Art & Society, Preliminary Work: Fernando Torralba

Click here to view the Art & Society Final Project by Fernando Torralba.

The following is an archive of Fernando Torralba‘s Preliminary Work from the Spring 2020 Art & Society Course:


Mid-Term Project:   Pursuit

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With this project I sought to encapsulate the various experiences and ideas that came to me during my race to get home before the world succumbed to Covid-19, and in the aftermath. The volatility of my fate, as well as of others during this time is what inspired the illustrative narrative to take the form of tarot cards as a nod to their use for piercing the veil of our futures. As each card is “flipped over” the new forms of pursuit the virus employs take shape, through people, technology, and animals. Each card focuses on a different aspect of the situation but ultimately, they come together in their failure to escape the omnipresence of the virus.

click here for a virtual “card reading”

Mid-Term Project Work-in-Progress:  

Reading Response, Jerry Saltz “What Art Is and What Artists Do”: 

These readings seek to examine art, a question that has been grappled with by many. Saltz recognizes that the influence of art is not tangible in a way that many people attribute real change with. But even though people may not recognize it, art is very much central to our humanity. In my everyday life I often get asked what I am studying. I tend to go with a straightforward answer of “art”. This is my default because I feel as in the practical sense, I am still making an introduction with various artistic disciplines and making sense of how I want to shape these ideas and how they will shape me is the main interest. That never goes over well and I get blank stares and a confused “What can you do with ‘art’?” As this article mulls over what we can do with art, there is no tangible answer but art itself has gone on with us. Overall there is a comfort in this uncertainty, in letting art be free of the tethers we try to force upon it through definitions and theories.

Covid-19 Reflection: 

In the article “With the Coronavirus, Hell Is No Other People” by Bill McKibben, an interesting point is raised in the difficulty with balancing proper help for the virus and navigating our humanity. McKibben references writings of Rebecca Solnit, writings in which she speaks about how people often come together in difficult times in various ways. But in this situation we are told to stay from one another. I experienced this first hand on my arrival back to the USA. I was fine, exhibiting no signs of sickness, but I thought it best to err on the side of caution and advised my family that it would be best to limit contact. For the first time I arrived home to no hugs, no swapping of stories around the dinner table. I self quarantined in my room because that was the only thing I could do to attempt to keep my family safe in case I was carrying the virus. It is interesting how helpless everyone has started to feel, seeing the stories of everyday people struggling to get tested and living in fear of the unknown while those closest to them can do nothing but stay away. I have not had to deal with this, and no one I know has gone through this so there is this break in reality for me. I try to keep up with the news but in my self-quarantine I am alone and my reality has not been the dangers present in the media. Even when I was traveling, I made it through airports the day before they would enforce strict measures for controlling travel. I heard days after about long lines and temperature checks but when I arrived at the airport I was not given a second glance as I walked out. In these reflections I felt particularly connected to the article
Feeling Overwhelmed? How art can help in an emergency” by Olivia Liang. Liang speaks on the subject of being inundated with news in our modern era. In my own home family members have been glued to the news attempting to make sense of the situation. Finding peace and clarity in art has been both freeing and limiting. On the one hand, I have tried to take a step back from the situation to help my family not get lost in the spiral paranoia coming from social media, but on the other I cannot turn a blind eye to the situation at large as it is making an impact on the global community and at a certain point we will all have to respond to it however we can. It is frustrating because anything we do now has to be in the context of the virus, even attempting to escape it is an acknowledgement of how present it is that there is a need to escape from it. Seeing how others respond to it through art and community can be nice for many, and indeed I feel as if it is necessary to keep people from drowning in despair, but for me it is just another reminder of the situation and I would rather find a different outlet for finding normalcy.

Some images of current work-in-progress for the mid-term project:

Guidebook Project:

Racing to the Future
This booklet is the manifestation of an aspect of Siena seen through an imaginative lens. Often I find myself imagining the possibilities of places and with this booklet I simplified this evolution of Siena by focusing on the Palio. Important aspects such as the horses are revamped for a possible future as well as smaller details such as a new way these races would be recorded. In keeping in line with these ideas of childhood imagination and wonder I designed the booklet to have pop-up features and a movable course that the horse game pieces can be used in so as to make the whole thing a fun and interactive experience. The relationship with Siena can take many roads and for this I wanted to explore something light-hearted that people of all ages can enjoy.

