PTAP’s Bahama Mama Exhibition
An old woman’s face weathered by time gazes into the distance; a pregnant woman’s glowing moment is captured in equally vivid colors; ceramics evoking our very bone and blood touches upon the dual forces of beauty and grotesque; language is generated into instant poetry or delivered as fast as bullets, as intently as a sermon, as sweetly as music.
All are funnelled into one gallery, and all have something to say about the complex theme of “Bahama Mama”, chosen by the Public Treasury Art Program for their inaugural exhibition shortly after moving into their new building on East Street at the beginning of this year.
“Instead of investing in artwork they decided to establish a program which would allow for rotating exhibitions in the space,” explains Keisha Oliver, the exhibition coordinator and also a participating artist.
They could not have chosen a better theme—or a better way to address it. That’s because the participating artists—17 visual artists and 5 writers—are all female Bahamian artists.
“We wanted to start off with a celebratory theme that focused on a specific aspect of Bahamian culture,” says Oliver. “We thought looking at female artists would be something very unique and timely.”
If that sounds like we’ve been here before, it’s because earlier this year, The D’Aguilar Art Foundation launched the exhibition “The F-Factor: Female Artists of The Bahamas“, curated by Holly Parotti, which is still ongoing.
While “The F-Factor” more examines the historical contribution female artists have made to the Bahamian art scene, “Bahama Mama” shifts the focus to the present and provides a space for female artists—especially contemporary ones—to examine complex notions of femininity.
Nevertheless, the fact that The Bahamas has been the site of two major and equally excellent and thought-provoking exhibitions celebrating the female presence, perspective and history in its art world is both encouraging and exciting. It acknowledges the contribution female artists have made to the cultural consciousness and holds the promise of more to come.
“I think it is important just to have the female perspective, if only because our concept was to have an exhibition for Bahamian women by Bahamian women,” says Oliver.
“I think most of the art that was submitted maintains a common thread of the Bahamian woman and motherhood,” she continues. “We do also have artists who have touched on different aspects of femininity and Bahamian culture and struggle so there are a few that have gone out of the expected or traditional concepts.”
It’s even more encouraging that the exhibition by the Public Treasury Art Program—like the exhibition at The D’Aguilar Art Foundation—strove to include artists practicing in different mediums, even writing, to give viewers an idea of modern Bahamian art by female artists.
“The Public Treasury Art Program is about exposing art and culture in its entirety—so not just looking at visual arts but looking at other forms too,” says Oliver.
“I think diversity is very important and its very evident in modern art that you have so many different things going on, so many different interpretations of one starting point,” she continues. “It’s so nice to be able to see that here, whether it’s in photography, whether it’s in tapestry, whether it’s in painting or poetry.”
In that same vein, the Public Treasury Art Program also aims to include artists living in the family islands and living or studying beyond our shores—including Anina Banks, Lillian Blades, Leanne Russell and Mardia and Ashely Powell. It all ties into their all-inclusive aim as an artistic venue in the country to educate Bahamians about modern art.
“Modern day art includes all things. Promoting artists that live abroad is just as important as promoting artists in Nassau because we’re all part of this archipelago,” says Oliver.
“Even now with the artwork being put up in the office space, you can see the people engaging more with the artwork and that’s what it’s about—starting conversations, starting interests,” she continues.
“I think for the general public what we hope is that we can encourage Bahamian people to gain a degree of appreciation for modern art by giving them a hint of what’s out there with such a diverse range of artists.”
“Bahama Mama” opens this Monday September 26th, 2011 and is on display at the Public Treasury building on East Street until February 2012. They plan to hold a call for submissions for another themed exhibition early next year in what will be an annual or biannual schedule for the new venue.
“We’d like the general public to attend, students who are studying art in school or in college,” says Oliver. “We also want parents to encourage their children to come out and see what are and culture is like in modern day Bahamas.”
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture Section