Open Studio

Inventing Places: A closely examined environment

by , November 2015


In my own work, I’m interested in how landscape is a cultural construction informed by our own subjective view of the world. When I say “landscape” I mean not only the visible, natural world (sky, water, land) but also those imagined places that inform how we think (the subterranean, the cosmos, fictional settings, historical sites, etc). These assignments are meant to help you generate abstracted places for yourself. They can be used as a way of developing ideas in general and can be interpreted into drawings, installations, texts, or any medium of your choice. Be experimental and adapt the assignments to fit your particular interests.


Drawing, photography


Book of fiction, pencil, paper, camera, smartphone

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Assignment #1: Literary Stalker

Choose a book of fiction of interest to you that has never been made into a film. Choose a character in the book to follow, and make a detailed map or list of places that the character inhabits. Draw your vision of each setting, almost like a series of film stills. Try to concentrate not on illustrating the physical details described in the book but more on creating images that capture a particular scene’s tone or effect. Do the same scenes look different if you choose to follow a different character?

Assignment #2: Dissolving Coordinates

Take a two-hour or longer train ride outside your city, and choose a window seat. Snap a picture with your camera phone every five to ten minutes, and see how the location is saved in the file (places will change quickly, even if you take photos at five-minute intervals). In between snapshots, look up a Wikipedia entry for each physical location you have just passed, and read that city’s description (history, population, demographics, etc.). What may look like a seamless, continuous, and empty landscape from the window will suddenly be filled with all sorts of specific historical facts, coordinates, and odd bits of concrete information. Make an imagined portrait of one of the places. How is your image shaped not only by what you physically saw but also by what you read and imagined of the place?

Teresita Fernández

Photo: Noboru Morikawa

Teresita Fernández

Born in 1968 in Miami, Florida Currently lives in New York Teresita Fernández is a contemporary artist based in New York. She is the recipient of a 2005 MacArthur Fellowship. Her large-scale, sculptural works are characterized by an interest in perception and are often inspired by landscape and natural phenomena as well as diverse historical and cultural references. Fernández's work is included in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Walker Art Center. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. In 2011, Fernández was appointed by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. She shows her work internationally and is currently working on a solo exhibition for Mass MoCA in 2014. Read more Teresita's interview from her last show at Lehmann Maupin, Night Writing Teresita's Wikipedia page An interview by Anne Stringfield
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