Monument Lab

Erasing the Border and the Wall in Our Heads with Social Sculptor Ana Teresa Fernández

Episode Summary

This week we spoke to renowned artist and social sculptor Ana Teresa Fernández about her life growing up in Mexico and Southern California, and what happened when she painted the border near Tijuana. We also discussed her continued artist’s practice at global border lines and crossing points for migrant families including the Mediterranean Sea, and her recent collaboration with writer and cultural geographer Rebecca Solnit.

Episode Notes

This week, news leaked of the Trump administration’s deployment of an unspecified number of military service members to paint stretches of the border reinforcements in the California town of Calexico. The goal: to improve the border’s "aesthetic appearance."

There’s precedent to this. Wall builders go to great lengths to hide and distract from the brutality of border walls. For example, during the Cold War, the East German government ordered the Berlin Wall to be fully rebuilt more than once for the purpose of gaining prestige. That was before visual artists transformed that wall into the world’s largest canvas for expressions of resistance.

For contemporary artist Ana Teresa Fernández, the idea of painting the U.S.-Mexico border is not new. Fernández is a renowned artist and social sculptor. She was born in Mexico and is based in California. Back in 2011, she painted stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border fence blue to resemble the color of the sky for a project she called Borrando La Frontera (Erasing the Border).

Fernández has worked at the U.S.-Mexico border for over 15 years, before the Trump presidency, and has seen the border fence become increasingly militarized.

“Where I became aware and it completely just hit me with a huge bang in my gut when I first saw it and witnessed it.”

We spoke to Fernández about her life growing up in Mexico and Southern California, and what happened when she painted the border near Tijuana in a dress and high heels. We also discussed her continued artist’s practice at global border lines and crossing points for migrant families including the Mediterranean Sea, and her recent collaboration with writer and cultural geographer Rebecca Solnit.