October 18, 2014
Self-discovery isn't something that fits in a five-year plan. It doesn't heed deadlines, and it certainly doesn't mind age. Finding and re-discovering one's passion can happen at any stage in life, as Subrenna Gomez-Higgs, Janet Jennings and Jeanine Lampkin can attest.
In recent years, the three women have been unearthing their individual creativity in bags of clay and gallons of glaze, under ceramicist Joann Behagg's watchful eyes. Though they hadn't met before their first Saturday class together in Behagg's studio, Gomez-Higgs, Jennings and Lampkin share common traits, one of them being the way they found their way to ceramics.
Gomez-Higgs realized her "inclination for art" when she began helping her teenage son with preparation for his Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations.
"I got him some art tutoring, and I felt like I could do it and it felt exciting, so I started taking some art classes," she recalled.
Her interest in ceramics was piqued during a family member's pottery demonstration at her church. She began ceramic lessons with Behagg in May 2013, and met fellow freshman Lampkin who was also on her first day of pottery classes.
A gift from her daughter, the ceramic lessons served as a return to fine arts for Lampkin, who had pursued painting and sketching in her teenage years with dreams of becoming an architect.
Jennings began ceramic lessons with Behagg in 2011. She, too, was guided to the classes through her children, who benefited from a summer art program with Behagg.
With their years of helping small children with classroom art projects behind them, the women have taken pride in redirecting their energies into pursuing creative studies as adults. They all agree that their efforts have been worth it - each ceramicist has found curative properties and restorative benefits in the art form.
"Ceramics is an opportunity to be creative, to interact with my fellow students and just have fun," explained Gomez-Higgs. "It takes you to a different world. I feel like I'm a kid again because I'm learning to craft, and I'm not sure how it's going to come out...ceramics takes you into the world of learning and being a true student."
Similarly, Lampkin and Jennings have noticed their artistry's positive effects on their daily lives.
"Doing pottery is extremely therapeutic," said Lampkin. "It offers an opportunity to release creative energy."
Jennings added: "It provides relaxation, focus and motivation to be able to pursue my goals."
Keen on sharing the fruits of their labor of love, the women now look forward to their newest venture - a group show aptly named "Trio". The idea was Behagg's. Believing that they "seemed to gel really well as a group while doing the classes" and having seen each student develop capable skills, she introduced the concept of a group exhibition.
Trio will be the first show for Gomez-Higgs and Lampkin and the second for Jennings, who previously held an informal joint exhibition with another ceramics student. Opening this coming Thursday, Trio will be held at Doongalik Studios on Village Road. The exhibition will feature staples like teapots, tea sets and platters alongside each ceramicist's self-inspired works.
Jennings is particularly proud to display her "rose bouquet" - a collection of handcrafted ceramic roses - and "British Car" teapot. Similarly, Lampkin looks forward to showcasing her "Face Mugs" - a series of mugs featuring intricate facial features.
Gomez-Higgs and Jennings hope Trio will provide inspiration for adults interested in pursuing art.
"Hopefully a lot of visitors will be able to say, 'Hey, we can do it too'," said Gomez-Higgs. "You can be 70, 80, 90 and still be able to do these kinds of things."
Jennings looks forward to using her work as encouragement for others by demonstrating "that it's never too late to start discovering your gift that's within you". She added: "Only you will know that when you reach that point, and I think that's where I am right now, and I hope it gives [visitors] motivation."
While emphasizing the values in lifelong artistic development and the remedial advantages of creative expression, Trio will also underscore the wealth of creative talent found in The Bahamas by highlighting one-of-a-kind, hand-molded pottery. Lampkin hopes the exhibition will draw attention to ceramics in The Bahamas and give visitors "a better appreciation for the work that is required in terms of creating a ceramic piece".
"All of our pieces in the show are hand-crafted. We don't do anything on the [potter's] wheel, which means that it takes a long time to create, and people are used to buying mass-produced pieces of ceramics that, of course, are less expensive," she said. "Hopefully they'll become more appreciative of the work and creativity that go in to each molded piece."
Trio will open at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 23 at Doongalik Studios. The exhibition will be on display at the gallery until November 12. Those interested in supporting the artists or finding out more about ceramics in The Bahamas are encouraged to visit the gallery during its opening hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays through Wednesdays. More on Doongalik Studios can be found on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/doongalik.
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October 18, 2014
This past Wednesday, The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) announced the first, second and third place winners of the open category component of its 31st annual art competition and exhibition. Setting this year's open category competition and exhibition apart from its predecessors, the 2014 competition administrators withheld a theme for the show.
The move resulted in what CBB Art Gallery Curator Antonius Roberts described as the "strongest ever" body of work displayed in the annual exhibition. Unrestrained, visual artists were given the freedom to select the works they believed would best reflect their talents and convictions. Open to Bahamian artists ages 18 and older who are not registered in secondary schools, the gallery's call was for artists to present their most outstanding works in progress or recently completed pieces.
"We encouraged every participant to submit something that they are working on, because we assume and we believe and we encourage young artists...to be working anyway, and if they're serious about their art, they should be working on a theme or a body of work that reflects their philosophy, their focus, their concept or the ideas that they've been pursuing through their art. And so we figured that if we allow people to present what it is they're working on, then in that way it's to their advantage, because then they will have a head-start as opposed to just focusing on a theme just for a competition," Roberts explained.
The curator and artist believes the result has spoken for itself.
"It's a very strong exhibition, and there's something in the exhibition for everybody," he said. "It really transcends all genres of art and every artist who participated really, really put their best foot forward."
Open to sculptures, drawings, paintings, prints, collages and other "pictorial presentations" from throughout The Bahamas, more than 30 applicants each submitted one piece supported by a portfolio. The winners were selected by a panel of judges comprised of Creative Nassau Co-founder and Owner of Doongalik Studios Pam Burnside, ceramicist Jessica Colebrooke, CBB Banking Department Manager Derek Rolle, architect Derek Paul, CBB Deputy Legal Counsel Stacy Benjamin and artist and former CBB Gallery Curator Heino Schmid.
Columbus, a Fairy Tale by Washington Irving". The winning piece plays on the mythologies associated with the voyages of Columbus and common misconceptions about his encounters with the Americas. In creating the piece, McKinney drew inspiration from coloring books - a prevalent medium in childhood learning. "See is for Columbus" is composed of crayon and marker drawings on paper and features fairy tale-esque creatures and tongue-in-cheek references to popular misunderstandings about the 15th century traveler.
