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Painting Prodigy Is Real Star Of Show, Small Artist Has A Big Appeal: Show Features 12-Year-Old's Work

Small Artist Has A Big Appeal: Show Features 12-Year-Old's Work


June 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

ARTISAN: Alejandro Fernández poses in front of two of his paintings.

He's only 12, a cherubic-cheeked boy immersed in his first reading of Oliver Twist and not yet tall enough to reach some of the canvases before him.

But what Alejandro Fernández paints is commanding adult-size prices.

''It's like this,'' Alejandro says, standing before two of his works going on display Friday at Coral Gables International Art Center, Woman in a Hat and Woman in a Red Dress, both priced at $6,000. ``I have a muse and when it descends, I go to my canvas and I start to search for what it is I want to do.''

Woman in a Red Dress, for example, started out in blue.

''I wanted to paint a woman thinking, with her eyes closed and all her thoughts surrounding her,'' he says.

When he finished, he did what he always does -- leave the painting alone for three or four days.

When he came back to it, it was all there for him, except for the color of the dress. He changed it to white, then red.

''I can't explain it,'' he says of his method, ``but I search and I search, and something tells me when I have found it -- and then I stop.''

When he gets to a spot on the canvas he can't reach, Alejandro pulls up a chair, any chair, even a fancy dining room chair.

He stands on it and paints.

His parents let him; they wouldn't want to interrupt his trance.

''I don't think there's a spot in our house that doesn't have a brush stroke here and there,'' says father Victor Fernández.

Alejandro and his father say Alejandro paints mostly on Saturdays and Sundays when he doesn't have school (he just completed sixth grade) -- and only until he feels like it -- or say, until a game of basketball beckons.

''We don't push him at all,'' his father says. ``We've never had to. Painting is just something he has chosen to do since he was small. We want to nurture his talent, but at the same time we are concerned about the pressures because he's so young.''

Alejandro's résumé is short -- from paper and crayons to this first exhibit of acrylics on canvas -- but his work has an exceptional Matisse-like flair that people like, says gallery owner Fred Castro.

''We've already sold three pieces,'' Castro says. ``We put them up and they went right away. One collector who's a client bought two and another woman bought one.''

The smaller artworks sold for $2,500 and $3,500; the larger Woman in a Red Dress went for $6,000, Castro says.

Castro is pledging to donate 20 percent of proceeds from Alejandro's exhibit to the nonprofit Hands in Action, a child-abuse prevention center in Hialeah founded by another gallery artist, Carmen Portela, after her son was slain by a man who had been abused as a child.

Alejandro, who lives in Puerto Rico, started to paint when he was 5 and living in his native Santa Clara in central Cuba.

He left Cuba just a year ago after he and his mother won the U.S. visa lottery and were able to join his dad, who left the island for Mexico and crossed the border into the United States hoping to later reunite his family.

The women in Alejandro's artwork are inspired by his one and only model -- his mother, Marlén Finalé.

''She looks beautiful and now she has a belly like this,'' he says of Marlén, who is expecting the family's second child.

Alejandro says he's seldom completely pleased with his finished pieces.

''I always think I can do something prettier,'' he says.

But his favorite is The Violinist, which he painted some years back and the family doesn't want to sell.

It adorns his parents' living room wall.

''It has a movement I really like,'' Alejandro says.

Painting Prodigy Is Real Star Of Show

Young artist draws praise


June 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

ON DISPLAY: Alejandro Fernandez, 12, listens Friday to artist Carmen Portela in front of his painting, 'Woman in a Red Dress.'

The prodigy is 12 and on Friday, for his first gallery show, he wore gray flannel trousers and a white dress shirt. His dad and his dealer wore suits.

The idea was to mingle and this went OK. Grown-ups -- the merely curious and the curious with money to buy paintings -- watched him carefully, approached, shook his hand.

Old Cuban ladies touched his head and murmured, ``God bless you.''

He is Alejandro Fernandez, Cuban-born, Puerto Rico-residing painter since the age of 5. He possibly clears four feet tall. His voice is thin and reedy and his skin is clear. Adolescence has not yet marked him.

In interviews he has spoken quite literally of his muse, and Friday he spoke of the creative process: ''There is no previous idea; I do it in the moment. It is,'' and here he searched for the word, ``spontaneous. Something just appears.''

Neither of his parents is much of an artist, and his father, an engineer for a sausage company, seems a bit mystified by his progeny. ''I adore art, so we had always a lot of art books around,'' he said. ``He'd always look through them. But I can't really do it, not at all, not like him.''

He won't become a teenager until Dec. 31 -- the same day, his dealer Fred Castro makes sure to point out, Henri Matisse was born.

A couple out for an evening stroll saw the crowd in the Coral Gables International Art Center and dropped in. They stood in front of Unos de Mis Mundos (One of My Worlds), $4,000, one of Alejandro's smaller canvases at four feet across.

On the left was a starburst of fluorescents; the prodigy has used bold primary colors for the rest, an amoeboid form sectioned off with thin black lines into rhomboids and ovals and nameless grasping roundish figures.

''I see some Picasso,'' Don Nelson said. ``The way these shapes fit together, these cubes and curves go together sort of flawlessly.''

They looked some more. ''This could be a bunch of animals in here,'' said his wife, Patricia.

``Here's a turtle, there are birds, there are fish, there's a Teddy bear.''

''I think he's going to be around for a long time,'' Don said, and the prodigy went on shaking hands, accepting praise.

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