The Sculpture of Sandra C. Fernandez: Transforming a Feminine Garment into a Universal Archetype. By Manya Fabiniak
Issues of abandonment, isolation, sexism, political freedom, war, and dislocation have for millennia haunted the human psyche. Each of these has been part of the personal experience of Sandra C. Fernandez. As each greatly affected her life, so too has each greatly served her art.
We all have choices as to how we will process and overcome the traumatic experiences that befall us in life. Psychologically one must embrace the past however painful, to become liberated from memories emotional constrictions.
In confronting personal issues, artists understand that the artistic process provides an opportunity to distillate memory until only the primary essences remain, ready to be concretized into form. When successfully executed, these works point to a universality that allows for us an expansion in consciousness, moving towards a new depth of understanding of the human condition. Through the exploration of different media, Fernandez has sought to confront her personal history, seek awareness, and relay such universal concepts.
For this installation, Fernandez expands from the intricately rendered and intimate boxes and collages of her earlier work into large, over sized skirts that not only engage but enfold the viewer. Previously one opened and inspected her soft sculptures, now one physically enters into their domain, enveloped by their presence.
Fernandez is asking for a relationship, that like any new encounter, begins with an intrigue regarding surfaces, but gradually expands to engage with depth the heart, the core, of the artist's intent: her historically shaped self and it's power for transformation and healing. Yet, as in all relationships, what we discover from the depths of others is so often invariably a mirror into our own sense of being; our stories, our despairs, our visions, our transcendence.
Three separate themes support the intent of each work for Fernandez: “Innocence, abandonment, and the emotional needs of a child form the theme of “Innocentia”. The fragile state of adolescence and the moldable state of youth serves the theme of “Dubitatio”, while maturity, compassion, peace, and wisdom form that of “Experientia”. Each skirt is meant by the artist to “invoke a sense of shelter, where the power and protection of love can be embraced whether one is male or female. Each skirt is in a sense a “womb”, where things of Life come from, yet also where one takes full responsibility for giving birth”.
Drawings by children provide captivating gestures of innocence and the early struggles for expression, and the artist has used their unabashed directness to completely enfold “Innocentia”. Fernandez embraces this task with full artistic bravura, handling the most delicate of intimate renderings with a nurturing grace until they paradoxically form the monumental. Humorous and quirky, even unhappy, angry moon-shaped faces give off their charm. Yet the artist demands that we acknowledge the authentic human experiences that all children encounter. Huge cyanotypes faces of children from different nationalities line the interior, each looking directly at the viewer with a powerfully set, steady, commanding gaze. One stands in this enclosure enveloped, confronted. Even as several faces are hauntingly beautiful, the questioning, searching eyes demand responses on a much deeper level. The painful question of why such innocence should endure great suffering and thus lose it's very essence is Fernandez' challenge to the viewer.
The transformative state of consciousness that fills the life of an adolescent is hauntingly rendered in “Dubitatio”. Uncertainty and doubt, as well as a young mind's malleability is suggested through portraits that are seen through the delicate haze of an ethereal sheer striped fabric. Printed on transparent paper and now cut to form, the portraits are in natural color or digitally altered b&w with splashes of red, blue, or orange. For Fernandez, “An important element in the meaning of this work is that here the young adult is not aware as yet that an avenue for change exists, and that one holds the potential for the remaking of oneself.”
Resolution comes only through maturity, compassion, and the transcendent power of human beings to continuously create a life of depth and richness of meaning. Although the images on the interior walls of “Experientia” echo that of the “Innocentia”, the haunting faces are now that of adults, again wondering, questioning. But this time they are enfolded by an exterior surface of white and toned papers, delicately stitched and quilted. A Biblical text composed of thoughts on how to achieve peace within and without provides a border not merely enhancing the skirt, but Life as well.
In creating is the past recreated. Out of the formlessness of memory and tragic experiences comes the salvation that is inherent in art's enduring process. As the artist goes within herself, she expands far outside that very self, creating an opportunity for others to share in the expansion of understanding through beauty, order, harmony, and peace. “It is my hope”, says Fernandez, “that through viewing all the details that would be found in this exhibit, one would see that the opportunity for creation continually exists, and that one need not ever remain a victim.”
This installation has been exhibited at the Castellani Museum in Niagara, New York; at Open Studio in Toronto Canada, the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana in Quito Ecuador; and at The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), Austin, TX.