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Meet Fernanda Durmer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fernanda Durmer.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Fernanda. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
When I was five years old, I moved to the US with my mom and brother from Costa Rica. Knowing only Spanish, I was suddenly immersed in English-speaking culture and Kindergarten. This is where I met the best teacher ever, Ms. Donna Rothstein. She didn’t know any Spanish but that didn’t stop her from finding ways to communicate with me. She encouraged our own uniqueness and taught us kindness toward ourselves and others. I remember one day I got upset that I’d messed up one of my first great five-year-old works of art, kind of devastating right? Well, she told me something that has always stuck with me. She said, “when you’re working on a piece and you draw out of lines, or the colors bleed over each other, don’t see it as a failure, see it as a new and better part of your work.” To this day, whenever I “mess up” something I don’t see it as a negative, I see it as an opportunity for something else, something I didn’t see before. This has impacted my life in more ways than just art. Over the years, I have come to realize that when your plans get messed up and life takes turns you didn’t expect, there is a beauty and so much opportunity in change if you allow yourself to see it.

Ms. Rothstein was and still is a beautiful beam of positivity in my life. I’m not sure when or how it happened, but she started calling me Georgia O’Keeffe that year, which continues to this day. And yes, I still keep in touch with my kindergarten teacher.

As the oldest of three kids, I navigated life somewhere in between Costa Rican and American culture. At best it was confusing, at worst hurtful and full of prejudice. I continued drawing even while cooking and caring for my little brothers, cleaning houses to help make ends meet and constantly interpreting American culture for my overwhelmed parents. We struggled a lot and suffered from the insecurities and discrimination that many other Hispanic immigrants experience in the US. Despite my turbulent childhood, I found peace and calm in the meditation of creation. As the reality of my life became clear, I understood that as the child of undocumented immigrants, I dare not dream of college, art school or any future other than simply working to survive. So, after graduating high school, I struck out on my own and entered the workforce. My passion for art was subverted by reality, and I lost touch with that which fed my early sense of serenity and purpose, my creative life.

Several years later, I met the love of my life, Jeff. With renewed passion, my long-suppressed creative powers returned. I began drawing and painting again but mainly out of sadness for what I suffered as a girl and a woman in submission to the pressures around me. The work I created felt more like therapy than expression. I so much wanted to evolve as an artist but found myself constantly returning to the past. It wasn’t until two years ago when Jeff and I decided to move to Denver from Atlanta with our son that my creative visions began to change. My inspirations were wholly different. I’d never received such amazing visual gifts before. I took to drawing and painting, again and again, it all felt very natural, a return of the flow I experienced as creative meditation. The interest in my work around the city of Denver was at first surprising and then reassuring. I was in the right place in the right space for this time in my life. And I think that’s what life is about, right? Remembering to be present so you don’t miss the fact that you might be in the perfect place for you.

During our first summer in Denver, my friend Alycia Ann, the owner of a clothing shop called Mångata, had a pop up at the Dairy Block downtown, and she let me showcase my art!

First, I am so grateful for her confidence in me and for the opportunity to show my work in her space. Since then, my confidence has grown, fueled by friends, colleagues and shops around the city like Neicy, the owner of Tiger Lily Goods, and Ashley, the owner of Midnight Rambler and Dannie, the mystical matriarch of The Sol Shine. Most recently, I met Miquel, the curator of The Alcove Art Space, and hung my first art installation in Denver. As part of the opening, I even was able to create my first mini Mural. I’m not sure what the future holds with all the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus and social distancing, but to me, it feels just like another one of those unexpected changes in life. I see this challenge as a chance for a much needed universal spiritual reset. Personally, my visions continue to flow from living in a state of gratitude for what I have found and not what I have lost.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As I mentioned in “my story”, I trace the origination of my creative life to early childhood. Despite the inherent difficulties I experienced as a child growing in a culturally dislocated world, it wasn’t until I was old enough to realize that I lived in a cultural “no man land” that my struggles became mine. As one of the only Hispanic students in my GA high school, I was largely ostracized and discriminated against. Although I continued to create art for myself, there was no support from my family or my community to pursue art. I was forced to become a survivor rather than a “thriver”, which placed a very real roadblock between me and my vision for living a creative life.

While surviving as an undocumented immigrant, I lived from paycheck to paycheck and job to job, rather than having the mental space to advance my dreams. I know I am lucky to have an innate work ethic and a large helping of street smarts, but my reality as a young Hispanic woman in a very white, southern US world presented challenges and obstacles that most people will never experience or even imagine. It was not until I met my soul mate, Jeff, that I could see something different for myself. Together, we fought through the discrimination and prejudiced around us and I even went back to school to earn a college degree in psychology. I realize now that I was living under a cultural weight that limited not only my opportunities but also my vision of myself. Slowly, we realized that relocating from Atlanta to Denver might help relieve the weight of external oppression. When we arrived, the unexpected revelation for me was that it also allowed me to re-envision my self and my creative purpose that was for so long suppressed within.

We’d love to hear more about your art.
My business is a creative visual arts. My inspiration to create comes from my experiences, the people I meet and my own particular connection with the universality of life. My current artwork reflects my curiosity for working with different materials on canvas, paper, rubber and even cork. While most people might characterize my paintings as psychedelic symbolism or otherworldly landscapes, I refer to it as a “universal deco”. My love for the art, architecture, jewelry, and deco forms from the early 20th century often inspire my visions. I think that in the arts, we often suffer from a want to organize and classify, rather than to experience and revel. My work is different in that it defies categorization and instead evokes a connection to the underlying divine nature of our existence.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
My work is very personal in nature and reflects an authentic vision that emanates from my own internal compass.

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Image Credit:
Corinna Lander

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