Cali artist and architect Emilio Hernandez brings his childhood dreams to life by creating life-sized elves in the Colombian city.
Hernandez began sculpting at a young age. He draws his inspiration from Colombian folk tales that tell of elves who come out to play with children’s toys while they sleep at night.
“One time a friend of mine admired my work and asked, why don’t we do an exhibition in Popayan? I told him I just create for myself. But my friend insisted and convinced me so in 1990, I did my first show in a bank in Popayan. From then on, it was a promise,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s figures of elves and of mysterious female figures have been shown in New York at galas for Aid for AIDS, a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of AIDS patients in Africa and South America. The women have also toured Colombia.
“Sometimes the girls are in runway shows, sometimes in neighborhoods and restaurants. People invite them out. They always ask me, where are the girls? I always say, I have them out working,” Hernandez said of the 7-foot female sculptures.
In addition to sculpting, Hernandez also designs homes. Hernandez once took a year-long sabbatical in a self-designed refuge called the enchanted snail, where he meditated and taught local people to sculpt.
To beat the heat in Cali, visitors can stop in for artesanal gelattoes in Hernandez’s ice cream shop/art gallery “Divas” and admire the sculptures. Outside, there is a 7-foot woman guarding the entrance. The gelatto is hand-made in the cafe.
“I wanted to open this coffee shop because sometimes the people of Cali are shy about going into an art gallery unless they are going to buy something. The idea is that people can come here for an ice cream or a coffee and admire the art. The ice cream is an excuse,” Hernandez said.
For more information about Divas coffeshop, visit http://www.hernandezemilio.com.