Imagínate II: Ana Teresa Fernandez

December 7, 2013 § Leave a comment



Welcome to Imagínate.

Here we will encourage the re-imagining of the Latina in American popular culture, and in turn, our imaginations, by raising the profile of women challenging stereotypes.

In this, the second installment of Imagínate, I want to introduce you to the artist Ana Teresa Fernandez. Her work is an incredible inspiration to me, addressing the intersection between gender roles, cultural identity and the border, the three most important themes to my own work. Her work depicts in striking and luminous images what I try to say in thousands of words. Please explore her beautiful work further, noticing the emotions, reactions and assumptions that come up for you as you learn more.

Her words, from her website, describe her work most elegantly:

As a young girl in Mexico, I learned at an early age about the double standard imposed on women and their sexuality. “Los hombres quieren a una dama en la mesa, y a una puta en la cama” (“Men want a lady at the table, and a whore in the bed”) is a statement I heard at fifteen, and it still lingers in my ears. For contemporary women, it is often difficult to reconcile the ubiquitous images of virgin and whore in our culture: clean vs. dirty. It is a fine line that becomes the point of demarcation for women to dance around. Through performance-based paintings, I explore territories that encompass these different types of boundaries and stereotypes: the physical, the emotional, and the psychological.

My first paintings in this body of work were of women dressed in Tango attire, performing cleaning activities or domestic chores in private and public spaces. As in Tango, the women duel with their partner — the environment. I attempt to use the body as a symbolic and measuring device for exploration that pushes and pulls the space to its limits, activating it until one feels it pushing back. This dance references the battle between media and predetermined gender notions and expectations, versus instinctual desires and self-empowerment.

My work investigates how women identify their strengths and sensuality in performing labor in which there is no visible economic or social value, and which is frequently considered “dirty.” I also subvert the typical overtly folkloric representations of Mexican women in paintings by changing my protagonist’s uniform to the quintessential little black dress. Wearing this symbol of American prosperity and femininity, the protagonist tangos through this intangible dilemma with her performances at the San Diego/Tijuana Border — a place I myself had to cross to study and live in the US. In these performances, I portrayed this multiplication of self and the Sisyphean task of cleaning the environment to accentuate the idea of disposable labor resources. Moreover, the black dress is transformed into a funerary symbol of luto, the Mexican tradition of wearing black for a year after a death.

In addition to highlighting ongoing socio-political conflicts, the works also underscore the intersection of everyday tasks and fantasy from both sides of the political/gender divide, illuminating the psychological walls that confine and divide genders in a domestic space.



On “Literary Archaeology”

April 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

“The book’s sheer and belated existence, as well as the sometimes convoluted efforts to honor Rukeyser’s intentions, attests to a fundamental belief that this woman’s voice matters.”

Anna Clark’srecent article in Guernica magazine is a must-read. It is a must-read not only because it chronicles lost writings of women, but because it reminds us that our own voices matter. Do not stop writing, countless others silenced, marginalized, or categorized, compartmentalized, called witches for raping the State. Do not stop writing. 


Stronger at the Broken Places

June 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Have you ever come back to something you’ve written and it seems like it came from another person?

Then you re-read or listen to something that moved you before, and it still does, but in a different way.

I love the way we grow and change so readily, and yet at the same time we can feel we are the same person, in the same skin that walked 20 years ago down the same path.

I am the Sunshine & Luck girl, an 8 year old who signed her letters that way, and yet I am a different, broken and re-made person. I am, as Hemingway said in a Moveable Feast, “stronger at the broken places.”

Nobody climbs on skis now and almost everybody breaks their legs and maybe it is easier in the end to break your legs than to break your heart although they say that everything breaks now and that, sometimes, many are stronger at the broken places.

I think about this beautiful poem and about the broken places.

But if we are broken and re-made, are we also, sometimes, waiting to be released from some part of ourselves? A part not best broken, but perhaps left to remain in another time, and there only? Sing, Nina…

Just some thoughts for a rainy morning.

Women of the Beat

October 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

Fresh off the virtual press, it’s my article on women of the Beat Generation. Check it out here at Her Circle Ezine.

It was fascinating to research women who had the courage to become writers, artists and poets in the 1950s, the height of female domesticity. I’m still so immersed in the time and women writers’ work– I’m currently reading Diane di Prima’s memoir — Recollections of My Life as a Woman. I also just had a conversation with poet ruth weiss today on the telephone. It was wonderful, fascinating and surreal. I’ll be publishing a piece about ruth as the second article in my series on Beat women shortly.

For now, I’m reveling in the 1950s… and what it took for women to shun the idea of female ‘perfection’ widely broadcast for the first time on television…

San Francisco Days

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

You can now read my piece on my pilgrimage to San Francisco over at Her Circle Ezine.

The piece features a poem I wrote about Beat era poet ruth weiss.

I hope you like it. What inspires you to change, or to act for change?

This is Beautiful

September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Very soon, I will be publishing a feature about this weekend’s events in San Francisco at Her Circle Ezine. It was a splendid weekend full of poetry and art, discussions about social change and civic engagement.

In the meantime, please hear this, a beautiful poem by Jane Hirshfield, I want to share with you.

An interview with her just aired on KQED in San Francisco as well, you can listen to it here. I’ll go now to ‘listen’ for more poems…

Reading ‘Trash’ – Why I love Banned Books Week

September 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve all done it. Put a juicy or salacious book inside of another book’s jacket. Read a book with its spine on the table so as not to reveal its scandalous or embarrassing cover. Or maybe when we were 12, we hid under a sheet with a flashlight and read… and read.

But this week I want to celebrate pulling down the proverbial sheet from works, not from those that are just racy or of the humbling self-help ilk, but those that at some point in history you might have found yourself in real trouble for reading. Those works that governments, school officials and libraries have banned.

I stole this image from 'Insatiable Booksluts'- Check out their brilliant caption there

I am so passionate about the right of individuals to speak and write and read whatever it is that pleases them, I am actually making a pilgrimage up to the home of my heart, San Francisco, this weekend to sit (sin?) in City Lights Books for a few hours, to attend a reading of banned works at the San Francisco Public Library, and to attend the Beat Museum’s event in solidarity with 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

I love thinking about why works were banned, and what it says about us. What are we as a society so afraid of? What is so powerful about the words we ban?

Well, the cat is out of the bag. I was supposed to be alone this weekend exploring these events so that in between I might find some time to write. But nevermind. The spirit of freedom of speech and free creativity, freedom of expression is what ultimately matters! Let’s pass around our banned books in the name of solidarity and community and let solitude be damned.

If you come hang out with me you just might find me HOWLing at Moloch in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.