Border Art

‘Architects by Force’: Border photographer Maria Teresa Fernandez celebrates the inventiveness of the colonia

In the poorest colonias along the border in Tijuana, everywhere there are traces of ingenuity and the sparks of creativity born of necessity.  This is the vision Maria Teresa Fernandez brings us in her new show at Art Produce Gallery on University Avenue in North Park. “Architects by Force” documents built environments and community life along the border in Tijuana.

A native of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, and based in San Diego since 1991, Maria Teresa Fernandez has been photographing people, communities, and intimate moments when families meet at the border wall for eleven years. Fernandez has played a key role in documenting the struggle to save Friendship Park.

Now she has turned her keen eye to the rich colors and patterns of the humble homes of Tijuanenses living in “colonias,” squatter communities where the residents cobble together wood palettes, discarded refrigerator doors, and bright blue plastic tarps to create houses that are always works in progress.  What fascinates Fernandez most are the little details most of us would never notice: the way men use old soda bottle caps to help fasten nails into weak boards, an explosion of bright red bougainvillea bursting out of a stack of rubber tires, a rustic stone wall held in place by the roots of wild yellow daisies.

Fernandez has presented her work in galleries in both the US and Mexico, and her work has been picked up by major news sources like this photo essay published by the BBC.

If you think you know Tijuana, think again.  Maria Teresa Fernandez’s photos will give you a fresh new take on an old familiar place.

WHEN: Opening Saturday, Oct 8, from 6-9 PM  SHOW RUNS THROUGH NOV 20 

WHERE:  Art Produce Gallery, North Park, San Diego  3139 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104  (corner of University Ave and Iowa Street, near where the 805 crosses University Ave).

 Artist Statement: 

Fernandez at the border wall near La Rumorosa, Baja California, Mexico

Growing up in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, I was flooded with creativity. Since I was young I had the privilege to witness works of art and being exposed to all this beauty inspired me to study Art. I did not excel in making the actual art, but I could identify it in other people. I felt I had a keen sensibility to acknowledge artistic creativity. I actually explored being a full time artist for fifteen years by molding the souls of my four children. I left my own country to relocate in San Diego and seeing Mexico from a different perspective made me realize that those living along the border surfaced their dreams, hopes, anger, despair, fears, and their daily life and exaltations through a very creative medium. These evoked emotions became their palette and the border fence transformed into their canvas. My lens allows me to witness and acknowledge how man, time, and nature daily recreate the body and soul of this border fence. My camera captures expressions of words that paint pictures. The shapes, textures and patterns speak their own language with a diverse range of natural elements and added color. The border fence becomes alive to show the creativity of minute delicacies, ruins and fossils from its own life and the lives of those people dealing with problems and adversities who touch it.

— Maria Teresa Fernandez


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