Fernando Reyes has evolved from a San Francisco banker to a full-time artist, from a self-taught artist to a formally trained one, and from a purely representational artist to one whose broad portfolio now includes abstract art.
Born in 1954 and raised in Fresno, California, Reyes developed a love for art at a young age, often drawing his sisters, cultural icons, and imaginary female fashion models. In the summers he would pick grapes in the local fields with his family. He used the paper that the grapes were laid out on for drawing paper, as his family could not afford art supplies. Reyes worked as a banker in Fresno and then San Francisco for 17 years. His talent for art lay dormant during those years, but re-emerged in the late 1980s.
Reyes began as a self-taught artist, then decided to pursue formal art education. He graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997. He then returned to the Bay Area and has lived in Oakland since 1998. In 1999 he opened his current art studio, located in the Jingletown neighborhood of Oakland’s Fruitvale district.
Oakland Neighborhood: Jingletown neighborhood in the Fruitvale District
Primary Artistic Media: Painting, printmaking and mixed media
Genre: Figurative and abstraction
What compels you to make art?
Throughout the years, I’ve produced a large and diverse portfolio of artwork. My work has been primarily representational and includes oil paintings, drawings, and printmaking from the human form.
My new work is made with handprinted paper that is cut and arranged into patterns. I’ve created mono prints for many years, but the idea of cutting and collaging them arose in late 2014 after seeing a retrospective of Matisse cut-outs at the MOMA in New York. I had an epiphany.
This new direction has taken me through a creative journey that has expanded my artistic repertoire. This new work is an abstracted reflection of a myriad of images that have captured my imagination for years – from art movements like Mid-century modern art; from individual artists like Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, amongst others; from visual childhood memories growing up during the 60’s of furniture, buildings, commercial advertising, fashion trends, movies and television.
My work is meant to arouse the senses, to conjure emotional states, to enliven curiosity, and to instigate the telling of a story.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a working Oakland /Bay Area artist?
I’ve outgrown my studio.
What makes living and working in Oakland worthwhile and/or rewarding?
I moved to Oakland in 1998 because I was priced out of San Francisco after graduating from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and returning to the Bay Area. Fortunately, I found a great studio in the Jingletown neighborhood with a thriving artist community – but it’s dwindled throughout the years due to gentrification.
I’ve seen and been a part of the renaissance in the arts, which has generated an incredible artist community throughout Oakland with a thriving gallery district – and East Bay residents support the arts. I personally think this is a great reason to live and work in Oakland.
- Current: “Califas:Art of the US-Mexico Borderlands”, Richmond Art Center (through November 16)
- A retrospective, “An Artist’s Evolution 1991-2017”, Mexican Museum in San Francisco
- “A Journey”, Mercury Twenty Gallery
- “Construct”, Luna Rienne Gallery
- East Bay Open Studios
- San Francisco Open Studios