There’s virtually no way you haven’t seen Hueman’s work.
In the last three years alone, the artist’s bold, “etherealistic” style has brightened up Lyft bikes and the debut trainers in Steph Curry’s new shoe line, the Curry 8. Her fractured portrait of Pink graces the cover of the musician’s 2019 album Hurts 2B Human; andher whirling color palette was featured in a 2019 line of “body painted” jumpsuits, jackets, and athleisure at Forever 21.
Not sounding familiar yet? Maybe you remember Hueman’s collaborations with The North Face, the 2016 USA Women’s Basketball Team, or NYX Cosmetics? Or maybe you’ve seen her murals in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, Detroit, Gothenburg, Sweden, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti or half a dozen other cities around the world? Or maybe you caught her recent immersive installation Homebody at Berkeley’s Ciel Creative Space, a show inspired by pandemic-induced isolation and self-metamorphosis?
Yeah, you’ve seen her work. How could you not?
Hueman, aka Allison Torneros, has been a prolific artist since childhood (“I’m very much a Capricorn,” she unabashedly explains, “I’m a workaholic.”). But like the transformation she captures in Homebody, Torneros has emerged from her pandemic cocoon not just as an artist or a commercial designer, but as a multi-hyphenate creative director.
“I think most high-brow art people would look down on someone who does so much commercial work, but it’s those projects that have afforded me the chance to do something like Homebody,” says Torneros. Her creativity is not either-or but a both-and.
Torneros grew up a lone artistic kid in a Filipino-American family in the East Bay. She didn’t dream of being an artist; it wasn’t exactly a lucrative career path. She took a more practical route toward design and media arts at UCLA instead, one she might have stuck with if it hadn’t been for her first San Francisco gallery show which, at age 18, tore the veil from her ambition and sent her careening towards an unexpected future.
The next piece fell into place after college when Torneros began painting wall murals. She felt so alive, so far away from the robotic, computer-based work she had been doing, that she took on a new alias: Hueman. In the male-dominated graffiti landscape, Hueman’s signature “freestyle” approach—in which she builds faces and imagery from abstract sprays and blotches of paint—stood out. The more she hustled, the more her work paid off: Her murals began to multiply, first in L.A. and the Bay Area—hers was one of the first commissioned in L.A. after the city lifted its street art ban in 2013—then around the world.
Hueman's 2016 mural at the Academy for Peace & Justice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.(Courtesy of @Hueman_)
Hueman dabbled for the first time in immersive art in 2013 with Ritual, a nine-day take-over of a 6,000-foot L.A. warehouse replete with freestyle murals, creative collaborations, and performances.
“It felt very underground and the fact that it was this self-initiated thing was super important. I was able to control the vibe and the culture of what was happening in that space,” she explains. “I’ve been chasing that dragon since then, wanting to create something fully immersive that involves the entire community and brings people together.”
With Homebody, Torneros finally caught it, ironically gathering community around a show about pandemic isolation. Although the multi-room exhibition left Ciel at the end of February, the show, which was designed to travel, will reopen at L.A.’s new Mirus Gallery later this year, and hopefully at others down the road.
“That’s my big baby right now,” Torneros says.
Really, though, it’s just one of several progeny she’s nurturing at the moment, most important among them is her two-year-old daughter, Sophie. “I’ve got a couple of huge collaborations coming this year,” she teases, plus “a few NFT projects coming out in the next few months.”
Yeah, like she said, she’s a Capricorn.
Allison Torneros, aka Hueman, in her Oakland studio.(Courtesy of @Hueman_)