.HUEMAN. Being. Artist.

‘Homebody’ invites viewers together to grow

The impressive full room installations of Homebody enfold visitors in the cycle of the pandemic, from the early Isolation through to the Rebirth all are yearning for at this moment. An immersive walk-through experience in Berkeley, Ciel Creative Space’s new exhibition of Oakland-based artist Hueman wraps around its visitors like the womb of a goddess.

With the modern problems of the real mother goddess. “I remember thinking, is this postpartum depression or is this COVID lockdown?” says Allison Torneros, aka art-hero Hueman. We are hanging out days before the opening while the crew grinds to install and fine tune the complex art pieces, talking about art and its intrinsic value to individuals and communities. To families and children.

“It felt like everyone was really just hanging in limbo. It was like a really traumatic time for … a lot of artists who, … I mean it’s already hard to make a living as an artist,” she says, pointing out that for performing artists and the events that are so important for the arts, the hit was both financial and social. Art brings people together, always has.

The Hueman Artist

Hueman is an artist of the community, for the community. It is that rootedness in the fundamental value of gathering for the work of art that gave her the gall to run a self-funded show on her own terms. 

“That first part … that whole first chunk of lockdown,” Hueman looks up, searching for the word…

“‘2020,’” I suggest.

2020, yeah,” she nods; that is the word for it. “The George Floyd protests and the elections and the fires, [it was so much]. … And we’re still currently in a perpetual state of crisis. We’re all so eager to just move on, but we haven’t really truly processed the trauma we all went through.”

The exhibition will give Hueman’s community and all visitors a chance to do some of the healing everyone needs. She says, “I wanted to create a space where we could reflect on it and move on in a positive way.”

We talk about the doom and gloom that continues to be in the news, in conversations, in the very air and how much it can all be for parents, which we both are. Hueman takes all that as an inspiration to stay optimistic and do the work to move forward. 

“[This exhibition is] me creating what ideally I’d like this world to move into,” she affirms. That is what artists have to do. Help people see possibilities. 

Each room in the exhibition does just that, walking viewers through the pandemic along a circular path, lights and paints and the mixing of human beings, gathered and awed. Isolation, Collaboration, Chrysalis are some of the stops along the way to Rebirth.

What’s It Like?

“On the most basic level, I want people to just have a place where they can just lose themselves in the visuals,” says Hueman.

“That sounds so good,” I respond, imagining the lights and the augmented reality elements beaming into my face, surrounded by delighted fellow travelers.

“I always have these deeper messages in my pieces,” she continues, “but on a very basic level, I just want it to be just like really visually appealing, something that people can just lose themselves in. I’m not really trying to teach anyone anything.”

“Just having the experience together is a valuable moment, isn’t it?” I add.

Hueman agrees, saying, “I think that’s why these immersive experiences do so well, because people are valuing experiences, especially now that we can visit these types of things together again. I think that’s huge for people.”

Artist’s Style Evolves

Hueman’s paintings drip with depth, as different paints create visually distinct layers that contrast with each other in the viewer’s perception. This layering carries over into the digital work in Homebody. The fluidity of overlapping images lead to different experiences with each viewing. Not just physical and digital but augmented reality layers as well. Then, as one walks through the exhibition and ends up in the Rebirth room, the walls display her almost retro-constructed, layered acrylic and spray paint pieces. I mention this to her.

“That room, Rebirth, it’s meant as the final installation because that’s where everyone kind of gathers at the end,” Hueman says. The room before it is Chrysalis. “I’m seeing our homes as a chrysalis. You know we’re changing within the walls of our homes, just like little caterpillars into butterflies, and rebirth is when we shed our old selves.”

“I feel like a lot of people have changed so that’s why that one is called “rebirth,” but also personally as an artist I feel my style changed a lot during the last two years,” she reflects.

“Me too,” I agree, nodding.

“You too? I found a new style. So I created the main image of the show with no project or art show or gallery or anything in mind, which is something rare for me because I’ve been lucky enough to have so many things lined up over the last 10 years [through commissions]. I haven’t sat down and made something just for me.” She adds, “[T]hat piece marked a new era in my work.”

That earlier era of work has been pretty illustrious, including designs for brands Nike and Oaklandish. What does it mean to Hueman that she is a successful professional artist?

“I’m just [always], on to the next thing. I’m just really happy it’s afforded me to be able to do this full-time,” she says about bringing up her family in Oakland. “That I’ve been able to provide for my family.” 

NFT, Mais Oui

NFTs are non-fungible tokens, or unique digital assets that can be bought and sold. They are important because artists can use them to generate income and long term royalty rights. As Hueman is always working on the cutting edge of digital technology in art, of course there is an NFT play planned in all of this. A good one.

During the run of the show, various images will be taken of the individual artworks, each to be released as NFTs for purchase. The NFT strategy is an important piece of the funding for the show. Weary of partnering with corporate sponsors because their corporate messaging tends to take over, Hueman is using NFTs as a way to use self funding to more closely connect to the community.

“The amazing thing about NFTs is that just regular people can buy into an NFT to help fund a show. We’re going to be taking snippets of the different installations and be selling them as NFTs,” she said.

A few days after our interview, I get to join hundreds gathered for the opening of the exhibition. In every room, heads are turned up at pieces stretching up to the warehouse-height ceilings, faces aglow with the shifting colors of the lighted artworks.

Hueman floats around in gold lame, an aura of invincibility shining, all the more potent because the art tells viewers, right there on the wall, that she is vulnerable, as is everyone. She speaks with family and admirers, amiable, thoughtful in her answers no doubt. Laughing just enough, taking a minute to herself, momentarily unapproachable. That’s what makes her a true diva, goddess to her people. She is of the people. It just comes naturally to her. 

Instead of going to the latest van Gogh rehash, viewers may come together for a present-moment artist who is processing the ongoing-collective-experience, and in so doing giving them a place to process it themselves.

For information on ‘Homebody’ and ‘Homebody go to huemanhomebody.com  Support local artists!

East Bay Express E-edition East Bay Express E-edition