"A lot of my work that I do, I do because I like to inform an audience and I think that [it] is important to have that conversation starter...in a positive way, so I used the idea of this coloring book that is very classic, and I created it the way I wanted to create it using elements of fairy tales to express the idea of this fictional story [of Columbus]," explained McKinney, who had only begun working on the piece a few months before the competition opened.
No stranger to the Central Bank Art Gallery, McKinney also won the bank's 2012 art competition.
"The inspiration for me entering the show was [that] I've always been a part of the Central Bank. I've participated in a few of the shows, so I just decided to enter [the 2014 open art competition]. I thought it was a good place to show the piece and...I really wanted to try to explore this idea, so I entered the show to see if my idea was worth working toward," he said.
The panel of judges certainly thought so. In addition to a $7,500 cash prize, McKinney has also been awarded a bespoke art competition pin designed by local jeweler Michael Anthony Kelly and an opportunity to host a solo exhibition in the Project Space at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Second and third prize winners, Julius Tinker and Kevvanna Hall, respectively, also took home special recognition pins, which reflect the bank's 40th anniversary.
Drawing attention to the achievements of all the competition's participants, Colebrooke addressed gatherers on Wednesday night in a speech that underscored the importance of constant professional development and tenacity.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian she explained: "The point I'm trying to relay to the audience is that it's always difficult. It's a difficult process when judges get together; you have people from different backgrounds, different crafts, different trades, and having to look at the wealth of artwork that's produced in front of you and to determine who our winners are going to be...What a lot of people tend to do when they come to these shows is focus just on the winner, and everybody leaves feeling defeated. It was very important for me to address that [just] because you weren't chosen, that doesn't mean that your work isn't good. What it means is you either have to do some more developing, some more growing, or it's just not your time. It's not your season. Step back, look at what you've produced and see how you can perfect it.
"I'm an artist. I went through that process many times. I got rejected many time. I get rejected now, even as a professional...But I look at it like, 'OK, that's probably not the job for me'; or, 'That wasn't meant for me'; or 'My work needs to improve'. You have to look at it from a positive perspective if you're going to keep growing as an artist."
The Central Bank's 31st open art competition and exhibition will be on display until October 30. To find out more about the annual competition or the gallery space, visit http://www.centralbankbahamas.com/galleries.php. To learn more about gallery curator Antonius Roberts, visit http://www.antoniusroberts.com/.
"See is for Columbus, a Fairy Tale by Washington Irving" by 2014 open category art competition and exhibition winner Jace McKinney. PHOTOS: JODI MINNIS
"Puzzle Piece" by third place winner Kevvanna Hall. Photo: Jodi Minnis
"Lineage" by second place winner Julius Tinker.
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October 10, 2014
As the country experiences significant social and economic changes, the D'Aguilar Art Foundation (DAF) is demonstrating its appreciation for ongoing shifts in the Bahamian landscape with a cleverly christened quarterly exhibition. In its most recent show, Partly Cloudy With a Chance..., the foundation juxtaposes works that manifest both charming scenery with less-than-idyllic realities.
Opened on Thursday, October 2, Partly Cloudy was a joint effort by DAF Director Saskia Shutte-D'Aguilar and newly appointed DAF Curator Tessa Whitehead; the duo selected works from the foundation's collection that represent a transition away from the traditional, picturesque Bahamian landscape paintings toward pieces that offer a candid look at the Bahamian landscape.
Paintings of cloudy skies and an apocalyptic, post-hurricane Bahamas complement a mixed-media work, "Little Lizzie", by Noella Smith and ceramic pieces from Alistair Stevenson's Growth series - a body of work inspired by wild plant life on the ceramicist's native Long Island.
Whitehead credits her interest in the late Vincent D'Aguilar's affinity for art with helping her to focus the show's theme.
"I have a background in painting, and as a new part of the team, I was interested in understanding Mr. D'Aguilar's eye or choices from a formal point of view," she explained. "I know he built very strong connections with the artists he collected from and bought work first and foremost because he liked it or had an emotional connection to it. There is a hand-written note by Mr. D'Aguilar in the foundation's office that reads, 'Technique in itself is not enough. It is important for the artist to develop the power to convey emotion'."
A successful and well-traveled businessman, Whitehead noted that D'Aguilar "would have had such an in-depth understanding of the trends, patterns and correlations between politics and subject matter in Caribbean painting". She and Shutte-D'Aguilar took the opportunity to "illustrate the development of landscape painting in The Bahamas" accordingly.
The works span almost five decades, beginning with a late 1960s painting by Angelo Roker titled "Colourful Sky with Coconut Tree and Seagrape" showing partly cloudy skies above a choppy seascape. Partly Cloudy highlights a development in the years preceding Bahamian independence and after. "I think you can see the artists' relationship with the landscape change quite drastically after this point (independence)," said Whitehead.
The varied group of artists presented in Partly Cloudy is an element of the show that Shutte-D'Aguilar and Whitehead take pride in. According to Whitehead, on the exhibition's opening night, the collaborative product delighted art enthusiasts and the featured artists who "saw their older work hanging in a new context, or newer work hanging alongside older paintings".
"We pulled out a lot of paintings that are rarely exhibited for this show, and certainly that I had never seen," she said. "I was proud to be able to hang such a wide spectrum of Bahamian works together that are all really special works in themselves, and to be able to hang a younger Bahamian artist, with some of the more established artists."
The younger artist she referred to is Bernard Petit, whose "Lagging Behind" is one of the paintings to enhance the foundation's space for the exhibition.
For Whitehead, the best thing about the show is the paintings' "visual substance".
"They reveal more and more with a second and third look," she said. "Every time I go in the gallery, I fall more in love with Angelo Roker's painting 'Colourful Sky with Coconut tree and Seagrape'. I can just feel the weather the day that it was painted, and it feels like a subtle but critical look at the exotic or utopian landscape that we have been branded with."
Partly Cloudy With a Chance... will be on display at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation until November 30. Visiting hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. Those interested in finding out more about the D'Aguilar Art Foundation are encouraged to visit its website at http://daguilarartfoundation.com/.
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October 10, 2014
Since 1984, The Central Bank of The Bahamas has staged an annual art competition and exhibition through which it has continued to uncover and showcase budding Bahamian talent in the visual arts. For many, this competition and exhibition has served as an introduction to the Bahamian art world, and the exposure received has been an invaluable first step in growing their gifts. Moreover, in staging this event, the Central Bank has enjoyed the distinct privilege of assisting young Bahamians in educational pursuits that have helped them to further develop their skills. Many of them have gone on to very promising and successful professional careers in visual arts.
The Central Bank Art Gallery regrets to inform that the Grand Opening and Awards Ceremony (open category) has been rescheduled.
