A recently-named 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 natural and artificial form.
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.
A 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 Georghe 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 Scalamandré, until recently located in Queens, NY. The facility's long rows of stretched warp threads inspired Friel and Fernández 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 wall pieces. The surfaces of these works conjure the varied qualities and incarnations of smoke. Using repetitive mark making with a ball point pen and other materials, passages in each work are by turn suffuse, choked, and ethereal.
An innovative marriage of materials and form, the artist's collaboration with FWM marks an ambitious use of new materials and experimentation with traditional dyeing process, but the conceptual premise of Fire remains in keeping with the artist's ongoing practice. Fernández has made works that evoke eruptions, waterfalls, sand, water, fire, grass, and sky. Rather than mere representations of these phenomena, Fernández creates material and structural equivalents—metaphors—often employing thousands of finite, synthetic objects to render the essence of natural phenomena. 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 phenomena 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.