CREATIVE SPACE

CREATIVE SPACE #2 OF 2023 (Uploaded February 1st 2023)

CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the twopart CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean authorjournalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer. 

Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on February 1st 2023:

Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS. 

CREATIVE SPACE #3 OF 2023: ART HOP

There are tons of different ways to experience our island – such as an art gallery hop, and while I only hopped twice in January, the year is young.

At Rhythm of Blue, located on the main strip in English Harbour, I explored the appropriately nautical (content and décor) gallery space.

The owner is Nancy Nicholson who works with the earth, as a potter, while the art she creates, with its bathed in blue aesthetic, calls to mind the sea – a big inspiration for her.

“Just do what you do and love doing it; that’s what the clay teaches you,” Nancy said, as she sat at the potter’s wheel in her studio, up the hill from the gallery, moulding and trimming the whitish-looking clay.

Nancy is the daughter of Desmond Nicholson who was a key figure in the development of the country’s yachting industry and investigation into Antigua and Barbuda’s natural and social history. His posthumous publication Times Past: Photographs by Desmond Nicholson 1952-1957, from a 2017 exhibition, is among her gallery’s offerings. Rhythm also sells art by other artists (like Jennifer Meranto and Stephen Murphy) and art products (e.g. pearl jewelry by Diane Watson, and spa products like Nancy’s Naked Mermaid Salt Scrub).

For me, though, the gallery’s primary draw is Nancy’s turquoise-glazed bowls and other clay products with their intricate, hand-painted, nature-inspired designs and Arawak motifs (such as unearthed at Indian Creek). It’s perhaps no surprise that Nancy thinks about her art someday being discovered by future generations.

“When we were kids … my father, he literally would get goosebumps hunting in the bush looking for artefacts,” she said. “What I’m doing with my hands is for future generations, a transfer of energy … The pottery is an outward expression of what’s going on with me.”

Nancy, a professional artist since 1984, explained how she found school confining – “I was always looking for a way out of that conformity” and art was it. She likes the give and take of creating. “You have to direct the clay,” she said. Also her: “you just listen to it.” The process can be humbling and it certainly seems strenuous: collecting the clay from Rat Island, and using her various tools, some innovated, wetting and separating and throwing and trimming and firing in the kiln, and, for her, the “the worst part; very chemical, mathematical” – glazing. Her tutelage came via apprenticeships and, effectively, learning residencies in different parts of the world.

Landing here, meanwhile, from England and Scotland in the 1980s, Sallie Harker makes her art and home in Antigua. She has pieces at Rhythm of Blue but is also the owner and resident artist at Fig Tree Studio art gallery located in the lushest area of our island –  idyllic with its taller than tall silk cotton, palm and banana trees and blooming orchids and heliconias, and somehow in the midst of all that natural beauty, even more art.

(At Fig Tree, nature is framed as a work of art)

Sallie’s love of this setting and the essence of country life is evident in the scenes – “Mango Pickers”, “Fishermen”, and other moments of especially rural Antiguan life, e.g. “Walking the Goats”– captured in gold leaf and oil paint on wood shinglesas screen prints, or as etchings or woodcuts.

“Buckets” by Sallie Harker.

“I’m inspired by living right here in the garden, what I open the door and see,” she told me.

She has the standard nature imagery as well but what also caught my eye and delight was her portraiture, the giclee prints of her images of various island people – primarily family members and friends.

Like Rhythm, Fig Tree makes space for other artists, featuring works by, for example, Nzimbu Browne, a Vincentian artist who uses dried banana leaves to create Caribbean country scenes of work and play and plenty dancing, and Bequia artist Jacob Scott and his baskets of repurposed beach rope holding hidden stories.

And the many stories in these art spaces is almost guarantee that a single trip will not be enough; they are just a couple of suggestions for your own art hop.

Of course, we still need a national gallery…you know I had to say it.

EXTRAS

Some of Nancy Nicholson’s custom pieces.

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