In Conversation with Tracy Fenix, Artist Engagement & Archive Manager at Visual AIDS, Artist Member Alexander Hernandez discusses his new soft sculptures, his recent exhibition "Stayin Positive" at FLXST Contemporary in Chicago, and what it means to celebrate and affirm his POZ Mexican-American queer identities, and those of his close BIPOC friends and icons living positively.

Below are selected quotes from Alexander Hernandez:

Growing up and seeing queer art about HIV, it was all about death, it was all about warning, and I wanted to and I feel like there hasn't been enough work about celebrating or talking about like, living with HIV, like me. I just wanted to show that, like, it's just not gay white men that have to do with it—it's also people of color and also the numbers of people of color have been, you know, they're the ones that have the most risk.

"Staying Positive" started as a series of textile portraits investigating the identities of Latinx and people of color living with HIV. I used fabrics, patterns, motifs, colors and imagery to showcase each person's cultural and social background and demonstrate how they navigate their POZ identity as a means of survival throughout their various communities. This show aimed to dismantle the social stigmas of being POZ and demonstrates my community as survivors rather than victims. It was suppose to go up on May 29th as part of the Queer Cultural center at Acción Latina but was postponed indefinitely during the pandemic. Throughout this whole ordeal, I started making changes to my pieces to reflect the POZ community's commitment to staying healthy. By adding magical animal limbs and other body parts; I enhanced my subjects into chimeras. They evolved and turned in fantastical creatures that adapt to change. The alterations made to these pieces reflects the POZ community's resilience to this pandemic especially as everything we learned during the AIDS epidemic in the 80's and 90's.

I remember being kind of like hypnotized by, like punks and goths, and like, you know, seeing all those layers and torn up fabrics. It was always in the back of my head. Then when I did it again, when I started mixing textiles into my work, I started to keep a lot of those things in mind.

Alex hernandez 05 Majestic Leslye
Alexander Hernandez, Majestic Leslye, Stayin' Postive, FLXST Contemporary, Chicago, 2021

Alexander Hernandez was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and raised in Grand Junction, Colorado. He received his MFA from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA in 2012, and his BA in Painting & Drawing from Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design in Lakewood, CO in 2007. He lives and works in San Francisco, CA. He recently worked as a social worker by day and artist by night.

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Alexander Hernandez