Christina Leslie's Portraits

N.L.S., A New Local Space

Deborah Caroll Anzinger's artist run residency and exhibition space in Kingston


Leasho Johnson's Provocative Re-interpretation in 'Canopy Guild'

Light Sensitive

Marlon James' black and whites

Annalee Davis: ON THE MAP

Caribbean Political Documentary

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Art Student and Activism

Anti-Nuclear Posters on a wall on the Kyoto Seika University campus
The wall of posters pictured above is part of the NO NUKES campaign which uses poster design to capture the attention of the public in discreet ways. Each month since the launch of budding artists from the various art schools across Japan, post their designs. The posters can then be printed and arranged as a public art/ wall of protest in various places. I imagine that there are several walls like this one all over Japan and I would love to see them. This particular wall is in an entrance way to a building which houses 2-3 departments and is directly in front of the bench where students and lecturers take their cigarette break.
Campus police at UC Davis campus using pepper spray to remove protesting students

I used the word 'discreet' earlier however because it is a very subtle way of getting the point across if we compare it to other recent school protests. I recently learned about the UC Davis campus protests and the David Willett Cambridge talk protest from comedian Josie Long's set on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show Extra. She described through sarcastic humour her reaction to seeing the videos on YouTube. The first protest provoked the anger of protesters because a group of students engaged in a sitdown protest where unnecessarily pepper sprayed by campus police. The Cambridge students were protesting high fee increases and the UC students were joining the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

The way students have chosen to protest in Japan, with the continuous flow of NO NUKES poster designs and public space interruptions is less overt and a bit more subliminal than their Western counterparts. The manner however is perhaps more in keeping with Japan's non-confrontational culture but in this instance I found it interesting that Art was used as the tool of protest rather than the more conventional methods of marching, picketing and protesting familiar in the US and UK. It makes me wonder about the effect and speed at which the desired change will occur.

The more passive method will seep into the consciousness and it will be carried with you. Due to the website also proliferation and distribution of the posters can occur easily and portably. The more vociferous method will definitely grab more headlines and documentation of it in this age of social media will attract more viewership and discussion however. The method is ultimately appropriate to the culture and the message.
A work attributed to neugerriemschneider addressing the isolation of Activist Artist, Ai Wei Wei 

In writing this post however I am considering what causes art students in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean today are putting their talents to and organize themselves around. I remember working on my final body of paintings for my graduation show in college when a respected lecturer asked me what mechanisms I had employed in my creative language to address current events, socio-political issues etc. Then it occurred to me that Art was not only for individual expression but also useful as a social catalyst. Sometimes in focusing on the gallery system and its market driven practices, considering individual desires can become stronger than societal contributions but activism offers opportunities for creative expression and experimentation in other ways outside of the Artworld bubble. The example of the NO NUKES Movement illustrates how activism need not be considered a distraction apart from main studies but a beneficial aid to development of the thinking artist of tomorrow. Of course Activist Art is an end in itself also and can be an effective way to voice opinions and protest.

What causes are you interested in engaging in using Art? How do you propose we use Art to handle problems with governments and other institutions that we want to change?


Monday, November 21, 2011

Disillusions goes on tour

Production Still of Snow White Remixed, Video Installation,
Sandra Stephens & Allie Tyre, two of the
exhibiting artists
On September 27, this group show of Caribbean and diaspora artists, opened at Middlesex County College, New Jersey. The show is curated by Tatiana Flores, who was also involved in curating the expansive 'Wrestling with the Image' earlier this year at the Art Museum of the Americas. This time around she has curated a show which focuses on 'Gendered Visions of the Caribbean and its Diasporas'.

So successful has the show been in revealing aspects of contemporary Caribbean Art that it was invited to travel to The Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery in New York for a second opening. The show opened this weekend and runs until December 31st this year. The names involved are newer names than regularly seen in years past on the Caribbean art circuit and reflect the diversity and experiences of culture and exploring gender. A panel discussion/ artists talk will happen at the gallery on December 14 at 6pm.
View the e-vite and see more info here

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Andrae Green on The Artist's Residency

Altered-States (Conversation with Colonel Percy Wyndam). One of the smaller paintings Green produced while in residency
The artists residency is a part of the artists career which we never really learned about in art school, yet facilities and organizations worldwide providing residency programmes have been growing steadily. It is often a good way to boost an artists confidence and exposure* and can sometimes help artists push further in their career. By the provision of a working space and support, it at least gives the artist time to create a small body of work depending on the duration. The hoped result is that it will benefit the maturity of the artists work and networking opportunities as well as contribute to the life and economy of the facilitating communities. 

