MacArthur Fellow Teresita Fernández finds inspiration in nature and draws upon a wide range of materials to translate natural forces into essential elements of color and light, depth and space. Fernández is extremely sensitive and attentive to the inherent properties of materials. Through a regimen of experimentation, she achieves a striking balance between form and the resonant character of unorthodox, synthetic materials. Her ability to identify the inherent properties of these materials and manipulate them for a greater purpose engages the viewer in a surprisingly minimal but evocative metaphor of natural form that immediately imbues her sculpture with a deliberate, carefully constructed tension between nature and artifice.
As an Artist-in-Residence, Fernández worked with FWM staff to create Fire. This monumental, delicate sculpture is composed of two concentric circles of thousands of silk threads that hover, suspended in the gallery. The silk threads, hand-dyed shades of lush reds, oranges and yellows, come to life as one circles the piece. The two concentric layers of threads flicker under the gallery lights, losing their materiality and becoming animated as pure color and light.
In this truly collaborative effort and feat of technical innovation, Fernández worked with FWM Project Coordinator Mary Anne Friel, professional spray master Michael Wommack, weaver Pam Pawl, and sculptor Gheorghe Adam. Starting with the initial concept of a "ring of fire," the project went through many material incarnations. Crucial to the piece's development was a trip to the renowned textile manufacturer Scalamandre, located in Queens, NY. The facility's long rows of stretched warp threads inspired Friel and Fernandez to leave behind the weightiness of materials like resins and plastics. Finally, partially woven threads were stretched taut and suspended between two custom-made steel rings and hand-dyed using an innovative technique of airbrush color dyeing.
Also on view are recently completed mixed media works on paper. Explorations in the quality and character of Fire, each drawing features shaped flames, their glowing cores and dissapating smoke rings contained within the page. All made in 2005 these works hang in conversation with the sculpture, Fire.
An innovative marriage of materials and form, the artist's collaboration with FWM marks an ambitious use of new materials and experimentation with the traditional dyeing process, but the conceptual premise of Fire remains in keeping with the artist's ongoing practice. Fernandez has made works that evoke eruptions, waterfalls, sand, water, fire, grass, and sky. Rather than mere representations of natural forces, Fernández creates material and structural equivalents–metaphors–often employing thousands of finite, synthetic objects to render the essence of such occurences. A mosaic of colored acrylic cubes stand in for fire, aluminum and acrylic beads create a sand dune, and fiberglass sheets become a waterfall. Fernández uses light to give life to these objects; as the viewer interacts with her sculpture, light triggers the active surfaces of the work. Fernández's cool, almost minimalist strategy may appear to distance the work from the immediacy of the forces and elements she recreates. However, through her precise use of materials, and sensitivity to their reception by the viewer, Fernández pays near reverential respect to the human experience of natural phenomena.
About the Artist
Teresita Fernández, born in Miami, Florida in 1968 to Cuban parents, resides and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received her BFA from Florida International University, Miami, FL in 1990 and her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA in 1992. Fernandez has received numerous awards including Affiliated Fellowship at American Academy in Rome (1999), Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award (1999), ARCUS Project, Moriya, Japan (1997), National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, CAVA Fellowship (1995) and NEA Individual Artist's Grant, Visual Arts (1994) . In 2001 she was a featured artist of the Public Art Fund, with Bamboo Cinema exhibited in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Museum exhibitions of her work have been held at Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain (2005), Grand Arts, Kansas City, MO (2003), Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL (2003), Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York (2003), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2001), SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM (2001), and Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA (1999), among others.