A love of spirit, nature and travel! A belief in angels, fairies and magic! An underlying faith in the essential goodness of humanity and it's ability to heal. These are just a few of the things that interconnect and combine to create the vibrant, uplifting and spiritually infused artwork of Fernanda Gonzalez. I really enjoyed my interview with Fena, learning her insights on art and healing. I hope you will find her art and words as inspirational and enchanting as I did!
~ diane fergurson
MBS: Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get started in art?
Fena: I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and from the time I was a toddler I was already engaging in creative pursuits getting into my dad's paints and according to him giving him very honest critiques of his own artwork. I remember at that young age being fascinated by anything that involved craftmaking and loving TV shows where they showed the audience how to paint. I have loved art for as long as I can remember. When I came to the United States at 9, art was my language, my tool of communication. I couldn't speak English, but I could color and paint, and it was my way of emotionally connecting to others and of making this challenging transition a more comfortable one. Art was the thread that weaved these transitions of my life together, and created for me a quasi like safety blanket that cushioned and protected me from the stress of adapting to a foreign land, a new life. I would spend hours in my dreamland painting the afternoons away. Fortunately my parents and my Nana were amazing, always nurturing and celebrating my artmaking, and even supporting my decision to turn it into a professional pursuit when I decided to attend Tufts University
and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
It was my high school art teacher, Mr. Bartman who really allowed me to see that artmaking as a profession was something that was possible. Looking back, I realized that he has been the teacher that has had the most impact on my life. For not only did he teach me about art history and technique, but most importantly, he ignited my creativity to new heights, believing in me unconditionally, showing me how to be disciplined and how to always see the world in a new light. It was as a result of his passion that I was able to be quite prolific at that time, producing enough inspired work to not only have my first solo exhibit at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington by the time I was eighteen, but to also win my first big award given by then Vice President Al Gore
. That was the beginning of my art journey which today continues to wind and shift, transforming and teaching me a bit every day.
MBS: How did going to art school and studying painting impact your work?
Fena: In high school, my paintings were primarily oil based with a completely figurative focus. When I got to art school, I was exposed to a whole new world of materials and techniques as well as amazing teachers who pushed the boundary and definition of what painting was. My work became very much abstract and I started to play with lots of different materials including plaster, acrylics, wax, all kinds of papers, beads, sequins, even candy and coffee among many other things. Anything and everything became a potential art material to explore and engage in my work. It was incredibly exciting to discover new mediums. I started exploring sculpture, and paper making. And because I was studying with so many creative people from all cultural and artistic backgrounds, I was also challenged to see in new ways, to alter my definitions of creativity, to go beyond the white canvas, the brushes, and see the interconnected of art in all things, in all of life. My work transformed completely and the art making process shifted for me, becoming less clear and linear as I integrated many new ideas and tried to make peace with apparent chaos and ambiguity. To this day my work has remnants of this time in my life. My passion for collage, for bringing into my work different materials found and created, still remains. My work has sure grown and changed, but some motifs from that time still prevail in my work, particularly the white dots. They are like stitches in a crazy quilt tying all of these different phases of my artistic life together into one cohesive form.
MBS: You mentioned that your work now has a less linear quality to it now. I'd like to explore
that a little with you, because often artists find that "loosening up" in their work does not come easily to them. Do you feel that this may have developed as your knowledge base about different materials
expanded or was it more to do with your artistic growth and personality evolving?
Fena: I think that the exploration of new materials certainly changed the way I worked. My creative process transformed, and my paintings certainly changed as a result. For instance, in high school, I think of my process as linear because I remember being able to have an image in my mind of what I wanted to create, and just needing a simple sketch to execute the final work. Not that the end result matched my original vision, but I stayed quite true to the original sketch. Yes, there were shifts and changes in the drawing, an element of surprise, an uncertainty in the way the colors played and the way the painting unfolded. The work still had a life all of its own, but it was more contained and predictable. Today, because I no longer work in oils, but rather incorporate a myriad of materials, the painting which is more of a collage takes me on a journey that is a lot less predictable. I no longer have a clue of what the artwork will look like in the end for there are so many layers, shifts, possibilities. There is now more an element of chaos, a deeper unknown. The work takes me on a journey that is much more layered, and profound. I don't feel it is necessarily a loosening up, as it is a going into deeper recesses and nooks that I never even knew existed.
MBS: Currently what are some of your favorite materials that you work with?
Fena: The body of work I am working on these days incorporates a variety of materials. My favorites to work with are all kinds of decorative fabrics and papers including origami, candy wrapper, doilies, patterned tissue paper among others. I also love working with photo images that I have taken over the years or vintage ones that I have collected over time. And of course, acrylic gel mediums. Those are my top favorite materials at the moment.
MBS: How does spirituality play a role in your artwork and for you as an artist?
Fena: Spirituality is an intrinsic part of my work. The creative process for me is an spiritual experience in and of itself in that to me creativity requires courage, faith, and trust in the unknown. In my personal experience, there is a letting go, a surrendering that must occur in order for creation to happen. It is no longer about me wanting to create something, but rather about something wanting to be born through me. So it entails getting out of my own way, of my own judgements of what the artwork "should" look like or how long it "should" take. It is making peace with the fact that it is not for me to know that or control that, but rather to allow the piece to unfold and grow in its own perfect way and time. Acceptance is necessary, as is unconditional love. Embracing the beautiful parts and the ones that my limited self finds not so pleasing is part of my creative process. In terms of the context itself, each of my artworks narrates a story providing little messages, reflections on life. The most recent ones are titled and inspired by my own writings or quotes that find me, which affirm what I may be experiencing at a particular moment. All of my art pieces are imbued with uplifting messages, with Reiki, and with lots and lots of love. They come forth from my connection with spirit, with angels, with animal guides. It my co-creation with them as we converse, dance, play, cry together and laugh.
