Hernan Gomez Chavez was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He began welding in high school and has used steel in his sculptural work since. He enjoys working with this material because it is both malleable and rigid, lending itself to the creation of durable structural objects. From 2009 to 2014, he studied at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque under the tutelage of Professor Emeritus Steve Barry and current sculpture professor Randall Wilson. In 2013, he studied abroad in the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague in esteemed Dominik Lang’s studio course.

From these instructors he has learned a lot about what art means as practice. For example, from Dominik, he learned the role of academia in art, which served to clarify his role as an artist. His purpose as an instructor, Dominik said, was not to emphasize aesthetics, but innovation. “A good role model does not push his ideals onto his pupils, rather he/she allows for them to flourish and produce work that means something for the present and the future while breaking with tradition” stated Dominik Lang. This has shaped Hernan’s current work. He has looked to the past as a reference to inform new work, but he does so in a way that can modify and alter traditional aesthetics, especially those he has been influenced by in his home state of New Mexico.

In 2014, Hernan began experimenting in the desert by creating personal, ephemeral installations that spoke to trauma, history and location. He went as far as to dig his own grave in the West Mesa. This, he saw as an exploration that lay bare Albuquerque’s history by directly recalling the West Mesa Murders of 2009. This was a break from previous formal sculptural work he had done before. This did not mean that he would leave his formal sculptural practice altogether. In 2015, he used structures he had seen in the desert as a reference for a series of work he titled Structures: Abstract Models. This is a series that made Hernan carefully consider purpose of material. Steel represents the human tendency to distill a raw material and harness it for an industrial use. This is why he chose to make structures based on power lines. They are totemic engineered representations of power. Hernan is currently residing in Chicago and pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Personal Statement

I am an interdisciplinary artist from New Mexico working primarily in sculpture and installation. My sculptures are made from steel with an emphasis on craft. Steel is my material of choice due to its durability, malleability, and virile connotations. In 2013, while studying abroad in Prague, I was inspired by Czech cubist architecture to employ steel’s inherent structural qualities as an aesthetic tool. Lattice and framing construction have consequently become integral to my work. My installations, on the other hand, have been inspired by the beauty and morbidity of the New Mexican desert and have been placed in Albuquerque’s Pajarito Mesa. The purpose for these installations was to construct an unvarnished narrative of Albuquerque (and New Mexico) through personal anecdotes and research. These two approaches to artistic production demonstrate my interest in creation of beautiful art objects and also art is a discourse on visceral experiences.

Prior to my studies in Prague, I found myself deeply affected by the violence in Mexico resulting from the drug wars and I wanted to create work that would mimic its brutality in order to shock viewers into confronting the grim reality of the situation. However, I soon realized imitation would merely reassert the power and callousness of the drug cartels. I was still intrigued with morbid themes so, six months after returning to New Mexico, I began digging a grave in Albuquerque’s West Mesa as a meditation on the violent and obscure history of the city. The grave references the unsolved West Mesa Murders, in which the remains of 11 women were found buried in 2009. The dedication to digging my grave made it an intimate, meditation on death. The pit has now been taken back by the land. People have interacted with it either by throwing garbage inside or shooting into it. Storms have eroded the land around, slowly filling it back up with dirt and rubbish.

Unlike my installations, my sculptures are not ephemeral and demonstrate my longtime concern with honing craft. My most recent sculptures speak to steel’s industrial purpose and aesthetic. Through the implementation of basic structural design, I set out to make physical entities conceived as organizations of constituent elements in space in which the character of the whole dominates the interrelationship of the parts. My interest in structures has pushed me to investigate geometric composition, symmetry and order.


Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Insitute.