Tradition is everything to Geek Squad City Agent Claudia Hernandez. Claudia — known in the Louisville community as Clay Mata — is a proud Chicana self-taught artist who spreads her culture with each brushstroke.
Claudia’s inspiration comes from the colorful and culturally vibrant Día de los Muertos holiday, also known as Day of the Dead. The Mexican holiday is observed annually from Nov. 1-2 with a joyful celebration to remember and pay respect to friends, family members and loved ones who have died.
“It’s a celebration of their memory because their memory can never die,” she said.
Each year, Claudia creates a collection to commemorate Day of the Dead. She enjoys mixing media and styles, blending her colorful Mexican heritage and American upbringing — all with the finishing touch of her signature graffiti heart.
A lifelong dream
Claudia’s passion for art first started when she was a child, tagging along with her parents to work at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.
Her first drawing was a doodle of a cardinal on a napkin, and it was the first moment she recognized her love for art.
“I never imagined being an artist as more than just drawing or painting,” Claudia said. “But then I realized there was so much more, and knew I was going to be an artist and I was going to do this.”
Carrying on the tradition
Growing up, Claudia felt torn between her Mexican and American identities.
“Being Chicana, you are often told you aren’t Mexican enough or you’re not American enough,” Claudia says.
To fully immerse herself in the culture, she and her wife set out to experience a Día de los Muertos celebration in Mexico in 2019.
The celebration sparked something in Claudia. After seeing the entire city of Puebla decorated in colorful paper and beautiful flowers, she was inspired to mix elements and incorporate physical pieces of the celebration within her art.
“I added the papel picado to my paintings, so it gives that feeling of when you walk into Mexico,” she said.
Now, Claudia wants to inspire future generations to celebrate their Mexican culture alongside their American identity,
Claudia’s art and its tribute to both cultures has found fast fame within her Louisville community and the state of Kentucky. She recently returned to where her love of art began, Churchill Downs, and curated a live art presentation at Downs After Dark.
Encouragement and support
Whether it’s being flexible with her schedule to take off work to go to interviews or travel across the state for exhibits, Claudia is thankful to know she has the full-hearted support of her manager, Matt Smith, and team at Geek Squad City.
“This is something she’s passionate about and loves. Whatever she needs, we’re going to get her there,” Matt said.
In Claudia’s mission to paint the world colorful and bright, her ultimate bucket list goal would be to eventually bring an exhibit to Mexico. In the meantime, she has an upcoming exhibit in February at Louisville’s first bourbon-barrel art display at the Frazier History Museum.
“What I want people to take away from my art is the ability to believe in themselves,” Claudia said. “Because if I can do it, anybody else can too.”