photo: Alisha Referda
Jo Farb Hernández is Director and Professor Emerita of the Thompson Art Gallery and Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at San José State University; she is also Director and Chief Curator Emerita of SPACES – Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments—a nonprofit archives documenting art environments and self-taught arts (www.spacesarchives.org). She has worked in the museum field for almost fifty years, including service as Director of the Monterey Museum of Art and President of the California Association of Museums. An award-winning writer, she has authored or co-authored over thirty award-winning books and exhibition catalogues; Forms of Tradition in Contemporary Spain won the prestigious University of Chicago Folklore Prize in 2006, and A.G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions (Harry N. Abrams, 1997) was one of Amazon.com’s “10 Best: Art and Architecture” books that year. Hernández regularly publishes articles for a variety of international art journals; she lectures widely at museums and universities internationally; juries national, statewide, and regional exhibitions; and has been a panelist for numerous governmental agencies, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations.
Hernández’s curatorial efforts are impressive and wide-ranging; she is equally comfortable with contemporary and modern as with “outsider,” folk, and ethnic/tribal arts. She is particularly interested in art environments and has done intensive fieldwork on this genre since 1973, when she completed her M.A. project at UCLA on American art environments. She has done primary fieldwork on work in this genre across the U.S. and Western Europe; and on Mexican, Spanish, and Balkan folk arts and performance events. She is a Contributing Editor for Raw Vision magazine, serves on the International Editorial Board for Elsewhere – the International Journal of Self-Taught and Outsider Art and Bric-a-Brac Arte Outsider journal and is a member of advisory boards for several art environments.
In 2008 Hernández received a Fulbright Senior Scholar award to research art environments in Spain. Her groundbreaking book resulting from this research, Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, was published by Raw Vision in 2013; it has been called the “…most impressive single volume of research ever published in the field of self-taught art.” In recognition of her scholarly achievements, she was lauded as San José State University’s “President’s Scholar” in 2014-2015, the highest honor awarded to a member of the faculty. She is continuing her fieldwork in Spain on art environments created by self-taught artists in preparation for a second volume of Singular Spaces. Together the volumes will serve as an encyclopedic treatment of this subject.