CREATIVE SPACE #12 of 2020 (uploaded July 29th 2020)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. There are plans for its continued evolution across multiple media platforms. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, and freelancer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on July 29th 2020 in the Daily Observer: Daily Observer HD2
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the jhohadli.wordpress.com online edition of CREATIVE SPACE, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture (contact Joanne)
CREATIVE SPACE: Art, More Essential Than Ever 2 (The Pandemic Series)
I didn’t plan to repeat an artist this soon since bringing the CREATIVE SPACE series to the Daily Observer but then Heather Doram debuted her ‘Pandemic series’, the making of which she said “has been an outlet.”
There are many women – Heather’s signature – including ‘Her name is Corona’; beautiful with her regal ‘fro gold crown, but deadly. Heather’s women speak to blackness in various ways. The beautiful dark-skinned women, darker and more beautiful still in contrast to the tropical flowers on their crown speak to ‘Black Lives Matter – a Tribute to Melanin’, which has not traditionally been celebrated.
(Black Lives Matter – Melanin 1 & 2)
The deceptively demure image of the head-wrapped woman framed prettily in cotton flowers who with a snap of her neck, purse of her lips, and the directness of her gaze silently (angrily) mocks anyone wanting to put her ‘Back on the Plantation’.
The woman collaged together with newsprint reclaims ‘Her Story’.
The woman in ‘Peace in the Pandemic’ (companion to ‘Vision of Better Days’) is now owned by collector Sally Davis who said, “I was drawn to that one piece and I had goose bumps and my eyes filled with water… Here was this beautiful black woman, coping, strong and looking forward with big eyes and beautiful full lips radiating not just natural beauty, but hope, strength, calm, and a steady gaze of peace…she expressed to me everything I feel Black women represent – inner strength during challenging times.”
(Peace in the Pandemic and Vision of Better Days above; art collector Sally Davis below)
Heather also lets her women, these avatars of womanhood, be vulnerable, breaking with the superwoman trope. One woman, waterlilies floating around her face, sighs ‘Sometimes it hurts so much, I can’t breathe’.
There are a few ways to interpreting this –a gender angle given that she is a woman, a social justice angle given the conjuring of one of the phrases of the Black Lives Matter movement, an environmental angle given the nature imagery. This is not the only image that alludes to nature and it is intentional. “We do not think of our environment as having feelings but it too feels the suffering and weeps silently,” says Heather. She said this in relation to ‘Blood Moon’ which with ‘The Way it Was’ draws on colour symbolism – the black shadows of trees and buildings and bleeding red and red moon – to communicate a general ominousness.
(Blood Moon, left, and The Way it Was, right)
‘On Solid Ground’ and ‘Hope is on the Horizon’ are superficially similar; mixed media, highly textural, renditions of “the corrugated Shanti Town”, and the swampy effect of the ground they stand on, but with the colour coding (the shift from dark to yellow skyline in ‘Horizon’) and composition, the effect is quite different – one giving you a sinking feeling, one lifting your eyes, and potentially spirit.
(On Solid Ground, left, and Hope is on the Horizon, right)
There is much more. ‘The End of Life as We know It’ is dark – crosses, shadows, burning village, black blood draining down – but also silhouettes of stately women, and, hints of blue in the skyline signal hope.
The memory books mark a return to a series once used by Heather to capture memories, now reflecting the past in conversation with the present – in ‘Despair’ one woman, imprisoned, could be an enslaved African of yesteryear or an immigrant in detention present day, with one of Heather’s familiar symbols, butterflies, there to remind “there’s always hope”.
There is more still; and Heather’s various subject and stylistic shifts continue to illustrate that she is not an artist to be hemmed in, and 2020 has pushed her creatively. Some of the pieces have been sold but Heather hopes to do a physical exhibition by the end of the year, Ms. Corona allowing.
Heather Doram’s Pandemic series brought some sunshine in to our dreary season by inviting me for a private viewing of her Pandemic series. It’s the art she had just started working on when I interviewed her for CREATIVE SPACE 4 of 2020, ‘Art, More Essential than Ever’.
(Rebirth, left, and Windows of the Past, right)
This is a series only in the very broadest sense as you can see several series in the works – in terms of themes, technique, and approach. There are points of connection like flying things like butterflies seen here in ‘Isolation’ and the Memory Book ‘Breathe’ symbolizing freedom, even in a dystopian reality.
(Isolation, left, and Memory Book – Breathe, right)
That there is so much emblematic of her work in the Caribbean and that she is obviously not only a master of her craft but continuously evolving, active and engaged, with her art begs the question, why isn’t that work more discussed and celebrated in Caribbean art circles. In fact, why aren’t more of our artists part of the exhibitions and reviews that help elevate a work or an artist? That’s only about 50 percent rhetorical.
Heather is also a former Culture Director, so I took the opportunity to ask her what cultural initiatives she would prioritize in this time. Not surprisingly, since a national collection was something she prioritized during her tenure, only to see it set aside after her departure, she said, “first and foremost would be a national gallery. If we have a space which is ours, there will be opportunities for all the artists on the island to …have their work seen.” This visibility will include rotating exhibitions plus a permanent collection. It can, she said, be transformative, not just for the artist but for the community. “Artists are change makers in our community,” Heather said. “It’s good for persons in power to see what we’re thinking and the artists can show that.” Art can also be therapeutic, she noted. And the gallery would have spaces for artists to interact and (my addition) possibly workshop spaces and a gift shop.
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