Ana Teresa Fernandez

Region: Pacific Coast

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. 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. I attempt to use the body as a symbolic device for exploration that pushes and pulls the space to its limits, activating it until one feels it pushing back.

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. In these performances, I portrayed Sisyphean task of cleaning the 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 social 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.