The gallery wishes to apologize for any inconvenience caused, and invites the public to visit at 6 p.m. on October 15, 2014 to celebrate the spirit of the competition, formally open the exhibition and announce the prizewinner.
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October 03, 2014
The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) is freshening things up with a new permanent exhibition called The Bahamian Domestic. Saying goodbye to 40 Years of Bahamian Art, the former permanent exhibition which paid homage to the country's four decades of independence, the NAGB team now looks forward to the new collection of works that gives voice to a plethora of experiences of living in The Bahamas.
The exhibition's theme was chosen by NAGB Director Amanda Coulson, who wanted the chance to showcase the everyday moments of Bahamian living, according to NAGB Assistant Curator and Registrar Averia Wright. Wright is co-curating the show alongside NAGB Collections Management Registrar and Curator Ashley Knowles.
Despite what the name suggests, the NAGB's permanent exhibitions generally last from six months to one year before being changed.
40 Years of Bahamian Art had been on display at the gallery since July 2013.
"With a year-long show, you can tell when attention starts to wane from the public, so it was time. And also we were ready for something new," said Wright.
The former show featured work from the 70s - the decade the country became independent - to the modern day. Many of the works were influenced by international styles of art - like Cubism and Impressionism. The Bahamian Domestic, in contrast, will "show how Bahamians grasp their own visual style".
Honest is probably the best way to describe the exhibition - visitors will find no perpetuated misconceptions about living in paradise in the art works. According to Knowles, the show gives a voice to Bahamians and the ways they "manifest or explore the issues in their own society".
Taking a multifaceted approach, the curating duo have touched on a number of areas of Bahamian life including immigration, religion, poverty, labor, music and architecture. The project will showcase "the beauty and the bad", Knowles added.
"It's a very involved exhibition, but it all comes back to the fact that it's Bahamian domestic [life] - it's where we live, where we work, how we get along with each other and it also has the spirit of the Bahamian people, so we didn't really heavily focus on Junkanoo, but you get some idea of festivities, goombay, and the everyday - it's supposed to be more of the everyday rather than those big moments, so that's basically what the whole exhibition is about," explained Wright.
Most of the works have been sourced from large collections like the Dawn Davies Collection and the D'Aguilar Art Foundation, with a few pieces coming from the National Collection of Bahamian Art. Visitors can look forward to seeing works by some of the visual art community's newer faces, including a ceramic set by 2013 Central Bank Art Competition winner Jeffrey Meris. The final selection is the product of a joint effort and synergy between the co-curators.
"We started to cross off or add or fix the story as in [define] what is The Bahamian Domestic," Wright said. "So it didn't happen that we agreed on everything; we always had to defend our pose on this piece or [that], so it was a joint effort, but we got the story together at the end."
Dividing the space between them, Wright and Knowles each took charge of her section, with Wright responsible for the front of the exhibition - a space that tells the story of the Bahamian home and family - and Knowles curating the back - an area that narrates cultural issues and social dynamics. The various sections of the exhibition will be accompanied by essays composed by the curators. Through their writings, Wright and Knowles hope to explain their motives behind the themes portrayed in The Bahamian Domestic's spaces.
PopopStudios Prize Winner Jodi Minnis has also played a role in bringing the new exhibition together by curating the show's "labor" section.
"My wall is about labor, and your work kind of dictates what social class you fall into, and your social class depicts how you respond to religion and living in The Bahamas and the other aspects of the show," she said. "So I think it's important to bring in that aspect to show that there is a tie between all aspects of Bahamian life."
The Bahamian Domestic will be open Tuesday, October 7, 2014. The NAGB is open to visitors Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m. To find out more about The Bahamian Domestic or the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, visit http://www.nagb.org.bs/ or call (242) 328-5800/1.
Jump: The Bahamian Domestic is the product of a joint effort
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September 27, 2014
With his fingers in several of the country's visual arts pies, Baha Mar Creative Arts Director John Cox has dipped another digit in upstate New York. The artist's work has been featured in a show titled "Principals/Principles" at the KuBe visual arts center owned by Ethan Cohen Fine Arts.
The KuBe is one of two Ethan Cohen Fine Arts creative centers (the other being the Ethan Cohen Gallery in New York City) and is based in Beacon, N.Y. Its objective is to foster international dialogue about the arts and serve as an avenue for showcasing art forms from around the world.
Principals/Principles is its most recent exhibition and seeks to explore "formal and conceptual connections between a diverse range of artists' principles and the principal languages invented by each". The exhibition opened on Saturday, September 13 and presents several solo shows along with a combined group show, of which Cox's work is a part. His "High Yellow" piece - a structural fusion of a chair and bicycle - has been holding its own among works from over 30 American and international artists.
Though Principals/Principles opened only recently, "High Yellow's" journey to Beacon began six months ago. Representing PopopStudios at the New York March 2014 VOLTA show, Cox exhibited his "Filler" installation - a series of bicycle tube "flowers" - and "High Yellow" - one of a series of works he deems "highchairs". The whimsical works caught the eye of art collector Ethan Cohen, who soon after added both "Filler" and "High Yellow" to his personal collection.
"High Yellow" first took root six years ago in the fourth National Exhibition (NE4). Cox entered his "Balance Between Contemplation and Action" - an installation featuring a bicycle and chair in suspension, each balancing the other on pulleys connected to the ceiling.
"The chair kind of symbolized a more contemplative self or presence and the bicycle presented, depending on how you thought about it, an opposite or a polar type of perspective or philosophy. And I guess the idea was trying to strike a balance between the two," explained Cox.
The concept evolved in the years following. Carrying on with the motif of striking harmony between "being experimental, being intuitive and spontaneous" and being "measured or being academic in some regard", Cox revisited the two main elements - the chair and bicycle. Changes in his personal life inspired him to experiment with elevating the chair in 2013.
"The idea that the sitting part or the intellectual or contemplative part, was up in the air above head height kind of elevated the idea that thinking was an important part of things, or being measured or being academic in some regard was important," he said. "But it's a little tongue-in-cheek because for the last couple years, I've been negotiating having my life around small kids. The work itself was kind of inspired a little by the way a highchair looks for a child. The chair needs to be lifted up so you come to a point where you're like, 'OK, I can negotiate with everybody; I can eat my food and have an eye-to-eye conversation with people'. So it was kind of an elevation in saying 'This is an aspiration, this is an homage', but it's also [saying] 'Yeah, but you're still like a child; you're still trying to work things out, and you're still trying to play'."
The exhibition means more exposure for Cox and, by extension, the wider Bahamian visual arts community.
"It's something I'm happy about. I think it's significant whenever your work is kind of experienced and someone else gets a chance to figure out what you're thinking, and I'm happy that it may be a springboard for some more works like that," he said.