MBS: Besides conveying spirituality in their pieces, some artists feel that their artwork can also be used as a tool for healing. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Fena: Yes, I absolutely find art to be a great tool for healing. I believe everything has a vibration and I find that art in all its forms can access places within one's psyche that may not be possible through other means. In my own personal work, before I even begin a piece, I am already consciously setting the intention to be a pure channel of spirit. My affirmation is that my work may support and uplift others which is healing in and of itself. There is a conscious choice in the intention I set, in the words and messages I ingrain my paintings with. I consciously choose to create from a place of love, of connecting to spirit, to the angelic realm, and in doing so, I am bringing forth that energy. Words, color, intention, scents, sounds, everything in our world has a vibration. And by that I mean, there is power in the way that each of these can transform and affect our consciousness, our body, our whole being whether it be to calm us or energize us, to uplift or negate us, to awaken our fear or our love. In this way I find that art is healing. It can access places that have been locked up within, and in doing so, open our hearts.
MBS: Your work is so vibrant...full of color and life! How has your cultural heritage or even where you live (Miami) influenced your work?
Fena: My work has actually always been very colorful and vibrant. The Venezuelan landscape growing up really influenced my color palette. There was always that nostalgia for the tropics specially during those long Washington and Boston winters. Perhaps it was a way to carry the joy and luminosity of the sun with me despite the weather. I just moved to Miami late last year. My studio is bright, full of sunlight. The work is still colorful, but I have started to notice that I have incorporated colors that tend to the darker side, perhaps my way of balancing so much light.
MBS: What is a typical work day like for you?
Fena: My schedule varies a bit each day. But usually I wake up, enjoy my sacred cappuccino ritual, from the smell of the coffee, to the sound my Italian coffee maker makes when it announces that it is ready, to my first sip. It centers me and sets the start to my day. I then look at any messages I need to respond to, do some administrative work and up keeping in regards to my Etsy store or wholesale orders of my prints and cards, and then continue the creative work. It really varies each day a bit, but it always all begins with my cup of cappuccino. Then when I am working on a canvas which is usually later in the day, and not every day, I first have a variety of images that i want to work with, print them out, and start to collage before beginning the process of painting. I can work through the afternoon and into the night. It really depends on how my creative juices are flowing.... And then of course, in between, when it feels right, I head for a walk on the beach and meditate.
MBS: I see that you are currently selling your work online at Etsy. Where else can people
find you and your artwork?
Fena: I just recently started doing wholesale on my line of cards. So along with Etsy, my artwork can be found in stores in Miami, Fl. Right now my line of cards is being offered by Books and Books in Bal Harbor, JPaper in Bay Harbor, and Celestial Awakenings in Coconut Grove. Next month they will be in additional stores including other Books and Books stores and Unity Church. People can also learn more about my original artwork and reproductions by contacting me directly on my Facebook page under FenaArts.
MBS: What prompted you to sell online, and how has social networking worked as a tool towards your increased visibility and sales?
Fena: For a long time I had heard about Etsy and Ebay, and how it really worked well for some people. I hadn't really jumped on the bandwagon because at the time I didn't have an awareness of social media or the importance of networking through this form. I also only had my original artwork which I didn't think was necessarily a good fit because of the price point and frankly because I didn't think that someone would be interested in buying an original piece over the Internet. My shop on Etsy
happened as a result of starting to make high quality archival reproductions of my work specifically prints and greeting cards. I thought this would be a great way to connect to other sellers and buyers around the world and to receive feedback as well as collaborate with others. I have met some wonderful people along the way through both Etsy, Facebook, and the Angel Therapy Board,
which is my group of colleagues from around the world with whom I studied Doreen Virtue's Angel Therapy course
with. They in particular have been incredibly supportive and have introduced my work to their friends. It has been a wonderful way to make friends and to connect to people in other countries who may have never gotten to know my work otherwise.
MBS: What are you currently working on and what would you like to explore next?
Fena: Currently I am working on a series of mixed media paintings that is inspired by quotes and channeled messages. It was sparked by my recent work. The new pieces have the actual quotes incorporated in them. They are the foundation for a project I have had in mind for some time: a series of channeled cards, similar to an oracle or affirmation deck utilizing my artwork and my own messages received in meditation. I have also started a prototype for an art book with images of my paintings and uplifting messages. As well as individual channeled message pieces for clients which incorporate not only the messages I receive for them when connecting to the angelic realm but also healing images and colors to support them.
MBS: Is there any advice you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?
My advice for those who wish to embark on an artistic path is to ask themselves whether it is something that they truly love and having said yes, simply enjoy and embrace the journey. So many times we get in our own way with our judgements and questions, the how's, if onlys and shoulds. The artistic path in my opinion entails joy, passion, innocence, dedication, a complete connectedness to spirit, as well as a total surrender to the creative process. If one has that, one has everything to embark on the artistic path. When one is so connected to spirit so that one cannot be affected by our own ego's or other people's opinions of our path and of our choices, one is then free to create work that is not only genuine, but that arises from a deep place within which transcends human form and which serves others. Having created the work, we then need to share it with the world. The practical aspects vary for each individual. But then again that falls into the how which is something that unfolds along the way. If and when I do get in my own way, I love to remind myself of what really matters with this Martha Graham
quote which I think might help others too: "There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."