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Edgar 8ahau Fernandez: In His Own Words
Oct, 05, 2021
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez: In His Own Words
Phoenix-based multimedia artist Edgar 8ahau Fernandez (who goes by 8ahau—his artist name and his Mayan ancestral birth name) is passionate about his heritage. His Mexican-Xicano lineage and Indigenous Purépecha identity often materialize in his artwork through vibrant color choices and repeated patterns.
Edgar first became interested in art when his older cousin Tony showed him how to draw cartoon characters. Now, Edgar produces original artwork that explores ancestrally connected imagery, plant life, hummingbirds, and the concept of harmony, while also dedicating himself to inspiring others to create.
Here’s Edgar 8ahau Fernandez, in his own words, on his inspirations, his evolving artistic processes, and how his cultural identity influences his relationship with the arts.
“What motivates me is being aware that my heart will continue to grow with the same passion and legacy my ancestors established many generations ago. It is in my heart and DNA to plant these same seeds for future generations.”
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez. Self-portrait. Photo: Hector Reyes. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: Tell us about where you’re from and when you first knew you wanted to be an artist.
8ahau: I was born in Torrance, California. When I was five years old, my family and I moved to Imlay City, Michigan. We lived there for more than three years, and that’s where art started to play a big role in my life. My older cousin Tony had a sketchbook filled with drawings of characters from my favorite cartoons. I just remember how fascinating it was to be able to draw your own characters. After that moment, I wanted to draw and inspire others as my cousin Tony inspired me.
My family and I moved to Phoenix on January 1, 2000. Art continued to play a large role in my life through elementary, middle school, and high school, but it was not until I graduated high school and attended my first drawing class at Phoenix College that I decided that I wanted to be an artist.
PhxArt: What inspires and motivates you to continue creating?
8ahau: I’m inspired to remain active in my practice by the ability to share and empower others with my artwork. What motivates me is being aware that my art will continue to grow with the same passion and legacy my ancestors established many generations ago. It is in my heart and DNA to plant these same seeds for future generations.
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez, Xicano Visionary, 2021. Mixed media on paper. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What are the media you prefer to work in, and why?
8ahau: I would like to say that I love working with multiple media, including digital art, oil, acrylic, watercolor, graphite, screen printing, ceramics, markers, and ink, but my two preferred media are oil and acrylic paint. I feel that both resonate the most with the work I am currently producing.
PhxArt: What are the topics or subjects that you most focus on, and how did you become interested in them?
8ahau: I mainly focus on ancestrally connected imagery, along with plant life, hummingbirds, and images of harmony. I became interested in these topics naturally through meditation work, and they became more in tune with my message and path as an artist. My previous work was created primarily with spray paint, markers, and acrylics, and subject matters included graphic letters, childhood memories, animals, still lifes, cartoons, master artist studies, video games, and others.
My current work still includes some of my previous subjects, but the final product is more thought out and refined. I believe all my previous work led to the evolution of my current work. I got to where I am now in my artistic career through hard work and hundreds of hours of dedication to practicing, researching, experimenting, studying, listening, and asking mentors for artistic guidance and advice. At times, I reflect and look at my current work and see traces of my previous work underneath like a blueprint.
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez and Jeff Slim, Cultivating Unity, 2019. Mural, spray paint and acrylic on wall. Photo: Hector Reyes.
PhxArt: How do your background and heritage inform your art?
8ahau: My background and heritage inform my work quite naturally and uniquely, with the honor of my ancestors at the forefront and embedded within the foundation of my work. My Mexican-Xicano heritage is not only embraced within my artwork but also in my daily lifestyle. My background carries the Indigenous Purépecha identity and is present in the vibrant color choices and patterns within my style. The Mayan/Toltec spirit is the spinal cord of my background and is highly relevant in my creations. 8ahau is my artist name but also my Mayan ancestral birth name. Its significance has opened many doors into enriching my background and heritage.
PhxArt: Who are your greatest artistic influences?
