From Bakersfield, to "Bel-Air:" Local artist, Gina Herrera had her work featured in that new Peacock show, executive produced by the original Fresh Prince himself!
The whimsical branch of colorful yarn, is Herrera’s handiwork. You see if for a moment on screen, but if you know the woman behind it, it will remain your heart for a lifetime.
Before Herrera MFA program at the University of Arts Pennsylvania, she was deployed overseas. Gina is one of the over 50,0000 veterans that call Kern County home. She has served in the military for over 20 years. It was her time deployed in Iraq that inspired her future creations.
“When I was over there, there was this place called 'The Graveyard.' It’s like thousands and thousands of acres of U.S. trash. When I was standing there with my uniform, I had a revelation, or disappointment in the U.S., of leaving our trash behind,” Herrera told 23ABC’s Kristin Vartan during a live interview. “I’ve always been an environmentalist in disguise, and I was just thinking: How can I make a difference?”
That’s when Herrera said she decided to make her art reflect her mission. A lot of her work is about five to seven feet tall, made up of re-purposed, everyday items. For example: Herrera said she drinks a lot of Boba drinks. On one piece, she glued on a bunch of plastic caps that would normally go in the trash. She put plaster over it, colored the plaster with acrylic, and added on trinkets from here and there, like pennies, eye drop holders, and beads from necklaces.
“They’re like little characters: happy little things that bring me happiness,” Herrera said about her pieces. “In the world we’re living in, we need joy."
Herrera continues to spread that zest for life and creativity to the next generation, as an Arvin High School teacher and a professor at Bakersfield College.
“Art is so vital, because it uses the other side of your mind and your imagination,” Herrera said. “It is an outlet. A lot of kids are battling anxiety and depression, and art is very meditative.”
Herrera hopes that her piece “making it in Hollywood” inspires her students to never give up on their dreams.
“No matter how hard it is, you keep going until you make it,” Herrera said. “I want to be a lesson for my students that I am still chasing my dreams of becoming a famous artist, and I want them to witness my journey and my road. That way one day, when I have a retrospective in the Metropolitan museum of art, they’ll look up and say, ‘that was my teacher.’”