Artist Teresita Fernández talks about public art, unconventional landscapes

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Visual artist Teresita Fernández visited the campus virtually on Wednesday evening as part of the Virtual Artist Talk series organized by the Department of Visual Arts. Fernández is known for her work that reinvents the idea of ​​landscapes, a theme that often contains deep historical and cultural references.

The presentation began with an introduction by Heather Bhandari ’97, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts and Program Director of the Art World Conference. Bhandari highlighted Fernández’s accomplishments as a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Fernández was also appointed by President Obama to the United States Commission on Fine Arts, making her the first Latina to hold the position, and her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally.

The artist began by explaining his interest in the concept of landscape. She uses the idea of ​​”landscape” to have multifaceted conversations about where an individual is “located spiritually, racially, socially, historically, psychologically, legally and environmentally” in relation to their surroundings, she said. declared.

Fernández explores “how the sense of place is very often informed by history, by (in-depth) research and by making connections between all the things I learn,” she said.

She described some of her own works and how she incorporates landscapes into it, such as her 12 meter long installation “Blind Blue Landscape” located on a curved wall in Naoshima, Japan. The artwork is made up of tens of thousands of different sized glass cubes on a wall that mimic a large mirror reflecting the landscape in front of it.

“It’s basically bringing the landscape back in, but also distorting and breaking it up and… reflecting your own image overlaid on the landscape so that each little cube becomes almost like a miniature landscape painting of the seen behind you, ”she said.

“Fata Morgana,” a piece temporarily located in Madison Square Park in New York City, consisted of 500 feet of gold and polished discs that created a canopy over the park’s oval lawn. She explained that this piece, whose title is the Italian phrase for a mirage, worked like an optical illusion. The metal, a reference to mining, formed intricate patterns, similar to foliage as it filtered sunlight at different times of the day. Departing from the traditional norms of a public art installation, Fernández aimed to create an immersive experience for pedestrians in the park.

She described how she pushed the boundaries of artistic integration between audience, performers and sculptures. Fernández partnered with choreographer Stephen Petronio to create a performance incorporating dancers, music and passers-by to highlight themes of erasure and visibility. Entitled “Luminous Mischief”, the performance enhanced the structural characteristics of “Fata Morgana”.

Other works by Fernández include “Fire (United States of America)” where she depicts the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and the American territories using charcoals and hand-drawn shadows. hand. “It’s a reference to slash-and-burn techniques (used by indigenous peoples) to shape and cultivate the land for thousands of years,” Fernández said. She noted that this piece relates to ideas of nations, territories, and borders while exploring the destructive history of the United States. The plural “Americas” in the titles is meant as a vivid reminder that the United States is only one part of the largest American continents.

At the end of the talk, Fernández answered questions and mentioned one of her ongoing projects: an interactive online exhibit she produced around the start of the pandemic titled “Maelstrom: A Visual Essay”.

“It’s a visual essay of my research and my work woven together and it was an important outlet for me to contextualize some of my writing and some of my research,” she said. The exhibition “gives a good idea of ​​the holistic aspect of my practice”.


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