8ahau: My greatest artistic influences are Mexican painters/muralists Rufino Tamayo, Jorge González Camarena, Roberto Montenegro, and Frida Kahlo. Musicians such as hip-pop groups Gangstarr, Wu-Tang Clan, and El Vuh and solo artists Immortal Technique, Rakim, Lauren Hill, and J. Cole also play a big role in influencing my art. Writers that influence my art on a daily basis are Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., Subcomandante Marcos, and Ac Tah.
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez, Spirit of Maíz, 2019. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What are some projects or series you’re currently working on or have recently released?
8ahau: I am currently working on a portrait series titled Xicanx Futurism that involves some self-portraits; portraits of my fiancé, Elida; and portraits of loved ones, all of which also feature hummingbirds and ancestral and plant-life imagery. I am also working on bringing back a series called Identity Empowerment, which is grounded in a theme revolving around the cultural and metaphorical significance of masks.
As for projects, I am creating an altar for Día de los Muertos that will be featured in downtown Mesa near the Mesa Art Center. Finally, I am currently working on a 6ft x 14ft mural that will be installed in a new Fry’s Food Store in Queen Creek—I consider this to be the biggest blessing in my art career so far.
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez, Miguel Angel Godoy, Diana Calderon, The New Archive, 2021. Acrylic on poly-tab. Courtesy of the artists.
PhxArt: What can our community expect to see next from you?
8ahau: I plan on sharing details about upcoming shows on my website and social media. My community can expect to see an upcoming dual exhibition with my friend and artist Chela. This will be part two from last year’s exhibition titled “El Regreso del Colibrí” and will be at Fair Trade Café, located in downtown Phoenix’s historic Roosevelt Square, through October 31, 2021. I will also have a solo exhibition titled Faces y Figuras, which will be at Songbird Coffee & Tea house located at 812 N. 3rd St Phoenix, AZ from October 1 – November 4. I am additionally part of two upcoming group exhibitions. The first is titled Ancestral; it opens on October 9, 2021 at The Audubon Center located at 3131 S. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ and is curated by The Sagrado Galleria. The second group exhibition, titled Degrees of being, is at Tempe Center for the Arts, and it’ll be on view from from January 22 – May 1, 2022. You can also view my work at Estrella Community College until October 30 alongside works by other artists. The installation is curated by West Valley Arts Council.
PhxArt: What is some advice you’d give to aspiring artists just beginning to build their professional practice?
8ahau: Understand from the beginning that this artistic professional career is going to be difficult. By keeping your head high with your feet grounded into the earth, you will be okay. Be you and create extraordinary things. Remain resilient. Keep practicing. Ask questions and ask for guidance from your ancestors and mentors. Set some heart-resonating goals. Write them down and visualize them. Lastly and most importantly, always have fun and do your best!
Edgar 8ahau Fernandez, Focused Xicana, 2020. Mixed media on paper. Courtesy of the artist.
We’re curious how creatives are navigating the time of coronavirus. Here’s what’s giving 8ahau life during the pandemic.
8ahau: What is giving me life right now is my community, legacy, ancestors, and the opportunity to create art that sparks empowerment within others. What is providing extra nourishment within my mind, body, and soul is spending time in nature and feeling its healing energy. I am reading a few books that are bringing me peace, including Living a Life of Awareness by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., The Toltec Secret to Happiness by Ray Dodd, and The Spirit of Zen by Alan W. Watts. A book that is currently motivating me is Sweat the Technique by Rakim. In this book, Rakim talks about purpose, inspiration, and spirituality, making it an overall motivational read. I also love listening to Les Brown in the mornings to uplift myself and start my day full of positive energy and motivation. One of the most key parts of my daily life during this pandemic is reading and putting into practice The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz. COVID-19 has affected me in a way where I am asking myself how I can create artwork that heals, empowers, and inspires my community during tough times. Experiencing this past year and a half has strengthened the power of gratitude within me by allowing me to become more aware of hardships and the inherent obstacles of this pandemic. Through this awareness, I was able to enrich my inner vision to further create meaningful art.