Jace McKinney ‘Redefining The Landscape’

By in News on October 6, 2012

Artists gathered at the Central Bank this past Wednesday evening, eager to hear the winner of the 2012 Annual Art Competition in the Open Category under the theme “Redefining the Landscape”.

With a $7,000 cash prize and the chance to hold a solo show in the Central Bank Art Gallery, the stakes were certainly high yet the judges Amanda Coulson, Pam Burnside and Lawrence Bascom unanimously awarded the honor to Jace McKinney, whose piece “Where is He going? Where has He been?” effectively addressed a wide range of social, geographical, cultural and historical issues regarding the shifting Bahamian landscape.

“Jace has melded traditional motifs and themes and techniques in a very contemporary and modern way in his piece,” said judge of the competition and director of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Amanda Coulson.

“We picked him as the winner because it was one that spun off in many different directions, and it made us think about many things at once issues of history, issues of identity, and issues of the actual landscape itself and the human landscape,” she continued. “The more we looked at it, the more we saw.”

Indeed McKinney’s life-sized sculpture burdened with rusty or decorated tools seems to be almost a shrine to an otherworldly God no wonder, because it addresses the myth of the Bahamian man in the landscape.

For McKinney, the ‘Caribbean man’, this jack-of-all trades who helped to build our societies physically and also through community and spiritual initiatives is as mythical in this modern age as the stereotypical archetypes of Caribbean men depicted under the tourist gaze. The piece offers a poignant yet sobering insight into a time where our local physical landscape has shifted dramatically through deals with other nations.

“As I related it to my generation, I started to realize the Caribbean man was a myth and that he was lost in the landscape, and that struck a cord with me the man who can build a house, build up a society, how he defines and landscape that was something I don’t see in my generation,” explains McKinney.

“So I decided to address him as a myth and address his body as a landscape his legs are sand like a beach, and he is under the weight of all of these tools he uses to define his landscape,” he continues. “But they are all rusted. He is so far removed. He is from an old world, and I’m not sure if he ever really existed there either.”

The piece ties into the recent philosophical and spiritual explorations undertaken by McKinney and gives insight into what he may offer viewers in a year’s time at his solo exhibition.

“One thing I’ve been interested in studying for years is Joseph Campbell’s theory of The Hero’s Journey, and how it applies to each and every one of us as people,” he says.

“I have never won anything before. It’s refreshing and I am so humbled of course,” adds McKinney about his win. “It’s a great feeling.”

McKinney’s piece was just one of many phenomenal pieces of artwork vying for the winning title that are still on display at the Central Bank. The judges admitted it was an extremely difficult decision to choose just one winner this year as the work was so strong.

Indeed, the work offered dynamic interpretations of the theme in a range of media, making for an impressive exhibition the best the competition has seen yet since being separated from the High School Category four years ago, says Curator of the Central Bank Art Gallery Heino Schmid.

“I was really excited to see the ambition and the depth in a lot of the work,” says Schmid. “I really thought people didn’t let the thematic umbrella be a burden the way they did in previous competitions. That’s refreshing because it was never meant to be a burden, more like an invitation for expression.”

“I think there is a lot of work here too where some of the artists don’t care about winning but are really happy with their efforts, which is great because I think that is how you sustain a practice and I think my role here is to help and build a community, and it inspires me in turn,” he continues.

“When other people do good work, it makes you want to do good work, so that kind of push and elevation is a mutual experience and this is an opportunity to take a big step. This exhibition makes me happy for the future.”

The exhibition will be on display through to the end of the month at the Central Bank of The Bahamas during their work hours.

Sonia Farmer
Arts & Culture
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012

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