Destiny’s Calling - Page 3

From Matisse to mid-century modern—East Bay painter Fernando Reyes wows fans with his joyous abstractions
Destiny's Calling
Collage 'Cocktails.'
Destiny's Calling
Fernando, near his tray of leftover art pieces, is busy with new collage.
Destiny's Calling
'Script 1' abstract.
Destiny's Calling
'Melange.'

"So I confused a lot of people when all of this [abstract collage] started popping out of my studio," Fernando says, laughing.

But even as he continues his abstractions, Fernando hasn't dropped the figure. He still brings models into his studio and is working to 'marry' figurative and abstraction. "I love working with the figure and I don't want to stop that," he says.

Perhaps the most important role destiny played in Fernando's career was convincing him to become an artist in the first place. If you can call a gift from your partner 'destiny.'

Fernando and Daniel Jackson, today his husband, who were living in San Francisco, visited the Reyes family home in Fresno, and Daniel spotted "artwork I did as a kid when I was in school."

There were portraits of Fernando's sister, fashion drawings, a burly Spider-Man, a male figure copied from a bodybuilding magazine. "Daniel had no idea I had any artistic talent," Fernando says.

"That Christmas he gave me as a gift some drawing pencils and pads of paper, and he said 'Merry Christmas. Now draw.' That was a catalyst."

It didn't take long for Fernando to realize he wanted to be a professional artist. Which raises the question—why hadn't he decided that before?

Well, he might have.

His family—dad a laborer, mom a housekeeper, six siblings in a compact house—were not gallerygoers. Other than art classes at junior and senior high school, art was not part of Fernando's life.

And when Fernando did have a chance for higher education—he was offered a scholarship to UC Santa Cruz—his folks said no because they wanted him to stay closer to home.

"I ended up moving out anyway," he says. "That was very traumatic for my family, because in my family, on either side, no one did it, unless you got married or went into the service."

Fernando began what he thought would be a lifetime banking career in the mid 1970s, seeking a "secure stable job," joining Bank of America in Fresno doing entry-level data entry. He had no college. In 1976 he asked to relocate to San Francisco. He wanted out of the Central Valley.

He was living in San Francisco's Haight and then in the Castro. He worked at one of the liveliest Bank of America branches in town—North Beach. Customers included Carol Doda and "all the dancers and all the barkers" from the Broadway strip. Fernando became pals with the people who ran Finocchio's and often caught the comedic drag acts at the legendary club.

He also enjoyed dancing. "I got into the disco crowd," he says. "Oh, I loved the disco, and even today I listen to disco when I work."

Fernando finally came out as gay to his family at age 38 when Daniel was shifting careers from management to psychology and moving to Chicago to study. "I mean they knew, they already knew. But this made it real for them," Fernando says. He went with Daniel to Chicago, hoping to become an artist.