Reading Response for Rebecca Solnit’s “Blue of Distance”: 

In Rebecca Solnit’s musings on blue and its relation to the almost indescribable quality of distances both physical and metaphorical, there is a strong sense of appreciation for that which exists on the edges. Blue is not something one can reach, for Solnit blue represents that which always sits just out of reach drawing us in. What can be taken away from this reading is a desire to understand our emotional responses, in particular ones that we strive to solve and to accept them for what they are instead of forcing them to conform nicely into our lives. Solnit speaks of San Francisco, appearing behind a mountain bend in a haze of blue, a promise of a city that ceases to exist the closer you get to actually being in the city according to Solnit. This sense of beauty is meant to exist in a particular state in a particular moment. If the conditions were to change the beauty would be lost.

I have learned aspects of color theory, and I know certain colors are used for particular purposes. Often blue is spoken about as a color of comfort, one that is calming and inoffensive and as such it is popular for the interface of many applications the world over such as Facebook. Blue in particular is also used prominently in the arts as Solnit notes, creating a believable sense of drawn out distances. I have heard about warmer colors used primarily for landscapes in the foreground and when going further into the background the recommendation is the use of blue to create that sense of distance. These technical applications have never made me ponder the nature of these moments with blue that exist in everyday life. What I can relate these ideas too are that of acceptance. Solnit writes about a dress from her childhood memories that ceases to exist as it once did in her head when these new memories take its place. It reminds me of things like death, where its existence is constantly on the edges and we can ignore it but if there can be acceptance of it there is opportunity to find beauty in it. There is a lot of energy spent vilifying death and even more spent on fighting it, or at least selling the idea of fighting against it. There is a physicality to it that is obvious but the impact on the psychological is just as intense if not more. Solnit uses the color blue to open many avenues of discussion for really anything that creates a lasting impression on us that is not so clear cut.

Intro Unit Project “Tempo Zulu”:

Intro Unit Project “Walk of Destiny”:

Nine Views of the Torre del Mangia

In “The Shape of a Walk” Rebecca Solnit examines the act of walking and how different artists have reinterpreted this concept and elevated it through various artistic lenses. Walking has largely been a “means to an end” for me. You go from point A to point B as quickly as you can and every once in a while, you get to slow down. Recently I have been walking as an activity with no goal in mind in order to slow down more often. These walks would become moments of reflection for me as I grappled with my own inner dialogue in a very pure sense. Outer stimulus was still present but without it being a focal point of these journeys, which allowed me to attempt a dialogue with myself. When walking is stripped down bare what comes to the surface? With my Walk of Destiny, I attempted to channel some of these contemplative energies but in some ways the task itself was a distraction from any sense of meditative exploration. While random, the directions on the paper are still directions and the sense of urgency that comes with completing an assignment was hard to shake. I enjoyed my walk as it allowed me to discover and engage in a dialogue with Siena. A few things stood out to me, such as the use of animal figures throughout the city, but as I turned corner after corner there appeared to be one thing that rarely changed on my walk. The Torre del Mangia would continuously rise from the skyline to dominate the Sienese view.

While many aspects of the city stood out to me, the Torre del Mangia struck a chord with me as I attempted to contextualize its appearance with my own experiences. In my home of New York City, we are not strangers to landmarks rising into the sky. One landmark in particular resonated with my walk, the Statue of Liberty. Its symbolic significance is tenfold but what I focused on is how for many on their journey to America it was the first thing they would see rising in the distance to usher them into their destinations. The Torre del Mangia reminds me of this as Siena was a thoroughfare for many people on their journeys and as I too went on a journey around the city it would continuously make its presence known. Due to this, I took inspiration from the printmaking practices of Japanese artists. Solnit mentions the work of Hiroshige, whom made 53 woodblock prints of various points along the Tokuida Road from Edo to Kyoto. This body of work as well as other woodblock prints such as Hokusai’s Thiry-Six Views of Mount Fuji were at the forefront of my mind during my journey. With each turn I was able to witness a new scene for the tower to bask in and I attempted to capture these scenes with my camera. While my current body of work is in photographic images, with more time it would be interesting to explore a transition of the images onto wooden blocks to further resemble the tradition the work is inspired by. I have done the preliminary edits on a second set of photos that could be utilized in a laser-cutter to etch the images onto wooden boards. Further steps would be to then use these laser-etched prints to create ink-based images and complete the transition.

Click here to view the Art & Society Final Project by Fernando Torralba.


Fernando Torralba‘s work can also be found in the following sections of our online Spring 2020 Show: