A contemporary visual artist known for her experiential, large-scale public sculptures and her paradoxical use of materials, Teresita Fernández was born in 1968 to Cuban parents living in exile in Miami, FL.
She came by her passion and technique naturally, having spent countless hours in the atelier of her great aunts and grandmother, all of whom were highly skilled couture seamstresses. Teresita’s work is heavily influenced by her artist’s residency in Japan, and is filled with spectacular optical illusions born of an evocative fusion of natural and industrial.
In 1996, Fernández had her first solo exhibition in NYC. She transformed the gallery into an empty, indoor swimming pool inspired by Josephine Baker’s Parisian residence.
Teresita’s first solo museum show was just three years later at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.
Not long after came exhibitions at Site Santa Fe, Castello di Rivoli and The Centro de Arte Contemporaneo in Spain and by 2000 Teresita Fernández was enjoying a wildly successful, yet understated career. Respected curator Lisa Corrin has called Teresita, “One of the best-kept secrets in the contemporary-art world.”
Her large scale artworks made of steel and iron became a talked about topic; critics questioned if the delicately framed Fernández could construct these marvels on her own. The introverted artist didn’t cave in to the speculation with an response, which only fuelled the naysayers’ suspicions of who created the pieces. Only later did Fernández reveal that it was in fact her sole effort, working alone in her foundry each night, to avoid the unbearable Florida heat, welding each piece together until complete.
In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Fernández to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. She is the first Latina to serve on the CFA, and only the second person of Latino heritage to serve in the organization’s more than 100-year history.
Mass MoCA aired an insightful interview with Fernández during her As Above So Below exhibition. You can watch it here:
Image by Pari Dukovic for WSJ Magazine.