To see Cox's "High Yellow" in Principals/Principles, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ethancohenkube. To find out more about The KuBe, visit its website at http://www.ecfa.com/.
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September 20, 2014
Dionne Benjamin-Smith has been dedicated to making the arts more accessible for nearly 20 years. A visual artist, graphic designer and illustrator, Benjamin-Smith is also the founder of one of the country's foremost arts and culture media - the weekly "Bahamian Art & Culture" e-magazine.
Founded in 1996 - long before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - "Bahamian Art & Culture" was an avant-garde concept preceding most forms of social media. It came at a time when the Internet and email had just begun their debut into mainstream society. Though it began as a primitive version of the one readers see today, its purpose was the same - to support local creatives by spreading the word about their events.
Working at former design firm, Time Design, Benjamin-Smith composed a mailing list of contacts made through her work. Though limited at the time, the list developed over the years as her cultural updates began to take effect.
"It kind of grew and it grew, and it really was something that came from the heart out of a love for the arts and really wanting to help my friends do well and be successful at their crafts," said Benjamin-Smith.
Like many other forms of social media, the e-newsletter slowly evolved into a business.
"It really took off, and a friend of mine...he gave me such good advice," said Benjamin-Smith. "He said, 'Dionne, why don't you start charging for what you do?' And it [had] never even occurred to me to charge."
She started out small, keeping her fees minimal and billing only for the time it took her to put the advertisements into the e-magazine. Her premise was and is still simple: she only charges advertising fees for profit-making ventures.
The effectiveness of the business has spoken for itself. With the help of account manager Stephanie Shivers and design assistant Don Adderley, "Bahamian Art & Culture" now has a following of over 5,000 subscribers in 45 countries.
Known for using her talents in printmaking as a platform for political and social commentary, Benjamin-Smith understands the potential in using art as a catalyst for starting dialogue on important social issues.
"I think the arts in general are an extremely important part of any community - and that involves the visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, musical arts. These things speak of the culture of a community," she said. "It speaks of who they are, where they came from, what they sound like, how they speak, what they eat. These things define what a community is. It brings, for the most part, a general uplifting of the spirit and it brings joy and it brings beauty into a community. And it also speaks to where a community is going."
She finds inspiration in the fact that the e-magazine is the only one of its kind in the country that is exclusively devoted to promoting Bahamian art and culture and encouraging the preservation of a cultural identity. While she hopes that the public is able to enjoy and be entertained by the many events publicized by the e-newsletter, her objective is to "educate and uplift" the community.
"The artists, the musicians, the writers are extremely important in defining who a people are. It's always interesting to note that when there is a society that is undergoing a terrible change [such as] a dictatorship or persons who wish to control a society, they often target the musicians, the writers and the artists...So I think they're an incredibly important part of any society. And they're coming into their own in The Bahamas in recent years," she said.
She has emphasized the e-magazine's accessibility for those in search of a platform to promote their creative works and "a vehicle to help themselves to grow and become a better artists".
Those interested in finding out more about the Bahamian Art & Culture eMagazine are encouraged to contact Dionne Benjamin-Smith at email@example.com or visit the Bahamian Art & Culture Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bahamian-Art-Culture/177752425612038, where they can view past issues of the e-magazine and sign up to subscribe.
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September 13, 2014
Celebrating their innate drive to create, nine esteemed Bahamian artists will be showcasing their works at The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) Art Gallery in a show aptly titled "Instinct". Opening on Thursday, September 18, the exhibition has been organized by multimedia artist Nadine Seymour-Munroe, who hopes to create a platform to expose The Bahamas to the talents and mastery of female Bahamian artists.
Having practiced art since high school, Seymour-Munroe knows firsthand the importance of artists gaining support and recognition for their abilities. She received partial scholarships for her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she graduated as the top painter in her year. The honor meant she was a prime candidate for the Florence Leaf Award, which helped fund her studies in RISD's master's program in art education. Her efforts did not go unnoticed at home, where several individuals and organizations provided her with private donations toward her education.
Now, she's trying to keep the ball rolling by establishing a sustainable foundation of support for female artists in the country. She'll be starting with Instinct, which will feature a range of mediums - from ceramics to digital pieces - and host the works of Sue Bennett-Williams, Chantal Bethel, Lisa Codella, Jessica Colebrooke, Claudette Dean, Sue Katz, Holly Parotti, Nadine Seymour-Munroe and Ana-Lisa Wells. This show is the first in what is hoped will become an annual event.
"I feel in The Bahamas right now, the female artists could get together a bit more and present themselves stronger, so this is how Instinct came about. Instinct is simply the ability to do something without being taught, and I feel...that women are instinctively creative, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to have these gifted artists who work in The Bahamas to come together and show The Bahamas what we have to offer," said Seymour-Munroe.
Acknowledging that it comes at a time when gender issues are at the fore in the country, she noted that the show "is a good representation of what we have to offer because, if you check records, most men get contracts when it's time for art, and a lot of times they get paid more, and it's an international concern. But I think this is a great start to say, 'Here we are, see what we do'."
Choosing artists whose work and skills she knows and admires, Seymour-Munroe wants to call as much attention to seasoned artists, like fellow multimedia artist Sue Bennett-Williams, as she does to relative newcomers, like ceramicist Lisa Codella. She is quick to point out that her objective is not to exclude male artists, but, rather, have it "be noted that we have excellent, senior female artists [in The Bahamas]".
"We've been saying we don't want it to be thought of as a sexist show, because when males have exhibitions, they don't say it's an all-male show, so we don't want the focus to be that it's an all-female show," said the Instinct founder. "But I want it to be noted that we have excellent, senior female artists. Oftentimes female artists are not as highly esteemed as male artists are. For example, we have master artists, but all of those are males. Why don't we have female master artists?"
Each artist chose her own pieces for the exhibition, which was arranged by CBB Gallery Curator Antonius Roberts and his team. Seymour-Munroe has submitted pieces from her "Blue Angel" series of abstract, mixed media works.
"It was done that way because, like I said, instinctively we are creative, and this show we really didn't have any limitations as to what you should enter," she said. "I just wanted the ladies to show the public what they feel inside as artists."
Though it hasn't opened yet, Instinct has already received attention internationally from a Chicago-based gallery, and Seymour-Munroe believes it's a good indication that the exhibition would have success as a sustainable, long-term and, possibly, international endeavor. Though Instinct is a for-profit show, she has plans to establish an Instinct-linked scholarship foundation for younger female artists in years to come.
