Returning home is never easy, especially if the journey has been as long and fruitful as that of visual artist Teresita Fernández.
Born in Miami in the late 1960s to Cuban parents, Fernández trained in Fine Arts at Florida International University in 1990 and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992. Just four years later, she held her first solo exhibition in New York at Deitch Projects, and three years later she had her first solo museum show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.
Since 1997, she has been living and working in Brooklyn, New York.
Her artistic language is structured around the reflection of the structures and the essence of the elements of nature, often using large format sculptures and installations in public space.
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I made this installation “Borrowed Landscape” in 1998 as an artist in residence at @artpace That same year I moved to NYC. The pieces had been in storage for 20 yrs! such a strange feeling to handle and install them again @pamm for my mid-career retrospective. The wooden platforms were constructed for me by a wonderful elderly Cuban exile- a gentleman carpenter named Luis, who had a small wood shop in Little Haiti, Miami and who has since passed away. Another Cuban exile, a seamstress family friend named Nelly who had a shop in Hialeah sewed all the walls for me. I rented an 18’ truck and drove the platforms to San Antonio accompanied by my mom for the drive… and spent the next two months immersed in pencil drawing the intricate geometric patterns that cover the floors. The thing about marking one’s mid-career is that you see the older works that maybe only you understand as touchstones and how pivotal they are for the works that comes after, and as portraits of a particular moment. Also @artpace helped shape the creative trajectory of so many young artists and curators in that time period! #weareacountryofimmigrants
After having lived in Japan during an artist residency, her work turned towards the exploration of light and darkness, a line that has accompanied her ever since, along with reflection on social issues.
Now, the conceptual artist will take her life’s work back home, in her largest exhibition to date entitled Elementary, which can be visited at the Perez Art Museum until February 9.
Famous pieces such as Fire (United States of America 2017-2019) and Viñales (2015-2019) will be part of the exhibition and the artist’s challenging discourse that invites reflection on political and social issues, especially for the Latino community in the country.
In a conversation with FIU News, the news platform of her alma mater, Fernández commented on how her career has been different from that of other artists of color in the country.
“I’ve been fortunate to sustain a viable art practice for more than 20 years, but in general, people have a hard time perceiving an individual as both ‘excellent’ and Latinx. Artists of color experience very different challenges in the art world,” she said. “We live in a country founded on deeply-rooted anti-Latinx, anti-immigrant, and anti-Black sentiments and practices. In my work, I’m interested in unraveling these complexities of place and identity through beauty, materiality and experiential, visual, immersive prompts.”
Despite having been able to afford a life as an artist during the last few decades, her work dialogues with simultaneous realities like that of other Hispanics in the country, “from the specific and personal,“ rejecting “any simplistic stereotypes and preconceived notions.”
“There are almost no models for being a U.S. Latinx contemporary woman artist with visibility in the mainstream art world — one who also claims her ethnicity, without having to choose either/or,” she added. “The constant need to choose between one’s artistic integrity and representing identity for others, coupled with the lack of examples of Latinx artists in American museum collections, points to larger issues of institutional racism, whitewashing and inequity in our museums and art history narratives, or what gets to be called ‘American art.’”