'Maria’s Great Expedition' is a series of seven photographs depicting the migration of Maria Gonzalez, the great-grandmother of Californian artist Christina Fernandez. Each image, accompanied by didactic text narrating her journey, shows different moments throughout Maria’s life. Fernandez first researched, then visualized, staged, acted and documented her ancestor’s journey through photography. Following orally handed-down stories, Fernandez re-creates her own family’s migration. By narrating her family’s story, she simultaneously describes the fate of over one million Mexicans, who, in 1910 in the course of the revolution Porfiriato, participated in the northern migration to the recently expropriated American Southwest.
Using a red line to trace Maria’s passage, Fernandez opens the series with a map of the Southwest United States, which helps to not only contextualize the images but also grounds the mythology of family stories in real space. The first photograph of the series is set in 1910, when she first leaves Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, and the last in 1950, one year after Maria moves in with her sons in San Diego. Fernandez re-enacts moment from her great grandmother’s journey using photographic technology appropriate to the depicted era. The photos’ staged quality is evident and intentional, but at the same time, there is an uncalculated vulnerability to each one; what might have come across as fraudulence instead feels intensely honest. Fernandez, as Maria, is alive; she acknowledges, dodges, and dominates our gaze.
[Madelyne Gordon, "Composite map from Maria's Great Expedition," in 'Alone and Together (Solo y Juntos),' Google Arts and Culture, Last modified September 6, 2017.]