Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Drawn to Landscape

by Drew Martin
I recently revisited the lecture Blind Landscape by Teresita Fernández, which she gave at Princeton in 2009. I watched it a couple years ago but was not stirred by it, so I watched it again and listened to it several times. I also checked out
some more-recent online interviews with her in order to understand this artist who I have not met and whose work I have never seen in situ. Fernández is the first to point out: you need to see her work in person, but The Museum of Peripheral Art's raison d'être is to embrace the peripheral, mediated experience of the arts. Fernández is beyond accomplished: her work has been shown all over the world, her awards include the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship "Genius Award" (2005), and last year President Obama appointed her to the United States Commission of Fine Arts. Fernández calls herself a conceptual artist but I do not like that term (for her) because what she produces is really installation art. In keeping with her own label, however, it would be more appropriate to call her a conceptual landscape artist because her work is about the grandiosity of land (and sea) but is also intimately close to the composition and details of the whole. Not only does travel suit this very cultured and articulate artist, but I think Fernández really redefines what traveling as an artist can be - a constant, creative exchange with landscapes. Although people are not present in her work - they are integral to it as the viewer, mimicking the reality of our relationship with the land and architecture. Most artists from Miami - (now) based in Brooklyn would only trash-talk New Jersey to stake one's claim as a New Yorker but Fernández is territorial in the greatest sense - she explores her environment with a curious eye and an open mind. I was impressed when she spoke about some of the Garden State's points of interest: the other-worldly phosphorescence room at the Franklin Mineral Museum and the Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson. What I like most about Fernández is her interest in things such as the intentionally surface-burned houses of Naoshima, Japan (pictured left - bottom), which she calls big charcoal drawings, and the graphite mines of Borrowdale, England, where graphite has been used for ages to mark sheep, which she delights in calling animated drawings. Pictured left - top is Ring of Fire by Fernández.