Teresita De La Torre has been wearing the same plaid button-down shirt for the last 140 days.
The shirt already had holes it when De La Torre, 25, found it laying on top of a bush deep in the California desert. She’s been wearing the shirt every day in and around Orange County as part of what she calls a “durational performance art piece.”
De La Torre is a multimedia artist living in a county with a conservative Republican majority and is wearing the shirt to start conversations about who it may have belonged to.
Fusion spoke to De La Torre about the project she’s currently calling “Todos los dias,” or “Every Day.”
Fusion: What came first, the shirt or the project?
De La Torre: I heard about a non-profit group that was leaving water behind in the desert [near the U.S.-Mexico border] and they were doing this because of the number of migrant deaths that occur due to dehydration. I wanted to contribute somehow so I designed stickers to put on the water bottles that read “Con agua hay vida! Pa’delante!” which translates to “With water there is life! Go forward!”
I found a shirt on top of a bush that a migrant had left behind, and that moment really impacted me because I was able to see a figure and a person and this was all no longer a story for me.
I knew I wanted the shirt immediately. I photographed it from different angles and just knew that I wanted to make it something out of it.
It’s just a simple button-down shirt but it has so much history that it can start conversations by just the simple act of wearing it everyday.
My current intention is to talk about this shirt, who it belongs to, their stories and how many people don't have any other option besides coming to the U.S.
What does it feel like wearing the shirt, knowing that it may have traveled by foot, train, and car for hundreds of miles?
Initially I was really afraid to wear the shirt because I was raised to think superstitiously. I was afraid of putting the shirt on because of the baggage that it carried and the history that was unknown to me.
Sometimes it feels like it is a weight that I’ve been carrying with me all these days, sometimes it’s really enjoyable to talk about it, and sometimes it’s just really sad because I’ve heard firsthand stories of other people who have migrated.
Obviously when you look at an extra large, button down plaid shirt you think it belongs to a man. But women are so vulnerable when they’re migrating to the U.S. that they dress up as men to prevent being sexually assaulted. The shirt may have belonged to a man or it could have belonged to a woman. I’ll never know. I enjoy the mystery of it.
After you wore the shirt for 100 days you started posting daily photos on Instagram. What’s the response been on Instagram?
I was really on the fence about taking [the project] online. I was afraid of going online because I could get feedback from people that are not pro-immigration and just getting hate from them.
But I decided I want to share my story and make it free and accessible. This project is here in California where i am but I know it’s also in Chicago and in Texas and other places where my followers live. It was important to me to take it to a social media to have these conversations not just with people in my proximity but also the world.
Have you received any criticism?
Sometimes my harshest critics are the ones closest to me. The people in my family are the type who expect a woman to behave in a certain type of way. They expect me to be feminine and they don't think what I'm doing is feminine. I’ve had cousins tell me this is weird, that it’s crazy and ask why I’m doing this. One of my sisters told me she wanted to nominate me to be on the reality TV show “My Strange Addiction.”
But at this point it’s been so long that my family is on board with this.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working towards my Master of Fine Arts degree at California State Fullerton.
I also teach drawing and have students that come from all kinds of backgrounds—business majors, nursing students—and as the semester progresses they start asking questions about the shirt. They’re very curious.
I don’t have a specific goal in mind but the next step is launching a website where I can share more of my thoughts. Instagram will only let me caption a picture so much.
To learn about Teresita De La Torre’s work follow her on Instagram @todoslosdias_.
Responses edited for brevity. All pictures courtesy of the artist Teresita De La Torre.