At the top of Mexican born artist Ana Teresa Fernandez’s Facebook page is a quote by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda: “Pinned by the sun between solstice… And equinox, drowsy and tangled together… We drifted for months and woke… With the bitter taste of land on our lips.” It aptly describes her hyper-real paintings where anonymous figures drift through a vast ‘ocean’ that is their surroundings. Fernandez creates impressions of the female body based on real-life performances of her own design. In her recent exhibition, “Foreign Bodies”, she painted tanned arms, legs, and horses gliding through a sink hole in the Yucatan Peninsula jungle. Their bodies are unrecognizable through the light refractions in the water, referring to society’s distorted ideals.
Turn on the news in the US today and you’ll hear about the current immigration crisis, specifically the treatment of women and children immigrants. This brings us to why we’re looking back at Fernandez’s 2010 series, “Ablution”. Using water as a metaphor, it is a series of paintings about rituals of cleansing between different sex and cultures. If water is pure, then her figures can be seen as symbols of fertility and strength. However, at their core identity is what Fernandez describes as a “wetback”, a slur for Mexican foreigners who have emigrated illegally and washing away their guilt. Whether we’re fighting for identity as legal or illegal, woman or man, black or white, Fernandez feels we are responsible for our own society’s perceptions- and change.