CREATIVE SPACE #9 of 2021 (uploaded April 28th 2021)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) 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. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on April 28th 2021 in the Daily Observer:
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 and/or CREATIVE SPACE on YouTube, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
(copyright note – I sought each artists’ permission before sharing their work here; please continue to respect their copyright – you can excerpt the article and link back and credit, but do not copy paste any of the content found here at all but especially without attribution)
CREATIVE SPACE: #ArtistChallenge, What caught my Eye
That headline is a lie. All of it caught my eye (I have a whole other folder of images and artists are still posting; so I am thinking of doing a part 2.0). This is just as much as I could fit in this space (this space being the newspaper column which is shorter than this extended edition of the article) of the #ArtistChallenge lighting up my social media feed – a highlights reel if you will.
All evidence points to Mark Brown (artistmarkbrown on instagram) as one of the motivators behind this challenge. I have mentioned pieces of his (most recently Black Madonna with Child) in CREATIVE SPACE, and, fun fact, when the earliest version of this column debuted in an inflight magazine, his Angel in Crisis show in the 2000s was perhaps the first thing I spotlighted (despite editorial concern about it being too dark). Recently, Transcendence 2 – one of those grand epic pieces for which the artist is known – caught my eye.
Transcendence 2 was last shown at CARIFESTA in Trinidad. “All of my work are responses to issues of Identity, Gender, Religion, Race and the complexities in navigating our individual and collective journey,” Brown said. “My constant aim is to produce work which helps us to have conversations necessary for a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.” It’s obvious that Mark’s work pushes against the boundaries of what is respectable and allowable in the art world, Caribbean arts world, and society at large. He is, he said, grappling with issues of power and resistance, and that’s clear; that he’s also celebrating Blackness and searching for answers is clearer still.
Another leader in the local art community, and no stranger to CREATIVE SPACE, Heather Doram (heatherdoramart on instagram) has been active in the #artistchallenge lifting up others while boosting her own work; like the Tribute to Melanin series, which I asked the artist to revisit. “This series is a direct response to the killing of George Floyd in the United States,” she said. In response to the outpouring of Black pain, she chose celebrating Black beauty. “The women in this series (as in many others) are confident, bold, courageous and beautiful. They have wide noses, thick lips and very dark skin. They do not fit into the Stereotypical idea of beauty.” She believes that “The positive portrayal of strong, confident black women will no doubt help to produce a generation of little black girls who will emulate those who went before.” We can hope.
One of the artists with whom I spoke most extensively, about several of his pieces plus his artrepeneurship was Edison Liburd (edisonartsgallery on instagram). See that fuller conversation in EXTRAS below. But for now, let’s focus on a sample from his Conversation series – three women talking about life in Antigua against the backdrop of green and blue nature, and a small hut.
“This painting is inspired by my love for colour, figure drawing, and nature,” Edison said, explaining that what’s interesting to him is the interplay between the colours, the composition, and the characters themselves, the process over the product. Edison’s pieces always have a sense of movements and that’s attributable to the fluidity of his lines – and I would add his ability to render moments that feel like snapshots of a larger narrative.
A study which itself feels part of a larger narrative is Maritza Martin’s Ancient History, which is currently in storage and available for purchase (firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com).
“This piece was inspired by my own ongoing spar with what I call “the blooming process”, a process leading to one’s full, unhindered discovery and acceptance of self,” Maritza explained. This 20 x 24 acrylic, targeted areas refined with oil, is a character study and Maritza said of this character, “there’s so much she’s yet to uncover and she’s bursting to bloom in an environment that cannot understand. Consequently delaying the blooming process, forcing her to clutch tightly to her blooms, afraid to lose even an inkling of the possibilities tied to its existence.” Its name is reflective of the fact that the experience of blooming is ancient history to her, never ending, ever repeating.
Lawson Lewis, known primarily for his award winning commercial videography, has been a revelation with works like the 17 x 24 acrylic on canvas Blues – a simple image of school age friends looking at a sandbar and yet with layers of interpretation when one considers that the uniform they wear codes them as Barbudan and the way the eye is drawn to the sand, charged in its own right given the history of sand exploitation, also on which now rests tourism paraphernalia. For Lawson, it’s about the colour and composition, and “the peace and tranquility of it”.
On the nature front, Jill Fuller’s pieces, her rendering of Mangroves, for instance, remind us of nature at its most pristine – Edenic almost in its beauty.
“I have always been passionate about the sea … and in recent years I have been lucky enough to do lots of boating with my family on the Adventure Antigua boats,” said Jill (@libertyful on instagram). She goes “where inspiration leads”.
And the beautiful thing about being an artist is that inspiration oftentimes leads down interesting paths. Emile Hill’s Untitled piece, which is currently waiting (at this writing) to be shipped to the US, began with the challenge put out by Heather Doram at the start of the pandemic “to create art inspired by how we’ve been coping.” His point of departure was the word ‘corona’, “which I had grown up knowing as an event that occurs during solar eclipse. As an angel buff, I also knew it as another word for halo. So for me, I wanted to sort of make the word corona great again. Take back the beauty of what I knew it to mean before.” He, therefore, juxtaposed the choking feeling of impending doom with the beauty of the word corona in its original manifestation.
Emile and many others mentioned here are familiar faces on the local and even regional art scene.
But as Edison suggested, the discovery of newer talents was a highlight of the #artistchallenge. Space for homegrown talent and mentorship have been challenges over the years. The social media hashtag though “caused us to really share the platform with some younger artists and give them a push and some exposure,” he said, “for me that was the best thing.”
