For Jose Miguel Hernandez, becoming an artist wasn’t a choice but a calling. While growing up in Venezuela, Hernandez practised art as a hobby and took art classes. But it wasn’t until one day during his last year of university that Hernandez felt a calling to collect his old art supplies and paint something.
As he worked on his painting that day, he experienced for the first time a passion that would eventually lead him to where he is today: a full-time artist living in Nogojiwanong-Peterborough who will translate the story of his journey as an immigrant and an artist into sound during his artistic residency with Trent Radio’s “Your Radio is Their Stage” project.
Hernandez moved from Venezuela to Canada in 2014 to escape a difficult political and economic climate. According to Hernandez, he could not be gay freely in Venezuela and was looking to escape when family members in Canada offered him a place to stay until he got settled.
“I worked in industrial design for three years after I graduated and then I came to Canada, and it was life changing,” explains Hernandez. “The freedom here to be whoever you want to be — that’s the biggest blessing.”
After he first arrived in Canada, Hernandez was unable to work while awaiting his work visa. During this period of significant transition, he turned to art to fill his time and to express his emotions.
“I was able to find myself,” Hernandez recalls. “My immigration process was super hard, so I dealt with my emotions through art, and that’s how I became who I am today as an artist.”
After receiving his work visa, Hernandez continued to practice his art while working at other jobs. But when the pandemic hit in March 2020, he lost all of his sources of income.
“I spent seven months without a job and not knowing what to do,” Hernandez says. “It felt like, ‘What am I doing with my life?'”
These circumstances finally pushed Hernandez to become a full-time working artist in September 2020. He is now a member of the board of directors for the Art School of Peterborough, where he also teaches.
As a visual artist, Hernandez is not married to one genre, creating oil paintings, charcoal and pencil drawings, and mural design and paintings.
Hernandez’s oil paintings are all informed by emotions and the events that changed his life and brought him to where he is today. He describes his style as “isolated realism”, focusing on simple images and feelings while leaving out extraneous details around the subject matter.
“You cannot label me as a landscape painter or a still-life painter,” Hernandez explains. “I paint things that strike an emotion and bring me to a moment, or something that left a fingerprint on me. So I have to deal with it and express what I went through. My paintings are really emotional and super personal.”
Hernandez also designs and paints murals and public installations for organizations in Peterborough and the surrounding area.
“Whether I do a painting, drawing, or a mural, my art is an extension of who I am, my sensitivity, and the way I see the world,” says Hernandez.
During his five-week residency with Trent Radio’s “Your Radio Is Their Stage” project, Hernandez is receiving mentorship, equipment, and training to support him in translating his virtual artistry into the medium of sound.
This is his first time experimenting with audio, and Hernandez says he expects to continue using it after the residency is completed.
According to Hernandez, his idea for Trent Radio’s “Your Radio is Their Stage” project has evolved throughout the residency. Initially, he wanted to translate his paintings into sounds, expressing all of the emotions and messages in his work in an auditory way.
However, that original idea has now morphed into something else: he plans to use sound to tell the story of how he came to Canada and the struggles he has overcome.
“It’s merging into something a little bit more personal than just my work,” Hernandez says. “It’s going to be kind of interesting, somehow reflecting where I grew up and how I grew up, and what it meant to move to Canada, and why my paintings are how they are.”
Hernandez’s completed work will be broadcast at the end of his residency, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 14th on Trent Radio at 92.7 CFFF FM in Peterborough, 287 on Cogeco Cable, and online at www.trentradio.ca.
Trent Radio’s “Your Radio Is Their Stage” artist residency project runs until March 2022, with Hernandez’s residency concluding on November 14.
Textile artist Melanie McCall was the first to complete her residency on October 17, with the remaining four artist residencies JoEllen Brydon (folkloric art and installation), Justin Million (poetry), Gillian Turnham (Islamic art), and John Marris (community arts). The re-imagined work of all six participating artists will also be broadcast next April.
“Your Radio Is Their Stage” is made possible by the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the only organization mandated to support campus and community radio stations in Canada financially.
This story was created in partnership with Trent Radio, a producer-oriented broadcast facility that started as a Trent University student club in 1968. Sponsored and designed by students from Trent University, Trent Radio incorporated as a registered charity in 1978. Trent Radio currently holds a Community Broadcast License, and is a resource that is shared with the Nogojiwanong-Peterborough community.