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September 13, 2014
The product of two developers - one of whom was in search of a simple dining experience offering good food and friendly service and another who knew his way around a cellar as a wine sommelier - Mahogany House was born in 2011.
Serving up simple meals made from fresh ingredients, the restaurant has since offered an understatedly elegant dining option to New Providence's western community.
But these days there's a whole lot more being dished up on the lush, green property than what comes out of the kitchen. Lauren Holowesko, daughter of Mahogany House founder Mark Holowesko, is branching out of the family tree with her own project - The Island House.
A boutique hotel in the works, most people have by now caught wind of The Island House, which is being developed on a 10-acre plot adjacent to Mahogany House. Seeing a need for a guest house offering all the comforts of home, the luxuries of a resort and the beauty of the country's natural landscape, Lauren Holowesko seized the opportunity to provide the area's many business travelers with a suitable place to stay.
This isn't the first time the developer's gotten her creative juices flowing - far from it, in fact. Holowesko has a strong foundation in the visual arts, which began in elementary school.
"I got involved in art from a really young age...I had a fantastic art teacher, Ms. Robertson, at Lyford Cay School and at St. Andrew's," she said.
Her early years resonated with her at Georgetown, where she completed a bachelor's degree in art history; she followed that with an art business master's degree at Sotheby's Institute of Art in London. It was also in London that she worked with auction house Phillips (formerly Phillips de Pury & Company).
Returning home in 2012, Holowesko got started on putting her plan into action that April. She knew from the get-go that her love of the visual arts would have a starring role in the finished product.
Now the project manager of The Island House, Holowesko finds her days filled with sourcing artwork for the upcoming hotel, which will serve as the exhibition space for Mark Holowesko's private collection of Bahamian artwork.
"I think that celebrating art ties into the foundation of The Island House and the reasons that we wanted to build this - a lot of it has to do with celebrating passion, creativity and conceptual thinking and really hard work," said the project manager. "I think that will enhance each guest's experience and I think also the misconception of what Bahamian art is, is something that we want to be able to brush to the side."
Holowesko's grand plans include original Bahamian works - including paintings, installations, woodwork and ceramics - in each of The Island House' 30 rooms and suites as well as its common areas. Slowly growing her father's collection, she has acquired existing works and commissioned bespoke pieces by master artists and up-and-coming ones alike. It will be those works that make each room at The Island House unique.
"That's something that Baha Mar has an advantage over us," said Holowesko of the upcoming mega resort, which has pledged to fill its property with original Bahamian works. "They have the publicity and the presence to really elevate Bahamian art to an international level and that's something that we're hoping to do as well. [It's] the realization of our social responsibility that we have to really showcase this and encourage cultural development in general."
In addition to serving as a hotel and private exhibition space, The Island House will also have an onsite 48-seat cinema, which will focus on hosting art house and independent films. Hoping to establish a quarterly program for the theater, Holowesko looks forward to supporting Caribbean filmmakers by promoting their works at The Island House.
"I think [it was] something that really sparked my interest, being in London and having access to so many art house cinemas all over and being introduced to that. It really sparked an interest - a desire for that to be available to this community as well," said Holowesko.
The Island House cinema will be open to the public who will be able to book their tickets online. She looks forward to showcasing documentaries, in particular, mentioning Laura Gamse, Toby Lunn and Kareem Mortimer's collaborative work, "Brigidy Bram", as a potential future feature.
"I think that would be fascinating because we're looking to have some of Kendal's works in the hotel, and [to] be able to showcase a film like that, that draws the viewer in and gives you a real foundation for his whole life and how his art career has developed...I think it brings so much more value to what we're presenting to not only the tourists who come to stay in the hotel but the locals as well."
While the hotel and theater won't be open until early 2015, Holowesko already envisions plans to extend The Island House' role in the Bahamian film and visual arts scenes.
She has proposed using the site as a potential screening venue for the 2015 Bahamas International Film Festival. Hosting other exhibitions and establishing a future artist-in-residency program may also be on the books.
"There's kind of endless opportunities that we'd be able to provide, and I think that's what's so exciting - to be able to provide a platform that's really flexible and really creative," she said.
To find out more about The Island House, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Island-House/236004756595343 or contact a member of The Island House team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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September 06, 2014
Now known primarily for its blue holes, pine forests and crabs, Andros' reputation as a trendsetting Family Island seems to have fallen by the wayside - it has, after all, been several decades since Androsia took the nation by storm. Though the vibrant batik cloth and clothing may not be found as frequently across The Bahamas, the Birch family - known aptly as the Androsia Family - is still making Androsia the way Rosi Birch developed the practice on the shores of Andros in the 1960s and early 70s.
Settling in Andros with her husband, Dick Birch, who established the still-running Small Hope Bay Lodge in 1960, Rosi Birch was an artist who was introduced to batik by a guest at the resort.
"It was an art project for kids one day," said granddaughter Casey Birch, who knows how the family business got started through a visitor who "showed [Rosi Birch] how to do it using candle wax and a little bit of food coloring. Then she thought immediately, 'This is kind of a low-tech, really easy way to create something that could eventually be a business and provide more employment on the island'."
An ancient practice, batik has its roots in Southeast Asia; the Birches, though, are proud of Rosi's mastery and unique twist on the dyeing process. Starting out in the late 60s, the founder of Androsia - a fusion of "Andros" and "Rosi" - began making batik prints on the beach at Small Hope Bay Lodge. Over time and through much trial and error, she developed her own method of making batik cloth.
The process begins by hand carving stamps - the shapes seen on Androsia cloth, often inspired by nature - out of foam. Stamps are dipped in hot wax and applied to the fabric, making dye-resistant shapes on the cloth. The fabric is then bundled up and dyed in bath tubs with color blends mixed by the Androsia Company. The dyeing process takes, on average, two hours per color; when that's done, the fabric is put through a hot water treatment to remove the wax and excess dye, leaving the finished Androsia print.
Rosi Birch's plan was to grow the practice so that "one element of the production would be done in every community in Central Andros - they could wax in Fresh Creek, dye down south, then bring it back to be cut and sewn," said Casey Birch.
Though it didn't quite work out that way, the art form began to develop the local community in other avenues. Teaching people to sew and equipping them with sewing machines, the small organization would make fabric, hand paint and dye it and send it out to be sewn in local homes. With growing popularity, the company was established in 1973 - the year of Bahamian independence.
"That's why we use such bright colors and natural designs - to showcase the natural beauty of The Bahamas," said Casey Birch. "To have a product that was produced, manufactured, sewn and cut in The Bahamas, because it was the year of independence, it just became very, very popular throughout 70s and 80s. Now it's become synonymous with the product and the fabric of The Bahamas."
