Fernando was selected by the Miami Design District as the artist for the 2019 neighbourhood commission and tasked to create a public installation that responded to the concept of colour. Pink Beasts is a collection of hairy sloths, hammocks, and hanging tassels which are suspended from trees, buildings and lamp posts in the various plazas and sidewalks of the MDD. The pieces are made using agave fibers that were coloured pink using a natural dye called cochineal.
Colour is an obsession of humankind and over the course of history, the search for the brightest splash of color in nature has been a defining feature of our species. But with the advent of synthetic dyes, the material provenance of our colours has been widely forgotten.
Pink Beasts is an installation that reconnects the public to organic colour rendered on natural materials – a statement on the bounty of the natural word and recognition of artisan communities who continue to care for it responsibly.
Cochineal, is a tiny insect that is native to central Mexico and grows on the Opuntia cactus, commonly known as the prickly pear. It produces the world’s brightest natural red dye, which was used in prehispanic times to color everything from textiles to buildings, and its rareness and vibrancy has ensured its status as a luxury good. Though other cultures have tried to spread the cactus to other regions during colonial times, the cochineal never survived the transatlantic trips. Today, only a few regions in Mexico, the Canary Islands and Peru can sustain the farming of this incredible insect.
For Pink Beasts I used cochineals from an organic farm in the mountains of Oaxaca and dyed the fibers of the agave plant (also known as ‘sisal’) to make a landscape of pink. Agave fiber is a resistant ecological substitute to plastic threads and has been used for centuries to create durable pieces such as ropes and hard-wearing carpets. The PH-sensitive cochineal was exposed to a specific recipe of acidic lemon juice & baking soda base in order to achieve the perfect dusty hue inspired by Miami’s 1930s and 1940s Med-Deco architecture and cinematic sunsets. The production of the pieces was done by a collective of 45 women Mayan weavers from Sacabah in the Yucatan over a period of 3 months which involved dyeing, brushing and knotting the fibers by hand.
The sculptural hammocks were done in collaboration with Angela Damman, a textile designer who specialises in working with agave fibers and was instrumental for the production of this installation.