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The Hueman Element

0 Comments 16 August 2013

Interview with LA artist Allison Torneros aka Hueman.

by Daniel Barron

     School hadn’t prepared Allison Torneros for it.  Could it really?  We imbue the maverick lifestyle of a professional artist with an irresistible aura of romance.  You’re creating fire from thin air!  You’ve cheated the laws that govern everyday wage-slaves!   You’re a bastion of truth in a world tilted by the falsities of brand names and political creed!  Until the rent checks.   Until ruthless deadlines.  Until sleep deprivation and the fatigue of soulless corporate work.

     By the end of 2009, Torneros’ immersion in the arts had begun to seem like a sentence.  Her days were hostage to the demands of passionless web design projects and dull commission jobs.  Her social life had come to a stall.  The constant grind began to make her feel like something less than human, a machine.  It was a slump that went on for over a year, all the while she kept repeating to herself, “I’m human, I’m human, I’m human…”        

     The solution?  Dream bigger.  Think outside the studio.  Growing up in the Bay Area, Torneros had been enamored with the murals and graffiti throw-ups she would see around the city, her mother still in possession of early experiments with block lettering from when she was six.  The notion of staking a wall as her own in a male-dominated field had seemed long seemed too daunting to consider.  But after countless dark nights of the soul the handcuffs were off. 

Allison Torneros Hueman

     “My work kept getting bigger and bigger and I just naturally progressed until I was like, ‘Fuck it!  I’m gonna do a wall,’” she says.  Suddenly Torneros was liberated.  She was networking with amazing artists, using her whole body, had a life beyond the computer screen.  “Maybe it was because I was listening to Daft Punk a lot around then- they have a song called ‘Human After All’- but that’s kind of how [the name Hueman] came about.”

     “Hueman” is the name she applies for any of her work beyond the traditional bounds of her studio.  More than just a twee play on words, it’s an attitude, a personal statement, a creative persona.  “I feel like I spend a lot of time doing client work so when it comes to doing personal stuff it almost feels like therapy to me.”

     It has also become something of a movement, as other artists have begun tagging their work with her moniker in the wake of her rebirth.  Yet Torneros isn’t the least bit bothered by it.  “These other people- I want to inspire them to do the same.  You know?  And so I figure, ‘Fuck it.  You can write Hueman.  You’re human!  Who am I to say you’re not?’”

Allison Torneros Hueman

     Years before the start of the Hueman revolution, she was bit by the creative bug at an early age.  The daughter of a computer engineer, she displayed a remarkable sense of computer literacy, experimenting with web design and a bootleg copy of Photoshop her father gave her when she was twelve.  She put up a website and began posting her drawings and poetry, developing a following but never expecting anything to come of it.  “Some guy from a gallery in San Francisco just found my website and invited me to be a part of a group show.  And I was just doing it as a hobby.  I was thinking, ‘Maybe I could be an artist someday.’”  Her first show was in 2004, fresh out of high school.  Following her graduation, she relocated to Los Angeles to study at UCLA.

     Torneros  may have never planned to become a professional artist and from a certain perspective, she often still doesn’t have a plan.  Her vibrant, figurative compositions of acrylics, spray paints, and graphite combust forth from the raw materials of spontaneity.  What starts as a blank canvas or mural acquires the fluidity of a lucid dream as she soaks, drips, sprays and splatters their surfaces in frenzied motions.  They straddle the line between the beautiful and the grotesque.  They are “pop surrealist” or “post-street,” if one requires a label, or as she describes it, “fine art meets low brow by way of graffiti.”

Allison Torneros Hueman

     “When I first started painting, at eighteen, I tried to do really planned-out stuff.  I would sketch everything.  And then it would never look how I wanted it to look.  When I work organically it’s almost like, ‘Oh damn, I didn’t know it could look like this!’  There are no expectations and I can turn it into something that I really like,’” she says.

     Scientists still haven’t figured out why we dream.  One theory posits that they represent our ever-active mind’s urgent attempt to find connection and meaning in the images, ideas, emotions and sensations we digest in waking life.  Similarly, Torneros treats her creations as a sort of self-made Rorschach test, excavating its true intent with each spray and brush stroke.  “Sometimes when I do a commission they’ll ask for two colors that they want me to work with and then a word or a phrase that will inspire that, so I’ll keep that in mind.  But basically, everything is off the top of my head.”  She says a concept is often born from a single word or phrase.  “Demented.”  “Twisted.”  “Sex.”  “Love.”

Allison Torneros art

“Pleasurepain”

     As she led me around her studio at the Think Tank Gallery in downtown LA, she used a piece titled “Pleasure-Pain” as an example: “I was kind of throwing this around and when the paint kind of settled and dried it reminded me of smoke and soot.  And I saw this guy to the side and thought, ‘I’m going to make it look like he’s exhaling.’   And then when I was working on this it looked like fingers that were holding something.  ‘Oh, he’s holding a cigarette.’   And all of the sudden it becomes this one cohesive piece.  So I paint all of these different elements that I see and then the elements kind of come together in that way.”

      Professing a keen interest in the clockwork of the mind, Torneros describes her work as emotionally-driven, above all else.  “It’s more about the feeling rather than the story.   When you dream and you wake up sometimes you might now remember everything that happened but you remember images and you remember the way that you felt.  And that’s how I feel about my art.  You see these images and you feel something, but you don’t quite understand what the story actually is.”

Allison Torneros Hueman

     Her latest exhibition “Rituals,” opened at the Think Tank Gallery on July 11th and ran through the end of the month.  The theme was a perfect fit for Torneros’ sensibilities.  All through June, she followed a dozen people of a variety of professions for hours at a time to observe the habits and creature comforts that define their days.  The mini case-studies allowed her to channel her inner psychologist and collaborate with the kind of artists that are outside of the traditional bounds of her work, such as actors and musicians.  “I feel like rituals are very human.  It’s what we do as human beings to either feel close to each other or to mark another rite in life,” she stated three months before the show.

     Creating works that are gorgeous, sinister, sensuous, and energetic, the huemanity that speaks through Allison Torneros’ is undeniable.  She once may have been mired in a state of creative despair, but as I walk around her studio, another Daft Punk song comes to mind- “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”

 

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Daniel Barron.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Daniel Barron.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Daniel Barron.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Daniel Barron.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

 

Allison Hueman Torneros

 

Allison Hueman Torneros

 

Allison Hueman Torneros

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Alie Lustig.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Alie Lustig.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Alie Lustig.

“When I did all of the splatter and stuff I felt like it looked like- I was tracing along the contours at first and it reminded me of anatomy illustrations and stuff, like cross-sections of organs., and I started thinking or reproductive organs so if you flip it around it’s actually a vagina.  I was really stressed out, I don’t know if it was PMS or whatever.  So I started painting that and then I added this chick and called it “Crazy Bitch,” because I felt like a crazy bitch around that time.  I really like my work to be pleasing to the eye even though it’s kind of gross.” 

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Alie Lustig.

 

Allison Hueman Torneros

Photo by Alie Lustig.

 

Allison Torneros Hueman

Photo by Alie Lustig.

 

Allison Hueman Torneros

 

Featured photo by Todd Mazer.

View more Allison Torneros artwork on her website.

Follow Allison on Twitter at @hueman and on Instagram at @_hueman

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- who has written 423 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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