Emerging Jamaican Painter, Andrae Green, has kindly shared his experience and thoughts about the artists residency. We asked questions about Green's recent residency experience and he tells us about the process and the role it plays for him. *It should be noted that the artist was featured in a local newspaper while on residency.

You recently came back from a residency in New York, introduce us to the residency programme you went on. 
The residency that I was invited to be apart of is called the CAC (Contemporary Artists Centre) Woodside, located in Troy New York. The residency is multidisciplinary, and it's open to artist from all nationalities. The CAC was founded in Berkshires Massachusetts but was recently moved to renovated chapel at Woodside Troy, New York. Troy is a small town in upstate New York located 10 minutes outside Albany, which is the capital of New York state. The CAC residency is year round and artists are invited to stay from as little as 2 weeks to as long as 3 months. The application is done online through the CAC's website. My stay at the residency was from July 17th to August 26th. Its a great program and I recommend it to anyone. I will say that if your coming from the Caribbean you should plan your residency for the summer months.

Why did you feel the need at this point in your career to go on a residency? 
As I see it, an international residency is one of the best ways for any artist to gain experience and exposure outside your country and make, if possible, crucial connections that might bode well for your career. These were the same reasons that I had when I applied to the CAC. 

Green and other artists in the programme in front of his paintings.

What activities did you get involved in and tell us about the kinds of networking that happened for you?
 At the residency we had weekly critiques, where we would present our works to the newly arrivals, and also update the group on any progress that we had made during the week. Also we went on outings to the town of Troy, like the farmers market on Saturdays, and to other historic sites close enough to drive to. As I think that I have said before I met alot of people while at the CAC, and hopefully I made some lasting friendships. 

You had an exhibition as well, was this related to the residency and did the results of the residency meet your expectations?
Yes the exhibition was put on by the director of the residency, Mrs. Hezzie Johanson. It was a group show and every artist at the residency or affiliated with the CAC was invited to participate. The show was held as a part of "Troy Night Out". Troy Night Out is held every end of the month in summer, between June and September, as a celebration of the arts in the town. The whole town comes alive with artist of every kind exhibiting their wares of every kind. It's really exciting, there is music and dancing in the streets and art everywhere almost like the old time Jamaican grand market. 
Being as it was my first residency I came into the experience with and open mind, with no expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised. The facilities were great, the staff was very helpful, and the whole experience was thrilling to say the least.

Woman 1. Another small painting created by Green
during his residency

For what purposes would you recommend a residency to an artist, Can you share some tips on practical information about finding, applying and funding a residency experience? 
As stated before I wanted to expand my career possibilities and get exposure for my work. There are a lot of opportunities open to anyone seeking to expand there career horizons. Some residencies that you find there will be application fees to pay, while others are free application. There are a lot of different types of residencies and they offer different things, for different kinds of artist. Some are only for emerging artist, while others cater to both. You have to know what position you are career-wise so that you will be able to take advantage of whatever you may find. Also keep in mind that you can't apply to everything , and you need to keep a check on how your spending your money as, application fees do add up. A websites that I have found very helpful to me is, I am sure that there are others, but this is the one that I know of.

Have you done a residency yourself? What was that experience like?
Do you think doing residencies  are important for all artists to do?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'The Artist' Series

In concentrating some of the things that we have been talking about on this blog since the beginning I am starting a new series. The focus has always been from the perspective of the young and emerging artist trying to figure out the 'Art World' and all the twists and turns involved. There have been several interviews with artists as well as issues concerning subjects such as preparing a portfolio, visiting galleries, politics etc. There have also been several posts relating to international and regional art scenes. Now to hone in on what it is to be an artist in this time I am launching 'The Artist' series.

The idea is that artists in this time more than ever are wearing many hats out of necessity, resourcefulness, changing roles and expectations. I would really love for you to participate and share your stories and experiences with us.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Art & Design Culture: Spec Work

The Huffington Post recently mounted a competition calling for entires for logo designs for their political campaign activities. This act created a backlash among designers who thought it was in bad taste for a rising media power like The Huffington Post to call for free design work via Spec competition or crowdsourcing
. This, I learned, is referred to as Speculative (Spec) work. One of the main groups against this latest call is called AntiSpec and in its campaign it battles the scourge of Spec work head on.

