Ecdysis: Ec·dy·ses, n.; pl. (Biol.) The act of shedding, or casting off, an outer cuticular layer, as in the case of serpents, lobsters, etc.
“Known for her provocative depictions of the female body, Ana Teresa Fernández’s work has explored a broad range of subjects, including border issues, female labor, sexuality, feminism, and gender identity. By turns intimate, sensual, daring, and fragile, Fernández’s art renders the body in ambivalent terms, expressing its dual aspects of vulnerability and strength.
Ecdysis is Ana Fernández’s first sculpture-based exhibition. It is dedicated to the women of Juárez, Mexico, where, since 1992, over 500 young women working in maquilas —multinational factories— have been “disappeared”, abused, murdered, and dismembered with total impunity. Working with a diverse array of craft-oriented media, such as cast resin, glass, tin, and carved wood, Fernández’s installation evokes the fragility and susceptibility of single women in towns along the U.S./Mexico border, but most notably, the calamity of little girls orphaned by this savagery.
Fernández’s sculptural works offer a compelling interpretation of this daunting history of aggression. She combines different components —glass figures, a red velvet wall of votive offerings, a wood construction, and contextual data— to interweave different narratives on the body that are drawn from Catholicism, female coming-of-age rituals, and from recent Mexican legislation on violence towards women.
To create her human figures the artist produced molds using live models, specifically three little orphaned girls from Juárez, Vietnam and Bangladesh who are now living in San Francisco. The “flesh” of these sculpted bodies is incrusted with glass fragments that recall the broken beer bottles that are often used on walls in third world barrios as a basic means to defend and define private property. Here personal and urban mappings intersect. In the same vein, the oversized ex-votos, also known as milagros, add another layer of duality: they are both votive offerings in the shape of different body parts as well as a reference to mutilated bodies.
Fern·ndez’s intimate installation smartly shifts between the spiritual, the political and the personal. This collection of images speaks of the sacred as well as of the ritual of cruelty. The contrast between the innocence of the small figures and the layer of urban debris covering them emphasizes the perpetual chain of violence. It points to the individual and collective dimensions of this tragedy; to its inextricable connection to bi-national economic tensions, as well as to the absence of justice and gender equality. Yet these works also reveal a wider expressive scope: although they address a specific critical issue that is both local and universal, they are not limited to a single way of suggesting meaning. As with her previous work, Fernández’s sculptures continue to explore the diverse possibilities inherent in the female body as subject and object, as self and other.”
— Carolina Ponce de León, Executive Director