The granddaughter estimates that, in those decades, the family business "had hundreds of employees and shops everywhere". Now in their third generation of batik dyeing, it doesn't seem like the Birches have any reason to stop. Androsia cloth is still in demand throughout the country; though the Androsia Family has localized its company, consumers can and do still purchase cloth and clothing online or from local suppliers. Though there are several imitations around, the Birch family reminds clients that true Androsia is identified by the Androsia stamp present on each yard of the batik fabric.
Popular with school groups touring Andros, this past June, the Androsia Family decided to return the favor by traveling to Nassau for an Androsia workshop held at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). Wax pots, stamps, stencils and cloth in tow, the Androsia team gave youngsters a hands-on lesson in the Androsia batik process. Each participant was given a bandanna or tote bag to decorate with wax; the Androsia Family carried the patterned items Andros to be dyed and then shipped them back to the crafts makers as keepsakes.
A hit with the kids, Casey and the Androsia team will be back at the NAGB on Saturday, September 13 to hold two workshops for kids and adults, respectively. At a cost of $25 for children (ages six and up) and $30 for adults, both groups will have two hours (kids from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and adults from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) to decorate their Androsia goods; adult participants will have the option of decorating a scarf or large tote bag.
"We think it's important because I think that most people in The Bahamas are aware of Androsia. They know what it looks like.
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September 06, 2014
in the hospitality industry, first impressions mean everything, forming the basis for a dynamic and meaningful guest experience that will make The Bahamas a standout global destination.
To that end, Baha Mar's art team, The Current, is coordinating thousands of art moments across the $3.5 billion development to ensure that guests will be inundated with Bahamian culture from the moment they arrive at the luxury destination resort in spring 2015.
One of the first major projects to near completion is a series of four large murals by Bahamian master artist Max Taylor, which will greet guests in The Grand Hyatt lobby with rich depictions of Bahamian life.
A painter, printmaker and ceramicist, Taylor has rightfully earned his place as a master visual artist in Bahamian art history. Utilizing a variety of creative techniques and styles, he addresses a range of subject matter in his creative practice, making him one of the most versatile artists practicing in The Bahamas today.
Over the past few months, Taylor has been steadily painting the murals in The Current art studio, bringing together abstracted figures, geometric shapes and hand-applied linoleum patterns in myriad colors to form breathtaking tributes to Bahamian people, history and culture.
"It looks at different types of history in The Bahamas--of culture, in performance, in music, of art itself--and sets a festive tone for The Bahamian Riviera," said Baha Mar Creative Artistic Director John Cox. "It's powerful and proud. But mostly it's a large expansion of decades of experience that this master artist has shared with us."
Taylor worked with loose themes of festivity and Bahamian life to craft a dynamic narrative. Letting the particular details come to him in the moment and inspired by the range of colors at his disposal, Taylor steadily crafted the masterpieces layer by rich layer.
Taylor's murals are just one of the thousands of opportunities for Baha Mar's guests from all around the world to learn about Bahamian visual art, culture and way of life.
"One thing I think about Bahamian artists, most of them have the ability to do anything, any project," said Taylor. "A Bahamian artist does not always get this opportunity, especially on such a broad scale, so I think Baha Mar is a fantastic opportunity. I'd really like to say thanks for choosing me as one of the artists to be part of this global platform."
The Current is the unifying force behind the collective art moments across Baha Mar, from the reproductions and site-specific commissions informing the guest experience to the rotating exhibitions and artist residencies in three gallery spaces within the development. Visit facebook.com/thecurrentart to find out more, or email email@example.com.
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September 06, 2014
It's been said time and again that The Bahamas has much more to offer its citizens and its visitors than sun, sand and sea. With an abundance of talent in the country's arts community, it seems no wonder that repertory theater company Ringplay Productions could extend that alliteration with the addition of "Shakespeare". For the past six years, the company has been producing the Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival.
An annual event, the non-profit festival is held in October and celebrates the performing arts by staging a series of productions, one of which is a signature Shakespeare play.
The idea of holding a local theater festival came to Dr. Nicolette Bethel and Philip Burrows almost 3,000 miles from home, in Ashland, Oregon.
"We took students to a festival held in the little town of Ashland. When you get there, you can see theater of a quality as good as and better than what you see on Broadway for a fraction of the cost. So we thought, 'Well if they can do it, why can't Nassau do it?' When we came back, in 2000, we had in our minds a theater festival," said Bethel.
Bethel and Burrows knew that a modest start with a solid foundation would be the best way forward. They chose to center the festival on Shakespeare's productions - it doesn't take much guessing why. The classic renaissance plays have transcended cultural boundaries for four centuries.
"Shakespeare is part of every theater practitioner's repertoire. Shakespeare is popular as well as classical. We thought, 'We can do Shakespeare in The Bahamas, so we'll have a Shakespeare festival'," said Bethel.
Making the event a sustainable one was the duo's objective, and so far, they and the other Ringplay Productions team members have been successful. Bethel also hopes that, by incorporating the classic Shakespearean productions, the festival will be 'legitimized' on a global scale.
"It's a way of legitimizing the festival internationally as well as locally, and it also builds confidence in Bahamian audiences and Bahamian performers, because we have a tendency in the Caribbean - certainly in the wake of independence - of rejecting and turning our backs on everything that smacked of British colonialism. One of those things was the centrality of Shakespeare. But I think, and experience and observation suggests, that that's not one of the things that we needed to excise from our repertoires."
This year, the festival takes place October 3-13 and features "Romeo and Juliet", "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf", "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" and "Bruce Katooska: Laughter is the Best Magic!".
Under the directorship of Philip Burrows, the Shakespeare in Paradise version of "Romeo and Juliet" substitutes a Bahamian-Haitian relationship in place of the classic Montague-Capulet affair. It stars Matthew Deveaux and Angelique White.
Also directed by Burrows, "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" is set in apartheid South Africa and tells the story of a black South African looking for work in Port Elizabeth. His passbook gives him permission to stay for three days to find work before facing deportation. He is faced with making a grim decision when he encounters the body of a man with a work permit.
Back by popular demand, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" features the same performers who stunned audiences in the Dundas' black box theater earlier this year. The production will be directed again by Bethel, and, if July's ticket sales are any indication, it is expected to be a box office hit.
"Bruce Katooska: Laughter is the Best Magic!" offers a special treat for primary school-aged children. This magic show will offer 10 primary school performances from October 5-10. School administrators who want to book the show should contact the Shakespeare in Paradise box office.
