In the studio with… Teresita Fernandez

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New York-based artist Teresita Fernández is best known for her large-scale installations that draw inspiration from landscape and natural phenomena as well as various historical and critical references. Through her work, she challenges traditional ways of representing and thinking about place by unraveling narratives around colonialism, power and ecological destruction. His latest exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in London, titled ‘Caribbean Cosmos’, features a new series of sculptures and installations that attract on the imagery of catastrophic climate and natural disasters as metaphors for centuries of injustice on the Caribbean archipelago, the Americas’ first colonial touchpoint.

Where is your workshop?

My studio is located in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, just off the Gowanus Canal, a historically industrial area.

What do you like most about space?

I really enjoy the quiet part of my practice. Research in this private space is a much-needed contrast to all the public aspects of the art world and of being an artist.

What frustrates you about this?

Nothing. My old studio was a rundown warehouse that I worked in for 20 years, on the same site as my current studio. I rebuilt the whole building to suit my needs, so now I have amazing light and a space that I feel really comfortable in.

Do you work alone?

I work alone in the very early hours of the morning and after 5 p.m. During the day, I usually have my trusted studio manager and four to five assistants helping me with paperwork, surface prep, charcoal cutting and layering, and more.

Kalunga (Maria/Marea) (2022), Teresita Fernández. Photo: Daniel Kukla; courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London.

How messy is your studio?

My space downstairs is a dirty, messy place of manufacture where everything goes; my upstairs space is immaculate and has a desk, paper work, library and my private drawing/thinking space.

What does it smell like?

The ground floor smells of charcoal, the material I’ve been using lately – it’s a warm, comforting scent. The floor smells of burnt sage.

What’s the weirdest thing in there?

An intact, spiny spondyle shell still attached to its coral matrix.

What artistic tool could you least do without?

Bamboo skewers for mixing and applying substances, and I also use the pointed end to move tiny bits of material around as I work.

What is the most leafed through book in your studio?

Too many to name! My dear friend, the great scholar Miriam Jiménez Román gifted me many books from her library on Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Cuban history in the months before her death, and they hold an important place in my library.

Do you cook in the studio?

Never.

What do you listen to while you work?

Usually nothing, I like to hear my own thoughts and appreciate the silence. When I do repetitive work, I catch up on podcasts and lectures. And there’s a neo-Gothic church from the 1800s right behind my studio, so the bell tower plays on time.

Panel painting by Teresita Fernández Kalunga

Kalunga (Maria/Marea) (2022), Teresita Fernández. Photo: Daniel Kukla; courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London.

Do you have a studio routine?

My day in the studio starts with a very specific Kyoto matcha tea, usually very early, followed by some alone time reflecting on what I did the night before. Besides these constants, every day is different.

What do you usually wear while working?

A combination of black work pants, a black work t-shirt and black work sneakers.

Who is the most interesting visitor you have ever had at the studio?

I would change the word interesting here to engaged and engaging. My studio visits and ongoing conversations with Cecilia Vicuña are always very rewarding and expansive.

Is something (or someone) forbidden?

I do not allow photography of works in progress and I try to be extremely selective with visitors.

Teresita Fernández: Cosmos of the Caribbean‘ is at Lehmann Maupin, London, from September 14th to November 5th.

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