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Ana Teresa Fernandez on erasing the U.S.-Mexico border

Written by Tamara Murga, Editor-in-Chief

Mexican artist Ana Teresa Fernandez continues to impress many with her 2011 project, Borrando La Frontera, which translates to Erasing the Border. She explores the depth of having a wall dividing two countries that share one sky and its impact when taken off. The triple-fenced, fifteen-foot border that divides the United States and Mexico holds a variety of shared and untold stories from both sides.

Using a ladder, a generator and spray gun, she approached the border wall that separates San Diego’s Border Field State park from the Playas of Tijuana. From there, she painted a continuation of the blue sky, golden sand, and ocean waves, that created an illusion of a borderless beach. Oh, and shout out to her for doing it all in heels and a little black dress.

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Ana Teresa Fernández Borrando la Frontera (Erasing the Border), 2012 Digital still from 5 hour performance on Tijuana/San Diego border Performance documentation Courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

This is not the first time she dresses up for a project. In fact, Ana Teresa often explores the intersection between female sensuality and strength as they perform manual duties through performance-based projects. Other works emphasizing this concept are shared on her website. As for the Borrando La Frontera project, she shared with The Athenian Print a little on her choice of attire and more.

Q. Some address your choice of a black dress was to reflect the notion of prosperity in the U.S. and the death of those while attempting to cross the border. Others reason that it is because of your exploration in women’s’ strength and sensuality and how they can conduct manual work. Which is correct? 

A. Both are correct. The dress is a super hero costume of sorts for my performances. Depending on what side of the fence I am, it also translates differently. As mentioned above the dress is the LBD in the US, a symbol of prosperity, but in Mexico it performs the ritual of Lutto wearing black for a year mourning someone’s death. I have danced tango for over 8 years and the dress also alludes to the sensuality and power of the attire worn in tango. I try to highlight that strength and sensuality in domestic or maintenance chores that women so often perform without any gratitude, and which society gives very little value to.

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Ana Teresa Fernández Borrando la Frontera (Erasing the Border), 2012 Digital still from 5 hour performance on Tijuana/San Diego border Performance documentation Courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

Q. So far, what have been some of the reactions to such a powerful project? Any that stand out the most? 

A. The reactions have been very polar. On the one hand there’s been a great deal of violent feedback and people addressing me as a Mexican terrorist. And on a different scale people of all ages, especially young adolescents have sung its praises saying that it has offered them a new way to talk about policy change and social justice issues. 

Q. You seem to link “women’s strength and sensuality in the process of labor” a lot with this project. Is there any extra details or information that could better help the understanding of these two links? 

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Ana Teresa Fernández Entre #1 (performance documentation at San Diego/Tijuana Border), 2013 Oil on canvas 30 x 40 in (76 x 102 cm) Courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

A. No matter what action or performance I do, I attempt to accentuate dance into it, highlight a movement, extend a posture, as if cleaning and dancing were one of the same. My body has become the vehicle in which I investigate spaces, push/pull against it,  or tango with it. I try to insert value with these movements in landscapes of labor that go under-recognized or unseen. And by sensuality I mean, provoking and awakening your senses.

Q. Are there any future projects that may tackle a similar topic? 

A. Yes, I would like to extend Erasing the Border into the neighboring states, starting next with Texas.

To learn more about Borrando La Frontera and other works, visit Ana Teresa’s site.

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