Speaker: Germán Herrera

Self-Knowledge and Transformation Through Art

Germán Herrera is ​​a visual artist with an interest in psychology, perception and our potential as human beings.  He is interested in art as an agent or catalyst, which, through beauty or otherwise, "seduces us to sense, feel and possibly think about a given proposition," he says. "This process of introspection may help us gain access to aspects of our individual psycho/spiritual moment and nature, ultimately contributing to our potential growth as human beings."

The first of five siblings in a family of psychologists, Germán inherited his love for photography from his maternal grandfather and an interest in music from his father and maternal grandmother. In 1978 he traveled to California to study photography, where he became interested in Afro Cuban drumming. In 1980 Germán returned to Mexico and devoted himself to music and commercial photography. In the late 1980s he traveled to Cuba where he produced a body of documentary work, then stopped working in any form of image making for eleven years.

"I didn't feel that I had a lot to say," he now says. "Most of the photographers I admired and that had something relevant to share were mature, age-wise and mind-wise if you can call it that." At the same time, he says that "the spiritual aspect of music as it is experienced in Cuba is something that deeply interested me. Everything started connecting and it all started going in the same way, which was art, spirituality and a deep interest in the human experience as a form of becoming."

He embarked on a spiritual journey that took him to Poona, India, where he spent six months and met his wife for the second time, unaware of this fact. Continuing the process of self-investigation, he was able to do therapy work, which led to a two year training in Core Energetics (a Neo-Reichian form of internal work), contributing fundamental information to his current form of image making. Eleven years after he stopped working in photography, he returned to the art, simultaneously discovering the complex potential of the digital environment as a creative tool.

But he was a changed man and a changed artist.  In his art, he shifted from his search for the Self in the streets of Havana, to seeking to uncover the contents of the mind, conscious and unconscious. He was drawn to photographing the imperfect and even what some might consider disgusting. "I tried to not really think about what I was doing, but more sense what I was feeling or the connections felt by following my gaze, or a smell that would catch me, or a dead animal. I would try to leave my mind aside and look at it for what it is," he says. "There's some part of me that is attracted to these cracks or process of disintegration. Finding the lack in what I was seeing, finding the mistakes, finding the imperfections."

Germán's images are like "a kind of mirror that offers the potential to recognize something of ourselves," writes art historian and critic Elizabeth Ferrer. "In Herrera's hands, photography becomes a medium for entering liminal spaces — between the physical and the psychological, the knowable and the unknowable — elusive territories that symbolize the possibility of grasping the metaphysical in the everyday world around us."

While Germán's work is photography-based collages, it can be described as emotional or internal landscape, editioned in limited numbers and printed with archival quality on 100% cotton paper.​  His work has been acquired by the Green Library at Stanford University, and by museums in Texas and throughout California.  He has exhibited in the Dominican Republic, Spain, Mexico, and throughout the United States. He lectures and gives workshops in California and Mexico.

Germán lives in San Rafael, California, with his wife Nayana Rodriguez and their cat.

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