'Spec(ulative) work is a cancer within the design industry and all designers need to understand their role in fighting it.'
   - AntiSpec site
Why is this Spec Work so offensive though? Doesn't everyone win? Designers get guaranteed payment when they win competitions and companies get the best design right? I ask the question because while working in Jamaica in the mid to late 2000’s, I gained a little experience as a designer and commissioned artist and found this to be part of the general practice. Then after visiting the AntiSpec site and listening to their arguments I started to realize that I felt this way as well but also had one foot in the other system of crowdsourcing.
Many young creatives frequently participate in this crowdsourcing activity as I also did in my early art school days. At that time, there was a constant flow of competitions calling for new logos for government bodies and departments, banks, special events, publicity posters etc.- the usual fare. Usually the award was enough money to cover personal expenditure and cost of materials for a semester in school. It was always a chancy issue as I could win the money or lose the money.
This is where focus of the AntiSpec group's campaign seems to lie. For each design call more than one and sometimes hundreds or thousands of designers prepare and submit work. Even though its one design, if we add up each individuals time and effort that they put into doing the work, the hours and costs rack up. When I was doing this, those hours included researching the subject and the organization, brainstorming, conceptualizing and sketching ideas, rendering the design digitally or by hand, transporting the design to the submission offices and other details. This doesn't include the money involved in funding this venture such as your art supplies, printing and more. That was also time away from my studies and assignments. In total of all those perhaps 4-6 entries I took place in I was fortunate enough to win one. This however is
rarely the case for the majority of competitors.

By now you may be thinking that it was not forced and that I willingly participated. I calculated the risks and due to the cost of my chosen field and the extreme shortage of part-time jobs for college students in Jamaica, I decided to enter. After all there was the potential of getting returns on my hard work. I remember the point however when I decided never to enter another Spec competition. It was when I realized that the persons judging these competitions were not necessarily looking for the best design in an academic sense. Often there were no designers or like creatives on the judging panels. In finding that to be the case I concluded that it was essentially pointless to use my creative training to create these designs when that wasn't even a factor in assessing submissions. I then decided to focus on fine art as my outlet.

I had an option but what if you are deeply rooted in the industry as an independent pro designer or part of a team at a design firm and have to spend substantial amounts to submit designs for these competitions and you never get compensated? It may not have occurred to commissioners of designs don't really understand that they are asking for free work as the focus is on the fact that there is a winner and a cash prize, but what about the unsuccessful designers? Maybe this issue comes down to a simple fact of value. Companies could be approaching the issue as opportunity for the masses of designers but isn't that ultimately disrespectful of the design craft?... or like auditions are part of the actor's career, should it be accepted as just part of the trade? Maybe artists, designers, writers, performers are also allowing the value of their work and control they have to be eroded by doing Spec work.
And one last thought...if there is Spec work in 'Design' what about 'Art'. Are calls for proposals for sculptures, paintings etc. and artist competitions hosted by galleries also speculative?
What are your thoughts on this?
Oh by the way, The Huffington Post pulled that campaign.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Collage Aesthetic

In a timely way I got to see some images from GA Gardner's portfolio recently that use collage technique to make simple statements and ask certain questions. The collages range from the iconic-political statement to more painterly tributes to collage and black arts and culture. He works in various media such as paint, mixed media and also CGI. The resulting images however are all driven by this method of approaching imagery where he cuts into it and rearranges and pulls out meaning where we queried nothing before. The images 'Black-faced' (above), and 'Foster Mother and Child' (below), in particular speak to this side of his artistic approach. The painterliness that meets magazine page cut-outs can be seen in 'Earthly' and 'Icon' below. 

Limbo - CGI print

ART:Jamaica: You began your career using CGI to make large format images. The CGI images are very painterly and you also make paintings, so what led you from pigment and brush to the computer as an creative tool? 
GA Gardner: I came to the USA in 1988 with the plans of becoming a graphic designer. I didn't really understand all that that entailed but I already had a background in fine art and commercial art in Trinidad.  I also had training as a woodworker. I enrolled in college in the US and took a animation course and from then on I was hooked.  I thought it was fascinating even back then.  I later transferred to a University in San Francisco where I studied more fine art, film and animation, then got accepted to the Ohio State University where I received a Ph.D. in art education and focused on computer graphics and animation.  We were using SGI workstations that were donated to OSU by Industrial Light and Magic after being used to create the movie 'Jurassic Park'.  So very early on I got involved with creating high end 3D graphics and animation. This was not too much of a stretch from what I was already doing in the traditional fine art and commercial art world. In fact traditional fine art and woodwork prepared me for the field of CGI.  Creating texture for digital surfaces is much like painting and building the geometry in 3D is much like building wood structures.  Also I drew on my knowledge in film when it came to lighting CGI subjects.  And being a naturally animated person, well, understanding movement on the computer was not too much of a challenge.  In essence I took all my knowledge of traditional art and brought it to CGI.  Perhaps this is why my CGI images look so painterly. After graduation I began working on large format CGI in print format. I printed on various surfaces with master printers in NYC.  I preferred printing on watercolor paper at the time. 

