Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ecdisis at Galeria de la Raza

Ana Teresa Fernadez recently exhibited Ecdisis at Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco's Mission District. Ecdisis was an overwhelmingly forlorn exhibition; the gallery space was largely left open, and the walls, bare, except for one, which she covered in lush red velvet and then hung with milagros (literally, miracles, but milagro also refers to charm-like offerings to a particular saint to keep the petitioner's need in mind) all over it.

Fernandez began Ecdisis to respond to the murders and continued disappearances of the women of Ciudad Juarez, the border town that sits opposite El Paso, Texas, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. After spending time in Juarez, Fernandez wanted not to replicate the continuing atrocities there, but to create something alluring. For her subject, she chose the orphans left behind.

Fernandez worked with orphaned girls both in San Francsico and Juarez to create her exhibition. She first made plaster casts of their bodies from which she made a mold to cast the final resin form of the sculptures. While the resin was still soft, Fernandez she pressed broken glass into the forms of the girls, delineating the fall of hair and folds of their clothes. She chose to use broken glass because she wanted to use something from the urban environment from where these girls come from, where broken glass lines the streets. "I let the terrain influence my work. There is a beauty and preciousness of glass but it is untouchable...I wanted to give the girls protection," Fernandez said.

The resulting figures are untouchable, but less from the sharp edges of the broken glass than the ethereal quality given them by the backlighting that light up their little bodies and reflect off the shards of glass. Fernandez situated the glowing figures around the gallery so that each seemed very much alone. In the end, the figures seem like the loneliest angelitas ever.


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