Date of Interview: Oct 04, 2002|
Topic: Interview with emerging artist Carlee Fernandez
Interviewer: Bill Kelley Jr.
LatinArt: I really appreciate the humorous quality in your two earlier series entitled "Carnage" and "Friends" but your new work called "Still Lifes," while still working with taxidermy is a real change. The work seems to deal with a more silent or internal examination of form.
Carlee Fernandez: I hope the humor still comes through, even with my new works. In my earlier series I drew a lot upon horror films which are the epitome of dark humor. My father was really into horror films. In diapers I used to watch films with dad and watching him laugh hysterically I understood that ketchup, or fake blood, can be funny. My mother is just crazy about animals and I inherited that love for them as well.
When I started working with this body of work the big question everyone asked me was, are you still working with taxidermy? Have you outgrown it? Well, I didn’t think that I had but that I had grown out of making commodities out of these animals. With my earlier series I was always trying to say these animals were beautiful and that’s why I was using them, but I don’t know if that was conveyed in my work.
LatinArt: Perhaps, for us the viewers, the attraction to commodity is more easily understood.
Carlee Fernandez: Yeah, well this new work has more room for the animal’s beauty instead of "buy me" or "use me." I wanted to speak to that. I’m also in a different place in my life...I recently got married. Perhaps my next series will be louder and in your face, but for now, especially after the events of last September, I wanted to create something that was soothing and beautiful to be next to...it’s what I needed to do.
Maybe it’s also about developing as an artist and knowing what you have to pull back on. The issue of commodity was definitely talked about more than anything else in my work. Making these animals primarily about commodity certainly wasn’t my intention because I was more interested in examining the idea of interior spaces and the work of Joseph Cornell. Yet, I remember instructors trying to shove "No, it’s about commodity!" down my throat.
LatinArt: Can you talk to us about your interest in the work of Joseph Cornell and "interior spaces?"
Carlee Fernandez: As a little girl, I never thought of being an artist, but I was always making wooden boxes; it was a bit of an obsession. I was always more interested in the interiors of these boxes rather than the exterior, but I also think that it was a fear...literally of working "outside the box." (laughs) When I got to graduate school I signed up for an installation class, which I hoped, would help me overcome this fear. I ultimately realized that galleries and installations are all about interior spaces. I think I’ve gotten beyond that fear. Like many artists, I have held on to something or some component in my work that speaks to my earliest investigations. There are many different reasons why I use taxidermy. One of the reasons is that there is a negative or interior space that is in the animal now that I try to make as important as the exterior. This new body of work deals with this in a new way for me and focuses me again on the interior.
LatinArt: This work you’ve been producing is pretty recent, but do you have ideas for new projects in the works?
Carlee Fernandez: I would still like to explore this body of work some more. The last series, called Carnage, was completed and then I moved on, however I really want to explore the decorative aspects of some of these newer works some more. I was also thinking of casting some of these works because you can put anything into the foundry and the animals will burn and you’ll get a perfect reproduction. I’m thinking about that, but the quality of the work that I love, the color, will be lost. A sea of blue parakeets will be lost and be replaced by metallic shine.
LatinArt: And the natural texture that’s so beautiful...there is an attention to detail here that reminds me of 17th century still lives.
Carlee Fernandez: My father was a geologist who traveled all over the world, and I grew up in Holland, so I’m a big fan of Dutch painting. It felt that it was the right time to incorporate that into my work.
LatinArt: So it was a conscious decision?
Carlee Fernandez: Yes, and I’m glad you see it that way because a lot of people have accused me of getting "soft" with my work because I wasn’t cutting animals heads in half. This work plays off the beauty of the animal’s body rather than changing it around. With this new work I lost some people who were more interested in my earlier work, but I gained some as well.
I really felt that this time I was making a painting instead of a sculpture, even though my inspiration for this work was the sculpture of Bernini. He made an impression on me while I studied in Italy.
LatinArt: It’s ironic, that your new work deals less with the idea of commodity, as it seems to becoming more appealing to collectors.
Carlee Fernandez: I’m working with a medium (taxidermy) that gets a reaction right away. Much of the time, that medium is associated with low-brow art. I really wanted to get away from that and it was really a conscious effort on my part. It might sound silly, but I wanted to find how I could give elegance to taxidermy and change the discourse around a bit.