ART:Jamaica: Does this difference in working method affect as well as enable your artistic process?
GA Gardner: Those of us who were born before the CGI era may find that it is better to sketch first before getting on the computer or to experiment with color using paint and brush before experimenting with digital colors. In essence the computer to me must mimic what I have in mind not vice versa.  I find that I always gravitated towards traditional fine arts methods to resolve issues in the CGI world.

ART:Jamaica: You also have quite a large body of collages that incorporate the act of painting and manual dexterity as well as editing. How have the collages allowed you to develop ideas that the CGI work didn't allow. Tell us about your process in making these collages.
GA Gardner: Doing CGI was a very long process for me.  I had to build the images and geometry of the figures, pose them, create texture, light them and spend all day at the printers working on getting them to look right color wise. It is rewarding but long. In that world I was more of a purist. I did not want any paint or traditional tools to meddle with the final print. It was purely an archival CGI print. It is somewhat of a sterile process.  I later begin working on collages and this to me was the opposite of the spectrum. It required me to get loose with the image to rip parts of a perfectly good photo or text, to incorporate hand written messages, and to most importantly paint on the surface.  I was breaking out of the box I was taught in school.  I was messing things up if only to focus on the message, as opposed to leaving things clean to the point where the technique often overrides the message. When I create a collage I am more free to do anything.  I may start with an underpainting or an abstract background. I then begin building on that surface from background to foreground. I love working on wood as it allows me even more freedom to add various elements to the surface such as nails or metal.  I don't alway go there but I like the idea that I can go there if if I wish. Ironically, I try to stay off the computer gathering my raw materials from magazines, posters, and printed material.  I try to cut them up, paying close attention to color, lighting directions, and scale. I cut across cultural, racial and ethnic lines, I am looking for what fits well together to tell my story.  Or in some cases what strongly opposes that creates tension. Selection is a big part of the process.


 ART:Jamaica: In the collages there can be seen influences of other contemporary artists such as Wangechi Mutu, Ellen Gallagher and also references to Romare Bearden. How do you see your work in relation to the work of these other artists? 
GA Gardner: Wow, I like them all. They are all doing great work. Each of them is using college to allow people to see the same thing differently.  We are all somewhat surreal in our approach to creating images. We are all so different yet still we incorporate similar elements. Romare Bearden made giant steps in validating collage as a fine art form and I am inspired by his success.   

ART:Jamaica: Having experience of working in painting, mixed-media and digital media how does the idea of a 'collage aesthetic' represent your ideas and content.
GA Gardner: Collage allows me to connect cross-cultural, cross ethnic forms and identities and blend them on the surface. It gives me freedom to transform and metamorphosis traditional visual perspectives in ways that create new and enriched interpretations of reality.

Foster Mother and Child
ART:Jamaica: Can you discuss some of the core stories and ideas behind your collage images: 'Black-faced' and 'Foster Mother & Child.'
GA Gardner: Opposing images often brings tension. It is the notion that one doesn't fit well with the other and looks out of place. In examining these image the two parts are equally strong thus the tension is greater. This is the same for "Black-faced" as it is with "Foster Mother & Child"  We have a figure that is full of history. It is somewhat disturbing for folks to see but if you don't see color then it is not complicated and there isn't any tension.  That is the problem and that is why it is gets in your head because we see color first and second you see an unconventional roll being played out.  "Foster Mother & Child" is more of a Madonna like figure with the moon behind her in an angelic position and she is nursing her foster child. In an ideal race free world there should be nothing questionable about that. 

GA Gardner is a Trinidadian artist and you can see more of his work and view his information here

What meaning do you find in these images?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Light Sensitive

Stefan and Camille

Marlon James's images are striking. 
The eyes, the faces, the stares won't quit. The images live with you as you think about what era the images are from, who the people are and how they relate to each other. There is something captured which is much more intense than found in everyday encounters or maybe it is that his timing and technique are superb.

