Sandra C. Fernandez
Sandra C. Fernandez is an Ecuadorian American artist currently living in New Jersey, whose work is rooted in the transborder experiences of exile, dislocation, relocation, memory, and self-conscious identity-construction / reconstruction.
Her practice includes—separately and in combination—printmaking, photography, artist’s books, soft sculpture/fiber art, assemblages, and installations; using a variety of materials, such as paper, thread, metal, wood, organic materials, and small found objects.
Fernández was born in New York, was raised in Quito, Ecuador, and migrated back to the United States as a young adult. She received a Master of Arts degree (M.A.) and a Master of Fine Arts degree (M.F.A.) with concentrations in Printmaking, Photography, and Book Arts, from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She taught for over 20 years at various Universities in the United States, including Hunter College in NY, Monmouth University and Seton Hall University in New Jersey, the University of Texas at Austin, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Illinois State University. She has been the director of the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, the director of the Guest Artist in Printmaking Program at the University of Texas in Austin, the director of Wesleyan University’s Gallery in Bloomington, Illinois, and currently the Executive director of Consejo Grafico Nacional. She is also the Owner of sfernandez Art (Press & Taller) located in New Jersey, where she currently maintains an active studio practice.
Her work has been widely exhibited and collected in numerous cities in the US and abroad. She’s had over twenty solo exhibitions and more than two hundred collective all over the United States, Mexico, Perú, Ecuador, Argentina, Canada, Palestine, Spain, Italy, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Indonesia. Fernandez’s works are represented in public collections such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum & The National Museum of Woman in the Arts in Washington DC, The MET Museum in NYC, The Library of Congress, The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX, The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach California, The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) in TX, the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin Texas, The Museo de la Casa de la Cultura in Quito Ecuador, the Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University, The Art Museum of South Texas, the Kohler Art Library, and the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, to name a few. Her work is also in many private collections including the Gilberto & Dolores Cardenas Collection of Latino Art.
THOUGHTS ON MY PRACTICE
I fell in love with prints at an early age. First as an admirer and later as a maker. As an adolescent I was exposed to beautiful silkscreened Cuban posters in my home country Ecuador, at a time when book fairs were popular with Cuban artists bringing their culture to Latin American countries. After I migrated to the US as a young adult, and became an art student, I was immediately drawn to learning about the different printmaking processes and to create meaningful pieces that would talk about my culture left behind. Photography was already part of my artistic repertoire and printmaking became an extension of my aesthetic vocabulary. The idea of multiplicity was very appealing to me, especially in connection to the social roots of print media and activism. Editions let me share my work with more people.
Soon after I discovered Artist’s Books and bookmaking, something was awakened inside of me. My love for paper and old books had been already ingrained since childhood in my bones. My grandfather was a bibliophile & bookseller and his trade instilled in me an admiration for the printed text, the shapes and typestyles of the fonts, the hand drawn illustrations; the textures and sounds of the pages being turned, the smell of the leather covers and the folded pages that have trapped time within. It was an easy step to begin making Artists books. Printmaking allowed me to reproduce old manuscripts and photos and create three dimensional objects, without compromising the original documents. Books allowed me to tell a more complete story and engage the viewer using other senses besides visual, including touch and smell. Most of the Artist’s Books that I make are containers and repositories of visual narratives that need to be “read”, manipulated, and felt by touch. The storyline is not linear, and the viewer must decipher its content hint by hint, opening lids or unraveling tied-up accordion folded forms. The texture of the paper, the wood, the crochet, or the knit wire allow for yet another layer of sensorial involvement with each piece.
There are stories that need photographic images to be loyal to their time. Within my assemblages I utilize original negatives and input them to plates. The process and result allow me to document and at the same time give the image a new life. The print becomes an important element within my expressive vocabulary. I have always felt the need to combine different mediums to make a more accurate description of my ideas and emotions. At one point silver gelatin prints weren’t allowing me to tell a complete story. Printmaking expanded my ability to communicate more genuinely, and in turn I found my voice expanding even further towards soft sculpture and installation work. Printmaking has in will always need to be present in one way or another with what I make. Text is also always present in my work, and the best way to use it is through a print process.
Printmaking requires a methodology, patience, and a true love for process. A trained eye appreciates fully all the nuances of the finished product. When you discover a specific technique utilized, you can recognize all the steps that went into making it happen. When these techniques are applied to nontraditional surfaces, or combined with other non-printmaking mediums, is when you know the medium has many voices. In my journey, printmaking has been the portal that has allowed me to express who I am and helped me bridge visually the two cultures that I am made of. By combining the artforms that I learned in Ecuador (Mainly sewing, embroidery, basketry, crocheting and photography) with all the techniques I learned in the US (etching, relief, silkscreen, woodwork, jewelry making), I have created a distinct style in my work. I have built giant skirts by sewing together panels of printed cyanotypes and Vandykes; I have made sculptures for public places that utilize etched copper to embellish and support the structures.
Printmaking is the soul of my work, and the end result is never a traditional print. Even the two-dimensional prints are sewn, chine collé, or collaged.