One of these newer talents for me was Jenea Thwaites-Amon, who discovered her painting skills in 2016 while a student in the UWI teacher training department.
The Thought, reflective of her passion for the arts, “was inspired by my journey of expression,” she said. “I am not a vocal person in terms of my feelings but in the art I am able to show it.”
I would venture that’s true for many an artist.
Edison LIburd: “Day is Almost Night Is inspired by a sunset. I was trying to find a message to give to my audience about the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. It was as though time was closing in on us. The thought that day is almost night became very real to me. However, I still wanted an optimistic message … The contrast between the purple on the figure in the fishing boat representing the night, sending the message that work must go in spite, and the orange tint on the sea by the setting sun brings together two contrasting colors that complement each other very well. In addition to their hues, their meanings are also complimentary. Purple is often associated with royalty and yellow orange with radiance and energy. Here is where the day meets the night. One certainly can catch a glimmer of optimism by through this merger.”
Rhythms is another of his pieces and it’s easy to see the influence of American artist Ernie Barnes whose Sugar Shack he first saw in the end credits of the TV series Good Times. “What moves me about a piece of art is the technique, the movement, it was very dynamic and it spoke to me.” And it’s easy to see the exaggerated expressions, the emphasized movement, the elongated figures, all elements, he said, identified with the neo-mannerist movement in art. “Ernie Barnes was called the father of the neo-mannerists because he brought new meaning and modernized and brought a cultural element to it.” For his part, Edison calls himself a visual inspirationalist, with his dynamic movements and appeal to the emotions.
Edison and I spoke at length on valuing the arts and incentives for artists, much needed. He teaches and uses his art annex on Nevis Street to create but thinks there is need for more – and that the powers that be corporate and state could do more in a continuous way. “There are spaces in town that we could rally some young people together and have them do murals and let it be regularly done different parts of the island, have teams of artists, painting walls, rocks, abandoned homes…” he said.
The attention Edison, whose been painting professionally in Antigua (and the US and Antigua again) since age 22 (1990), when he was painting t-shirts for tourists on the beach, draws painting on the sidewalk outside his building speaks to the catalytic potential of public art and art making. These days, he’s working on fresh surfaces – like masks.
“COVID really provided a good outlet for me to take my art in to other canvases as it were … half the students are gone and very little art is being sold and just like a light bulb I had an epiphany, go and paint masks.” Having worn his masks myself, I know them to be conversation pieces and, like he said, it’s a way for people who typically can’t afford art to acquire some – not just the masks but the bags and t-shirts, mugs, even his books.
“I’m constantly thinking of new things; I did some bookmarks too.” Some fine artists might call this cheapening the art, but not Edison who said, “I believe in touching all classes, something for everybody.” He sees art as a gift. “When I’m painting a piece I begin to let go – this piece is for the buyer – it’s like a gift I’m giving to somebody.” Find Edision online at https://www.facebook.com/Edison-Arts-Gallery
Nakazzi Tafari (Nakazzi Hutchinson) is actually a Jamaican artist but her Medicine Woman showed up as one of my faves in the #artistchallenge hashtag so I reached out and here’s what she had to say about the making of the sculpture: “The technique involved in making it is called raku- a particular way to finish high fire stoneware pieces. The roots masks are about loving your natural roots and all the various hairstyles that Afrocentric women wear to celebrate the beauty and versatility of their multicultural heritage. This one in particular also represents Grey haired women who I think are exceptionally beautiful with their crown turned all silver. I am also a practitioner of ancient bush medicine which I learned from my mother and that is what the title refers to- natural and wholistic medicine require cultivating a knowledge passed down by oral tradition. I originally started to study medicine but was at odds with the practice on the modern western sense. That is healing done for profit- I have another philosophy about health and wellness and disciplined choice.” Find Nakazzi online at http://www.nakazzi.com, http://www.artistnakazzi.wix.com/masks, and artistnakazzi.wixsite.com
This is an excerpt from a 2017 article re Bernard Peters’ Seat of Power, the force and scale of which the #artistchallenge reminded me: “His painting ‘Seat of Power’ with the lithe but towering (note her perspective relative to the elements) female figure and nature stirred up (watch the way the wind moves through the image) around her, but her seemingly in control of it all, even holding the sky as if on a leash was a wild, interesting, and sprawling canvas. He spoke of influences like the discussions around female power (referencing the strong women in his life) and the challenges women face (the many revelations of the #metoo campaign, for instance). We discussed how art speaks to these things, and how vital it is as a result; we spoke as well about creating outside the box in an environment that privileges everything-tourism. Speaking of, he pulled a section from the larger canvas for this piece, ‘The Horizon’ (look closely it’s more suggestive of Devil’s Bridge than a beachscape and is pulled, literally from a section of the painting). That’s the closest Peters, who counts Belgian surrealist Renee Magritte, as well as Antigua and Barbuda’s Heather Doram and Muerah ‘Mighty Artist’ Bodie (sidebar: does anyone know what has become of the Artist?) as influences, gets to anything remotely touristy.”
Lawson Lewis’ take on the Market woman is different. The oil painting focuses on the fish and only suggests the scene around it (is she selling or is she buying?}. “That was from a picture and I just kind of liked the colours and the compositons and it brought back some memories of when my mom would buy fish from the market. …I like that kind of rustic Caribbean aesthetic.” It is that, right down to the old BATA slippers.
Fish Shadows by Jill Fuller.
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