With weeks to go before the season opens, casting has long been completed and actors are facing nightly rehearsals at the Dundas. The stars of the shows aren't the only ones putting in the hours, though. Each season, an average of 50 to 70 volunteers - who include cast members, backstage crew and box office personnel - are involved in helping to make Shakespeare in Paradise a success.
Their hard work has made the festival popular with locals. According to Bethel, ticket sales for the Shakespeare in Paradise season are in the region of 4,000-4,500. Two-thirds of these are student tickets, which are offered at heavily discounted rates.
"One of the reasons why we operate at a breakeven environment is because we offer student tickets at $10 a head...Each seat is worth about $16-$18 in real money, if we're working at full occupancy. If we're operating at two-thirds occupancy, that means each seat is $23. So we can be losing between $8 to $13 on each [student ticket], but we believe that is an investment that is worth making," said Bethel.
Now in the midst of preparation, Bethel has already seen demands from festival goers for tickets.
"It's our sixth year, which I think is an achievement," she said. "I think it'll be more of an achievement when we get to the 10th year, but I think that the fact that we've been able to keep it going for six years is really something to be proud of. Of course our audience is a part of it. The fact that we have people calling now, and it's just the beginning of September, to book their tickets is an indication that the audience looks forward to it."
Those interested in finding out more or getting involved in Shakespeare in Paradise are encouraged to visit the event's website, at http://shakespeareinparadise.org/, or Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/ShakespeareInParadisesupport, where they can sign up for the festival's mailing list. Anyone interested in supporting the Shakespeare in Paradise season is asked to make checks out to Shakespeare In Paradise or contact the Dundas on 393-3728 or 394-7179 to find out more about making cash donations or direct deposits.
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August 29, 2014
A Bahamian visual artist, Bahamian filmmaker and American filmmaker walk into a studio - this is not the beginning of a tongue-in-cheek joke; it's what Toby Lunn, Kareem Mortimer and Laura Gamse have been doing since early 2014 with the making of their documentary "Brigidy Bram". Focusing on the life and work of Bahamian master artist Kendal Hanna, "Brigidy Bram" highlights Hanna's journey through the Bahamian art world, his 1950s diagnosis of schizophrenia, the resulting electric shock therapy and his recovery through artistic creation.
Screening her first film, "The Creators" - a documentary shot in South Africa - at the 2011 Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF), Gamse made the acquaintance of artist Lunn, who showed her to the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB).
"I was completely distracted by the walls, which were [covered in] Kendal's work. It was all of his self-portraits," said Gamse. "I was like, 'Toby who did this stuff?' and he said, 'Oh that's Kendal'. And Kendal had actually come with us to the National Art Gallery."
Originally from Virginia, Gamse was captivated by the septuagenarian's "1950s dialect". "He still has all of the nuances and phrases that have evolved out of our language, and I just liked the way he presented himself. And then I heard that he had a history with schizophrenia and electroshock therapy, and it seemed like a story that could be explored."
So she did. Wasting no time, Gamse left and returned to the country in early 2012, camera kit in tow. She entered the Bahamian International Film Festival, making Hanna the subject of her documentary. The film was awarded the Bahamian Oscar for best short film, catching the attention of Bahamian filmmaker Kareem Mortimer.
In December 2012 Gamse and Lunn committed to fleshing out the shorter film into a full-length documentary. "The short film was always lacking because we were missing so much of his life, and Kendal has had a really crazy life with some experiences that are just straight out of a movie...and we wanted to portray them much better than we would have on a $3,000 budget," said Gamse.
"Brigidy Bram" was born. With Gamse and Lunn mostly working on the project remotely, barring Gamse's periodical trips to The Bahamas to film, the duo made a push to complete the project this year. They invited Mortimer to be a part of the project in early 2014 as an editor and producer. Having seen the original shorter film, the Bahamian director, known for his award-winning films, which include "Children of God" and "Passage", was intrigued.
"They (Lunn and Gamse) just wanted to open the film up a bit more...and really flesh out the story of Kendal," said Mortimer. "And they also offered me an opportunity to come on as a producer to think about festival strategies and how to launch the film, and that type of work is really exciting to me because I've been doing this for a really long time, and so I have relationships with festivals, and it would be really fun to connect a story like that with people I know."
The trio, whose experiences in filmmaking range from novice to professional, view the collaboration as a win-win-win enterprise. Gamse, in particular, is grateful for the additional link to the Bahamian community and further insight into the local culture.
"I don't like when people kind of jump into a new culture and all of a sudden find themselves experts and make films about it. So I think it's important, when you're making a film based in a place that you are not from, to include someone in the creative process or hopefully more than one person who is actually from that place," she said.
Named for an old Bahamian interjection - one which Hanna himself uses frequently - "Brigidy Bram" goes beyond the work of a traditional documentary, according to Gamse. "It tries to delve into his mind and bring you into his mental landscape - the fabric of his reality. We're trying to let you live through his eyes; with that comes a different texture and cadence of experience, whether caused by one's unique life events or just a different mental landscape than the average person."
As a visual artist, Lunn is a direct link to the local visual arts community; Mortimer has professed a personal interest in the documentary's subject matter. "I entered this film purely for fan reasons," said Mortimer. "Kendal is actually one of my favorite painters in The Bahamas. Kendal's story is the story of an artist who persevered though all these tribulations for the sake of his art because it's what completes him, and I think that's a very powerful story to be led by your passion and still be happy, despite all these things."
The trio hope to complete production in September 2014 with a premiere in late 2014 or early 2015. It is Gamse's hope that the documentary shines new light and insight on a fascinating artist.
"I hope they fall in love with Kendal," she said. "He's just such a unique person and it would be easy for him to kind of just pass through this world and not have many people notice what a brilliant person he is, the value of his work to the global art world, and how unique and intriguing his life has been and continues to be."
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August 29, 2014
College of The Bahamas (COB) student Jodi Minnis knows it isn't easy starting an artist's career. President of the Pro Society, COB's art society, Minnis understands the vitality of a strong social support network for up-and-coming artists. As a Popop prize winner, she's been given a broad platform of exposure by some of the country's most respected visual artists.
Taken under the wing of Antonius Roberts, as his curatorial assistant at The Central Bank of The Bahamas, Minnis' experience working with Roberts has afforded her the opportunity to mature as an artist and future professional curator. That's why she vouches for the importance in recognizing some of the most significant mentoring relationships in The Bahamas' visual arts community. Now, Minnis, along with Pro Society Vice President Celeste Harding, are paying homage to these bonds with the Pro Gallery's most recent exhibition, The Past that Sharpened the Present.
