Teresita Fernández: Fire (United States of the Americas)
Apr 1, 2022
Ticket: $25.00*
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Through spring 2022 Teresita Fernández unearths and exposes hidden histories embedded in landscape. In this striking installation, she renders the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and all the US territories as scorched earth. Through the use of charcoal and hand-drawn smoky shadows, she invokes fire as a symbol of both destruction and regeneration. By questioning perceptions about nation, borders, and land, Fernández invites us to radically reimagine what the future of America means when we become active participants in forging new histories.

What is America? The plural “Americas” in the title of Fernández’s artwork reminds us that the United States is only one part of America, which is collectively made up of the Caribbean and North, Central, and South America. She challenges viewers to question the biased narratives about the formation of the United States and its iconic map, which often omits the US territories, commonwealths, and free states—from American Samoa to Puerto Rico, the oldest colony in the world.

Forming a ghost-like image that seems to hover on the wall, Fernández’s abstracted map refers to the violent legacies of settler colonialism, Indigenous genocide, and slavery. The material of charcoal—itself made from burned trees—also refers to the traditional “slash-and-burn” agricultural method used by Indigenous people. Through this sustainable practice, their burning of select forested areas significantly shaped the American landscape for thousands of years before European contact.
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Philadelphia Museum of Art
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