Fire and Rain: Two Works by Teresita Fernández

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Teresita Fernández, Fire, 2005, silk myth, steel armature, and epoxy. 96 in. x 144 in. (243.84 cm x 365.76 cm). SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund opt, Created in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 2007

“There would possibly maybe be one thing infinitely therapeutic in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that morning time comes after night, that spring comes after iciness,” Rachel Carson reminds us. Within the height of the pandemic, a great deal of us relied on these predictable patterns for comfort: the warmth of a vitamin-D sopping wet morning time, or the promise of green yelp after rainfall. It’s miles changing into more and more definite, on the opposite hand, that the refrains of nature are no longer in team spirit.

Last year, California witnessed its most destructive wildfire season in new history. Smoke suffocated the recount and shrouded us from the solar. The be conscious wildfire conjures a force that is feral, uncontrollable. In the beginning peek, Teresita Fernández’s Fire (2005) lives up to its name, dynamic in skedaddle and intimidating in scale. Handiest upon extra investigation does the optical illusion reveal itself: the flickering hues of crimson, orange, and yellow are tender threads of silk myth, completely contained in a ring suspended from the ceiling.

Fernández rematerializes the idea that of hearth, this useful resource we predict all of us know so effectively, rendering it tame and tender. Finally, the hearth we exercise every day is at our present — a single flame from a match, a golden crown on a stove, a leisurely upwards procession warming us and our cherished ones. Fernández customarily challenges the viewer to explore closer, her number of gives uncovering hidden histories of landscape and the ambiance. In her 2017 exhibition Fire (The United States), multimedia landscapes charred and burned by fire reveal the antagonist is no longer fire, but settler colonization and the ensuing suppression of Indigenous peoples and their land technologies.

Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled, from the assortment Ametsuchi, 2012, Chromogenic print. 25 in. x 31 in. (63.5 cm x 78.74 cm). SFMOMA, Foto Dialogue board opt, 2014

Many suppose the Anthropocene age began with colonization and the industrial revolution, as societies favored mass manufacturing over Indigenous practices of sustainable residing. The land on which SFMOMA operates is home to the Ramaytush Ohlone. The Ohlone, esteem completely different Indigenous peoples at some stage in the arena, developed managed burns to have a tendency and domesticate the terrain. This farming abilities, customarily referred to as yakihata in the Jap language and most repeatedly as sever-and-burn in English, harnesses fire as a instrument, releasing it on sever (downed and dried vegetation) to recycle the understory, salvage rid of illness, and fertilize the soil for model spanking new yelp. Sooner than Indigenous land care and managed burns were criminalized by the Nationwide Woodland Carrier in 1891, trunks of large sequoias demonstrated indicators of hearth every seven years, esteem clockwork.

These ignitions were conducted based fully fully on the rhythms of rain, to maintain definite the seeds sowed would possibly maybe maybe maybe be nourished and the regenerative cycle achieved. Creator and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, teaches us the survival of all species is dependent upon cycles of reciprocity: “Reciprocity is how the biophysical world works. Steadiness in ecological systems arises from unfavorable feedback loops, from cycles of giving and taking.” Ecosystems adapted and depended upon these refrains of hearth and rain to preserve their steadiness. Fernández’s sculpture prompts us to reconsider our relationship with fire, to ask the beauty and the inducement in the relief of its desire to burn.

Natural phenomena esteem fire and rainbows are customarily personified or attributed to an animal in origin tales as a choice to foster a increased connection or knowing. We give names to fires and storms and list them as inside our lift, through phrases esteem “indulge in the hearth” or “have interaction the rainbow.” We crave intimacy with these forces increased and more radiant than ourselves.

Teresita Fernández, 3: 37 p.m., 2001. Acrylic and blended media. 60 x 282 x 0.81 inches. SFMOMA, present of Roger Barnett, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Modern York and Hong Kong. Characterize: Matthew Hermann.

In 3: 37 p.m. (2001), Fernández distills the essence of a rainbow. The set up includes colored acrylic cubes magnetized to the wall — every cube represents a droplet of rain, every coloration a reflection of sunlight hanging it. Mathematician René Descartes explains a rainbow is basically a feedback loop, whereby rays of sunshine move from the solar, ricochet off raindrops, and replicate chromatic rays to be perceived by an onlooker. The woodcut illustration integrated in his treatise Discours sur la méthode (1637) portrays the onlooker fully integrated into the landscape, a key facet in the equation.

René Descartes’s sketch of how a rainbow is formed, Discours de la méthode (1637)

As you bump into 3: 37 p.m., the spectrum of colors vibrates and adjusts based fully fully for your distinctive line of glimpse. The refraction of sunshine emanating from the cubes satisfies (and strategies) the seek, inflicting a physiological response one would possibly maybe maybe maybe list as marvel. Characterize a rainbow arcing all the strategy through the sky in the late afternoon mild. As Fernández makes eternal that which is impermanent and tangible that which is intangible, she leaves the viewer feeling somewhat closer to this higher-than-lifestyles spectacle.

She explains, “We are inclined to imagine landscape as one thing outside of ourselves, and that’s a idea that I desire to invert — we’re no doubt steady an extension of the landscape, we’re working on the loyal identical cycles.” The past year has revolved spherical transition, loss, and mourning. This revolution is felt all the strategy through species, all the strategy through lands and oceans, as all of us face the specter of extinction. Viewing these works in the galleries makes me esteem pure wonders discovered of doors, even as it engenders increased wretchedness for his or her constancy. How does our perspective, our involvement, have an effect on the cycle? What if we continuously refuse to reciprocate? Will we be forced to rewrite these tales, these songs for our kids? Will we be left with nothing but objects of artifice to spark marvel in white-walled galleries?


Contemporary Optics: Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernández, and Anish Kapoor is scheduled to be on ask on the museum’s fifth ground into March 2022.

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