The artist who painted a U.S.-Mexico border fence sky blue to “erase” divisions among different countries was pleasantly surprised that it resonated with so many people — including members of Border Patrol.
Ana Teresa Fernández, who was born in Mexico and raised in California, led about 30 volunteers for six hours in painting the Nogales border fence between Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora on Oct. 13.
“The idea behind ‘Erasing the Border’ is to blur the border fence into the landscape giving the impression that a portion of it is missing, an illusion of a hole in the wall, where your imagination is able to cross between these two countries freely,” she said to Yahoo News via email.
Fernández, a 34-year-old visual artist living in San Francisco, said she spent about an hour looking at nearly a hundred Pantone paint chips to find the blue that most resembled the sky. Then she covered about 50 feet of the southern side of the 25-foot-high fence to give Mexicans a prettier view.
“Erasing the Border” was the final project in a two-week tour across Arizona. People from all over the state came to pitch in — students from Phoenix, medical school teachers from Tucson and an artist from Douglas — as did Fernández’s mother and sister from San Diego.
But, she said, the most important volunteers were from the very block where the work took place. Luis, a migrant who Fernández said was forced to return to Mexico after living in the United States for more than 20 years, helped paint the fence.
“He stood side by side with a Border Patrol agent, Javier, who also helped paint out the border. I never would have imagined that for a million years,” she said.
Fernández said this “Erasing the Border” project went much better than her first one in 2011 in Tijuana, where she was almost arrested.
She said the appreciation and support shown this time around by some Border Patrol members might demonstrate a changing of the tide.
“I think people are ready for a change,” she said. “People along the border felt ready to be seen as a rich and important country and culture, and felt fed up with being viewed so negatively in the media.”
According to Fernández, her societal role as an artist is to question what people take as “givens.” She said she wants to imagine new ways of responding to old problems and to shine a light on what goes unseen or unappreciated.
“I hope that a little paint on a fence can offer people a possibility to imagine less physical divides amongst cultures and countries and a different, more physical mode of connection,” she said.
Fernández said the project will be up indefinitely, and she hopes to paint more fences blue in other border states.