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Arts & Culture

Ana Fernandez: Painter as chili queen

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Ana, you have a huge painting in "¡Queers, Presente!" you painted this year. It reminds me of your other recent works, but is different somehow.

It is called Moon Bounce, one of few paintings I have that have people in it. It creates a tension, like the way when you are driving you glimpse somebody in the middle of an action but you never see that action completed. I like the way the children are suspended in mid-air, but you never see them come down. It's like a vision, a mirage.

Tell us about paintings you are planning for the future.

I will be doing some streetscapes, and some figurative work, as well, but I really want to focus on vehicles, on cars. For me, the car is an interesting metaphor for mobility — social mobility, psychological mobility, and in a sense it is a private space that is somewhat temporary, almost like a body. You use it to get around — and it's customizable. I've been interested in cars since I was little.

You are associated with a set of wheels known as the Chili Queens, your food truck that's parked at Alamo Street Eat-Bar. Is your business part of an extended art practice?

I feel that it is, but not consciously so. It just came out that way. The cities that I've lived in, I really get into. When I lived in Chicago, I visited all the places you are supposed to visit, then I started to notice other things around, the neighborhoods. So when I moved back to SA, well, people who aren't from here don't really understand how things are. Tex-Mex cuisine was born here, a mix of Mexican and cowboy food. Many people say it was invented by the chili queens, so when I got the idea of doing a food truck, I wanted it to be an expression of the city: the food and the botanica all wrapped up in one. That idea of street vending, is a very SA thing. I'm very proud of that tradition, and I think of myself as a chili queen. I want it to be on my obituary.

How is the little botanica on the truck working out? Do people understand what it is?

In SA there hasn't been a mobile botanica. The idea was that we could come to you. I design all the labels, and some of the things we sell. Right now I am working on a pepper spray for self-defense, but you can also use it as a seasoning on your food. It's nontoxic.

I think there are more links between your painting and the food truck besides wheels.

Everything is staged in SA; it is the backdrop to every thing that is going on. It's where I set up my dramas in my paintings, but the truck is a stage, too. It's lit up, on display.

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