Christina Fernandez, an artist born and based in Los Angeles, creates photographic works that address the Southern California border region by examining labor, gender, migration, and her Mexican-American identity. Her urban and landscape photography uses a documentary aesthetic to combine the personal with the historical; Untitled Farmworkers (1989), for example, features wall-mounted photographs, index cards, and rows of soil, and addresses farm labor deaths and injuries due to pesticides, labor organizing, and picket line participation. The work is periodically updated to include a list of farmworker deaths and illness from heatstroke, which illustrates how the mostly migrant labor force is impacted by global warming.
The exhibition Christina Fernandez: Under the Sun presents several such photography-based installations dealing with labor, land, and light, and places them in dialogue with objects the artist selected from the Benton’s collection. The subjects Fernandez explores in her work echo in her interventions in the collection, including borders, boycotts, climate justice, landscape, Mexican/Mexico, protest, ruins, travel, and work, among others. In addition, the process of selecting art from the Benton’s collection mirrors Fernandez’s extensive research for her own work in which she gathers oral histories, explores objects and artifacts, and pores over maps, photographs, and rare books.
The result is an exhibition that not only amplifies Fernandez’s work but allows viewers to experience the reverberation of themes, topics, and forms across what might initially be considered disparate objects and artworks. This exhibition is the newest presentation in a series that invites contemporary artists to engage with and contextualize the Benton’s collection. The museum is committed to the concept of art as an evolving conversation, with artists as guides who not only frame challenging issues of the present but also reflect the relevance of art of the past. By integrating artists and their creative vision with the collection, the Benton encourages insightful discussions about how we learn, how we evaluate ideas, and how we connect the visual to other forms of information.