Meet the Artists
MICHAEL ALEXANDER FERNANDEZ
In discussing my work, my vocabulary shifts back and forth between spiritual, religious ideology, and formal, aesthetic, and conceptual terminology. My practice is essentially a blend of intuitive and spiritual practice with formal aesthetic decisions, evoking the phenomenological blurring of subject and object while the viewer acts as voyeur over the specific rite. Using Neo-pagan, Catholic, and Santero sensibilities, I create altar-like objects and installations to work through personal narratives that deal with love, loss, mental illness, and emotional turmoil. My installations use spiritual, religious, and ceremonial formats in a form of “curative performance,” building sacred spaces to repair, recuperate, and reconstruct towards a hopeful outcome.
Whether it is apparent or not, the unspoken gender associations we instinctively place upon things as basic as textures, values, shapes, etc. influence how we view and experience much of our daily lives. Armed with knowledge of these assumptions, my lace sculpture and installation work aims to draw attention to the complications surrounding what we understand as feminine through material transformation. By changing select qualities of the material, I create analogies for assumptions commonly made about women. My ultimate goal is not only material manipulation, but to question some of the fundamental elements we associate with gender itself.
In my work, I challenge these ideas by presenting lace in a powerful and triumphant manner, which separates that which we consider feminine from the negative connotation that often follows. I create to both demonstrate that lace can embody traits typically associated with being masculine, (strong, structural, dominant, etc.) as well as to show that these “feminine” aspects of the material are not inherently such. I believe it’s important to let the lace be soft and delicate at times, to exalt these “feminine” qualities, as well as structural and dominant. The more I can embody both, the closer the lace becomes to my own truthful identity. I push material transformation closer to an understanding where the overall qualities rise above their corresponding gender associations, yet simultaneously highlight the existence of such associations. It is a balance—one of truth, and one of what what society regards as truth.
Through a combination of objects and video, my work recreates and manifests gender variant, specifically trans-masculine, bodies. Through objects I navigate the way queer and trans bodies take up space. I utilize assemblage of found materials to illustrate the corporeal realities of gender variance. Through video I portray the way these bodies transcend space. Video allows for the visualization of environments that can’t or don’t exist in the physical world. The reality of gender variance involves manipulating what exists and constructing what doesn’t in order to maintain a balance between gender euphoria and dysphoria.
Instantiations of transness take precedence in my work. In some pieces, I act as a stand in for an embodiment of the trans-masculine experience. In others, 3D renderings or other actors perform this role. Narratives of transition are present in each piece. My most recent work and research is influenced by the broader concepts of gender nonconformity and its insertion into inconspicuous places such as 3D rendering software, reality TV, and Western films. Influenced by the queer bodies around me, theory and object-making, my work illustrates the ways gender variance exists and operates unexpectedly.
All tied up. When someone uses the phrase, “all tied up,” what do you think of? Perhaps it’s
being overwhelmed with work. The thought of BDSM might cross your mind. Maybe you are just tied to a book and cannot put it down. When I heard that phrase, “all tied up,” yoga came to mind. I thought it was ironic to be physically tied up and yet mentally unwound. Typically, I enjoy creating peace with my art. Peace to me, comes through meditation and yoga practices. Looking to the positive side of being tied up, yoga was the perfect choice. Using this pose; I was able to photograph emotion without a visual facial expression. Subtle depth and contrast are portrayed with charcoal and white drawing chalk. By having my limbs face outwards and protruding from the central focus point, it helped display a sense of rhythm.
As an activist and political artist, my work addresses sociological issues related to gender and queer identities. I explore the stereotypes and expectations of queer presenting people within oppressive heteronormative culture. My work reinserts my community and my identity into systems, spaces, images, and relationships within the broader society that often deny my community’s various identities. My process as an artist is about queering, or “to queer,” a verb that originates from queer theory and the term “queer reading.” This term is used to challenge normative culture and subvert heterosexual binaries. With the act of queering, my work “represents” the world through a queer lens. “Queering is something we do, rather than something we are (or are not).” This process often uses queer-adapted vernacular “references“ to offer a platform of familiarity to a queer viewership. These references are derived from history, theory, and media. Queer specific references constitute a secondary language and an alternate social iconography used within queer culture. Elements of camp, such as artifice and exaggeration, also play a large role in my work, as they allow those positioned outside of the queer community to connect through its humor and formal exaggeration. I believe that art should be accessible to all populations, and by using these elements, I strive to create dialogue around issues facing the queer community both within ourselves and beyond.