Featuring the work of four Bahamian artists, John Beadle, Stan Burnside, John Cox and Antonius Roberts, The Past that Sharpened the Present opened this past Wednesday. The exhibition reflects Harding and Minnis' desire to "give the students an idea of the richness of the art community and how closely related the college is with the wider art community" while also highlighting the role that mentoring has played within the quartet.
"I know what having relationships with seasoned artists and people in the field that you want to be in can do for young artists," said Minnis. "I know through research. And through listening to Mr. Beadle talk, I know what his relationship with Mr. Burnside did for him. I went to Schooner Bay with Mr. Roberts and Mr. Cox for the Popop prize, and through listening to them and seeing them engage, I know what their relationship is about. It's more than a professional relationship."
Curated by Minnis and Harding, inspiration for the exhibition came out of the students' eagerness to develop the space as a gallery that professional artists might use. It would be easier said than done. With the Pro Gallery needing a little TLC, the society leaders took matters into their own hands. Thanks to a little elbow grease, cosmetic repairs and a private donation, the space can now proudly host the works of some of The Bahamas' legendary visual artists.
The Past that Sharpened the Present is getting the ball rolling with the first chance to see works by the four artists displayed together at The College of The Bahamas. Minnis hopes that the show will serve as a stimulant "for the renewal of the integrity of the gallery and the exposure to the student body" of the local art community's intellect and talents.
The exhibition's opening coincides with the beginning of COB's academic year - this timing is not by chance. Minnis believes in the importance of giving new art students an opportunity to see the art department's capabilities.
"I've encountered a lot of students who have fallen into other majors because they were unsure of the art department, unsure of what we do, unsure of the type of relationships they would form while being here," said Minnis. "We're having a series of shows to highlight the potential of the department."
Artist and COB art lecturer Michael Edwards finds Minnis and Harding's initiative an encouraging move for the art department.
"I think it's pretty good that students are engaging in curatorial work and taking an active role in the gallery, in running their own space, in galvanizing support for The College of The Bahamas and for the Pro Gallery," he said. "I think it sets a precedent for this art department moving forward."
The Past that Sharpened the Present will be open to the public until September 6. The Pro Gallery's visiting hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Thursday. Those interested in learning more about the Pro Society and Pro Gallery are encouraged to visit their Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/ProSocietyCOB and https://www.facebook.com/ProGallery, respectively.
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August 29, 2014
We, the curators of The Past that Sharpened the Present, thank everyone who was present, or present in spirit, at the opening event. We greatly appreciate the support, love and guidance.
It has come to our attention that our endeavors have been misinterpreted, misunderstood and have offended many. We humbly apologize for this misunderstanding, and, as we progress, we will do our best to circumvent this from happening again.
With that being said, and acknowledging that those comments were not made directly, we would like to give those concerned an opportunity to engage with us and express their concerns. The Pro Gallery will be hosting a talk to allow a formal and professional dialogue between the curators and general public on September 9, 2014 in the Pro Gallery, S9, The College of The Bahamas.
We wish to express our thanks for the public's continued support, love and positivity.
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August 22, 2014
Blue Curry is a Bahamian artist currently living in London, who flies his flags in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Known primarily for his installation works that broach cultural and historical themes, in 2013 Curry was asked to take part in Unsettled Landscapes, a biennial exhibition featuring the work of artists from Nunavut all the way to Tierra del Fuego, and countries in between.
Held at Site Santa Fe, Unsettled Landscapes opened in July 2014. The exhibition examines the "urgencies, political conditions and historical narratives that inform the work of contemporary artists across the Americas". Each work in the show responds to three themes: landscape, territory and trade.
Curry's childhood memories of a tourism-saturated Downtown Nassau were the catalyst for his proposal for Unsettled Landscapes.
"I started by remembering how, as a boy, the cruise ships would come into Nassau Harbour and how dramatic the difference was between just walking around kind of two-story or four-story buildings, and suddenly something the size of a cruise ship comes in and creates this new city," he said.
Seeing the cruise port through a sculptor's eyes, Curry noted the port's shifting shape each time one of the massive vessels arrived or left.
"I'd often see the cruise ship port as a sculptor, because, if you look at the ships, on no two days, does that combination of ships in the port look exactly the same. So I would see it as sculpture and the combinations of the ships coming in, the way they dock and the formations they make, as a sculpture."
Looking to the past for inspiration again, Curry drew on his knowledge of Fort Fincastle and its historical flagpole, which served as an effective communication method for the port, Nassau's residents and incoming ships, in years gone.
"That was at a time when you could look to the top of that hill and see the flagpole - people did commonly know what the flags stood for, so they knew what was going on in Nassau Harbour," said the artist. "Time progressed and flagpoles became obsolescent. Beyond that, the downtown port became predominantly a port for cruise liners, so it served no more purpose. At one moment that flagpole would have been so important, and it has no relevance at all now."
With his wheels turning, Curry offered the concept of presenting Downtown Nassau as a "site for sculpture and installation, rather than a site for just
consumption" to Unsettled Landscapes' curatorial team. His proposal began with the installation of a live video camera taping the port and displaying the "sculptural formations of cruise ships coming in and out".
In a twist on the Fort Fincastle flag post, the artist recreated a signal mast outside of the Site Santa Fe gallery. Curry highlights the impact of The Bahamas' largest industry on its landscape with a pole of nondescript, patterned beach towels fashioned into flags. Each flag represents one of the 40 cruise lines expected to arrive in Nassau Harbour for the duration of Unsettled Landscapes. Inside the Site Santa Fe gallery, the installation is complemented by a projected broadcast of the live streaming from the video camera situated in Nassau and shelves of meticulously folded flags representing the ships that are not currently in Nassau Harbour.
"It's the responsibility of the gallery staff, according to the cruise ship schedules, to raise and lower flags when ships are in the port of Nassau," said Curry. "...One sculpture in Nassau activates another in Santa Fe. Just like cruise ships, it's always changing. There is not really a day that the flag poles always look the same."
Curry has pointed out the symbolism involved in his use of the beach towels as flags.
"The beach towel I'm using it in a sly way," he said. "It is a means of conquest. If only for a day, when tourists go to the beach, they throw these towels down, and they can occupy a beach for a day. This sort of taking over of space that tourists do on a daily basis maybe doesn't affect us, but maybe psychologically it does, as a very small act of conquest. I'm interested in the beach towel as a material that you can use to possess a piece of land, a piece of the beach, if only for the day."
The Unsettled Landscapes exhibition will be up until January 2015. Those interested in finding out more about the space are encouraged to visit its website at https://sitesantafe.org/. More information about Blue Curry and his work as well as a link to his installation's live video stream can be found online at http://www.bluecurry.com/index.html.
Jump: Curry examines beach towels as tools of conquest
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