Photographer Christina Fernandez’s Ode to Suburbia’s Teen

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles coming-of-age story consumes Gallery Luisotti’s new downtown space in photographer Christina Fernandez’s recent series, Subdivision. In these works, Fernandez turns the camera toward her teenage son, Diego, and the suburban Southern California landscape in which he grew up. Documenting the mundane suburbs with a dramatic, cinematic flare, the artist celebrates her son’s evolution and the place that shaped him. 

Subdivision depicts a uniquely Angeleno experience of adolescence, while also conjuring a shared memory of American suburban childhood. Seeing Diego and his friends cruise down a quiet house-lined street in their car reminded me of my own upbringing in New York. Despite living on the opposite coast, the largely beige, uniform suburban landscape is almost exactly the same as the one in which I grew up.

There is something calming, nostalgic, communal, and quintessentially American about these photographs, as Diego hangs with friends, driving around town with nothing else to do, going nowhere in particular. In “Suburban Nightscapes (Max and Diego) #1” (2023), Diego walks toward an open, florescent-lit garage while his friend Max sits by a bonfire pit and two lit tiki torches in the middle of the driveway. Both wear hoodies, baseball caps, baggy pants, and sneakers as they move around outside, seemingly in their own worlds, but anchored by the suburban one-floor home that sits in the background. As Fernandez puts it in her artist statement, these works evoke “teen life on the cusp of all those decisions that make or break” — the future immense and full of possibility.

Suburban Nightscapes 1 Max and Diego
Christina Fernandez, “Suburban Nightscapes (Max and Diego) #1” (2023), archival digital pigment print, 30 x 45 inches, edition of 5 (2AP)

Born in 1965 in Los Angeles, Fernandez has made the city her lifelong home. She attended UCLA, continued her education at CalArts, and has been a faculty member at Cerritos College for 30 years. As a Mexican-American woman, she has focused her artistic practice on both showcasing the joys of life as a Chicana in Los Angeles and shedding light on how migration, domestic labor, gender, and their socioeconomics impact the the city’s Latinx community. Fernandez works in photographic series, and her touring career retrospective Multiple Exposures — opening at the Princeton University Art Museum on February 10 — chronicles the narratives that she has captured through her technique and smart storytelling.

While Subdivision draws on Fernandez’s past arsenal of commentary and technique, it feels more personal than her previous work. It isn’t her focus on a family member — she did that in her 1995–96 series Maria’s Great Expedition, in which she posed as her Mexican grandmother. Rather, by focusing on her son at the pivotal age of 18, the artist encapsulates at once a heightened level of personal connection and self-discovery.  

Christina Fernandez: Subdivision continues at Gallery Luisotti (818 South Broadway, Fashion District, Los Angeles) through February 17. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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