities that they weren't given as children.”

Alongside the oil paintings, Hernandez displays papel picado, Mexican-style cut paper banners. When Hernandez learned the traditional craft was disappearing, he taught himself to use chisels, hammers and other tools to create large, intricate pieces depicting objects from his family's work lives.

Guadalupe Hernandez papel picado
Guadalupe Hernandez uses chisels, hammers and other tools to punch out bits of paper and create intricate designs. He hopes to keep the traditional craft of papel picado alive.

Hernandez’s papel picado portrays objects like the popular Mexican laundry detergent Foca that his mother used while working a second job at a nursing home, and a bag of sawdust representing his father’s time working at a wood mill where a fallen log injured his leg.

Hernandez will teach a workshop at the Art Students League on May 5 to teach others how to create papel picado.

Aalycia Rodriguez, visual arts teacher for In La'kech Denver Arts

Local News

Cinco de Mayo celebration honors Chicano culture in Denver

Angelika Albaladejo
5:45 PM, May 05, 2023

While creating his collection, Hernandez spent time connecting with Latino youth in the Westwood neighborhood of Denver. He has taught art previously as a high school teacher in Texas, and said he loves helping young people depict stories of their culture and traditions. Growing up, Hernandez taught himself how to paint and draw by trying to depict the images he saw in low-rider magazines. He became interested in painting portraits because "it's important to see people who look like you." And he hopes his new collection will help Latinos in Denver "feel represented."

Cal Duran artist Day of the Dead

Local News

Denver artist shares a dozen Día de los Muertos altars across Colorado

Angelika Albaladejo
4:33 PM, Oct 30, 2023

Tessa Crisman, who works with the Art Students League of Denver, said “it's been really special for [Hernandez] to make those connections and to let everyone know, especially younger Latino artists, that they can be part of this art world.”

The Art Students League offers classes for all ages and skill levels, and free exhibits.

"We have a lot of different ways to engage and appreciate art, even if you don't want to be the one making it," Crisman said. "Denver has so many wonderful gallery spaces, and ours is certainly unique in being not solely dedicated to gallery space."

Crisman said the residency program specifically supports artists of color who have historically been excluded from many formal art spaces, which is why they selected Hernandez.

“We hear the words ‘migrant crisis’ thrown around all the time in Denver right now,” Crisman said. “So, to have these works, that are just really about human dignity, and about love and family, it's very touching.”