Mark and Gisele

In 2010, James' images were shown at two major surveys of West Indian/ Caribbean Art. In fact the latter exhibition, Wrestling with the Image, is still open at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington D.C. His image of two young artists standing side by side staring out at the audience has become the poster image of the show. In a sense it is very representative of what we know of 'The Caribbean Spirit' with hints of defiance but with great insight into the personas. One thing that can be noticed is the contrast in the heritage of the two individuals in this solitary but intimate scene. However this is very basic to that Caribbean experience as skin color, gender, and other external classifications are often not important in the connections we form with others who share a vision or an understanding. In looking at the two, we think about what connection these two have to each other, what their creative work might be and how they view the world individually and as a collective unit.  

James shared some information about  his process and work in general:

'To answer your first question, my set up is either an arrangement of one to three lights, this is all dependent on the mood that I wish to convey in the photograph. When I first started this project I used only film. The camera that I was using was a Mamiya 645 Pro TL, a medium format film SLR.  I now use a Canon Mark II 5D.
For your second question, I have always been drawn towards the the human body. It is and will always be my primary subject. I feel there is so much to explore when photographing people. From the details of their skin, to the language of their bodies.

My work in the past 2-4years was focused on the anatomy of the body, both male and female. I mainly focused on the female as I felt that women were more open towards exploration than their male counterpart.

What's next? Well I am presently continuing my project on portrait of artists, for which my ultimate intention is to publish a coffee-table book of these photographs of Jamaica's art world.'   

What story do you think the images tell?

Visit James's site here

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The lure of International Art Centres (IACs)

Wanting to think about some drawings I have been doing I wanted to see where my work fit in with some of the artists whose work I really relate to. In that search I came across a Kenyan blog with a post on Wangechi Mutu. I really enjoy her work as it is really aesthetically pleasing and seems to meld Western aesthetics with images that reflect and challenge ideas about African imagery. The work is political but bathed in the glow of beauty so it makes me want to just look. While enjoying that act of looking, ideas, stories and questions seep in.

However the issue at hand was that the writer of this article was taking a Canadian art critic to task. The said critic, Murray Whyte was not in agreement of The Art Gallery of Ontario's expenditure to mount a major show for a non-Canadian artist. Of course the writer for 'Breaking News Kenya' found this ever so slightly offensive if not more. I bring this up as a post because Caribbean artists may or may not find that many grants and opportunities for exhibiting close to the International Art Centres (IACs)*, mostly found in 'developed' nations, are directed towards citizens. This can prove frustrating at times as the Caribbean artist goal is to exhibit work in these IACs.

On the one-hand viewpoints like Whyte's find validation in that the country's taxpayers support the institutions that curate culture. In a manner of speaking it can be understood as an agreement with taxpayers to pooling resources to ensure that for e.g. Canadian Art becomes globally recognised. ....But  that may only cover one side of the equation. A country's museums and galleries also bare the responsibility of putting on exhibitions that show new and global perspectives and expose that country's people to other world views and ideas. I add this because surely those creatives who can undertake dialogues about the world and 'ART' extends beyond artists within the borders of any one particular country. Surely the importance of an artists voice depends on more than their classification as a citizen of a particular nation.

What do you think about this? The link to the original article is below. Do you feel that location, citizenship etc. privileges an artists success within International Art Centres of the world? 

This being said as I consider whether relocating to an IAC such as London or New York or Paris or Tokyo etc. may be a better career move than living and working in our hometown. What do you think about this: Do you feel that the Art World is globalizing meaning an artist could live anywhere in the world and still gain exposure or is it that the main International Art Centres remain as edgy because they are attracting more international artists? What about citizenship-clause policies like Whyte's as discussed above?

Comment below to give your feedback and checkout the Breaking News Kenya article. See more about Wangechi Mutu's work on Youtube.

*The term 'IACs', abbreviated from International Art Centres was coined by myself and I am not necessarily aware of it as an official phrase or jargon in use within the field.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I think I should do in 2011

So its really late to say this, but Happy New Year to ART:Jamaica readers and followers, far and wide. Every year, I try to think about the things that I can do in the year. Last year, I wanted to work on doing some longer more insightful pieces and interviews as slowly I tried to build the catalogue of what this blog does. There are several things that I can and can't do based on my distance away from the Caribbean. However I think it gives me a chance to do things that are less dependent on location.

This year, I want to take the opportunity to do shorter pieces more often and on specific areas e.g. review of art pieces, the way exhibitions are created, the mechanics of being an artist etc. This year I am also looking to expand unto YouTube! I am really excited about that. So here is a call for persons with related events and exhibitions etc. happening this year to add them to the comments of this post or on the Facebook page.

So thats what I think I should be doing this year but feel free to suggest as well and we'll see what we can make work.


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