Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Artful Experiment

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Artful Experiment

Article excerpt

Bradenton man's creations born of solitude

The freight train rumbling down the tracks each night became a soothing voice to the sensory-deprived artist. It would have been easy for Jake Fernandez to escape the solitude of his own grand experiment. All he had to do was walk unimpeded out the door of his small, drab, windowless, cement cell of a room at any point during the 184 hours of his seclusion.

But he didn't. He had to know. How productive could he be in the most spartan of settings? What, if anything, could he create with just a pencil, some paper and his imagination?

"It wasn't about doing a David Blaine magic trick," Fernandez said. "It was a simple premise. I've always been curious about sensory deprivation."

Fernandez, a Bradenton resident, spent seven days and 16 hours inside a room at the Art and History Museum in Maitland, finally emerging at 4 p.m. on March 30.

He did not have a clock, phone, computer or television inside his room. There was no human contact. He lost eight pounds and said 12 words.

All he had was a cot, a table, a chair, a small bathroom, maybe five pencils and 10 sheets of 30-year-old paper. He ate two apples, some dried apricots, pouched tuna, protein bars and drank coconut milk.

He called the experiment "seven days plus 16 hours in Parchman Farm." It was in reference to the infamous Mississippi State Prison, though Fernandez said he wasn't trying to make a political statement.

Many blues songs over the years have been recorded about the farm, including versions in the 1960s, and Fernandez said he named the experiment for nostalgic reasons from the music.

Sticking to the prison farm theme, he wore a cloak made out cloth sacks, something similar to what a prisoner may have worn many decades ago in the field.

The "16 hours" part was an homage to a homeless man Fernandez met decades ago named Jake. The man lived in a Brooklyn junkyard and was obsessed with the number 16.

"It was someone who wouldn't have a voice any other place, so I tipped my hat to him," Fernandez said. …

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