New NAGB Exhibitions Raise Issues Of Gender, Security
Issues surrounding fear and security and gender are explored in three new exhibitions at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB).
Two of the exhibitions – “The John Beadle Project” and “Master Artists of The Bahamas” – are set to open next week, and the third, “SINGLESEX”, opened last month.
“The John Beadle Project” features a series of new works by Bahamian artist John Beadle, who is known as an accomplished painter but in recent years has broadened his range to include sculpture and large-scale installation.
“As an artist who is finely attuned to the issues of our society, he is known for works that quietly yet deeply observe and raise unsettling questions about our human condition and how we see and treat each other,” says NAGB director Amanda Coulson.
“Born to a Bahamian mother and Jamaican father, Beadle has himself felt the sting of xenophobia and many of his pieces judiciously critique our relationship to our own émigré community and delves into issues – personal, psychological and societal – that are a result of both migration and immigration.
“Immigration is an act of the outside coming in, though this ‘outside’ is usually somewhere distant, somewhere perhaps unfamiliar or scary.”
Coulson notes however that in his new body of work, Beadle turns his gaze closer to home, further inward, and addresses issues of fear and
security within our homeland, treating the “outside” as that perceived through the car or house window.
A myriad of figures – not dissimilar to those that appear on the paper shooting targets – are arranged in the Grand Ballroom of Villa Doyle, each one wrought out of some kind of screen or security measure.
These ominous human silhouettes are constructed from colonial-style metal curlicue gates, mosquito netting, or chain link. The result is unsettling: are the figures looming outside of our window or are they, in another scenario, our own reflection…the person hiding behind the bars?
“The installation raises the issue of gating in our communities: What message does this send to our neighbors? What does it do to our own psyches, to lock ourselves behind bars every night in order to sleep?
“Some of the silhouetted figures appear in the patterns of metal grating but are, in fact, made out of cardboard – a much flimsier material – which suggests that we lull ourselves into this false sense of security, that perhaps these gates are only figments that give us psychological peace, but not the real issue,” says Coulson.
“This, in turn, asks us to consider the other mental barriers: those we construct between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – do these lead to a more human understanding of one another, to a society where we could, in fact, live without bars or do they, rather, escalate the problems we currently face?”
‘Master Artists of The Bahamas’
On its final leg, the traveling exhibition “Master Artists of The Bahamas” – which has been shown at the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa and the Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee, Florida – comes home to The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
Instigated by the Waterloo Center for the Arts (WCA) and filmmaker Karen Arthur – whose many films include “Brent Malone: Father of Bahamian Art” and “Amos Ferguson: Match Me if You Can”, among others – this project was initially conceived to raise the profile of Bahamian art in the United States and bring the work of Bahamian artists to new audiences.
Filmmaker Arthur, with her partner Thomas Neuwirth, had finished the Island Films production “Artists of The Bahamas” and this inspired the Iowan curators – Cammie Scully and Kent Shankle – to stage the show, focusing on the artists featured in the film.
Alongside the WCA’s own stunning collection of over 65 Amos Fergusons, the beginning of their fascination with Bahamian art, they gathered work by the other artists – John Beadle, Jackson Burnside, Stan Burnside, John Cox, Kendal Hanna, Brent Malone, Eddie Minnis, Antonius Roberts, Dave Smith and Max Taylor – to form a stellar show, which has been re-curated here in Nassau to include some entirely new works.
“Tailored for the local audience, while still appealing to international visitors, the show is re-installed in such a way as to extrapolate new meanings and connections between the works and is an outstanding testament to our Bahamian art and culture,” says Coulson.
On view, among other works, will be the last ever paintings of the beloved Jackson Burnside, as well as new works from his brother Stan Burnside’s most recent show, which opened on Valentine’s Day, (Jackson’s birthday), works that grapple with issues of love and loss.
During the run of show, all of Island Films’ library will be screened, free of charge, including the latest in the series “Jackson Burnside III: Native Son” on Saturday, April 27 at 6 p.m. in the presence of the film’s director.
As a response to this show and the original film “Artists of The Bahamas” – which at its opening caused some controversy for its lack of female participants – the NAGB has also installed a powerful show in the ground floor galleries entitled “SINGLESEX” in an effort to reclaim art history, including women into the discourse.
At the NAGB’s inaugural show – the INE in 2003 – female artists represented only 24 percent of the roster; at the recent NE6 the ratio was strict 50/50. Now the NAGB presents a show that is 100 percent women, a show that holds its own with work by Chantal Bethel, Dionne Benjamin-Smith, Dede Brown, Jessica Colebrook, June Collie, Christina Darville, Erica Moiah James, Sue Katz, Shan Kelly, Sabrina Lightbourn, Candis Marshall, Jessica Miller, Nadine Munroe, Holly Parotti, Barbara Pearless, Leanne Russell, Tamara Russell, Nora Smith, Giovanni Swaby and Elyse Wasile.
“The cultural expectations of femininity are being deconstructed and in many works, reconstructed,” says Coulson. “‘SINGLESEX’ broaches the questions: how do females project female identity in their work and how does one define a feminine artwork rather than a masculine artwork? Has there been a transformation in the visibility and practice of female artists in our nation? What does this mean for the landscape of Bahamian art? Even further, what do these numbers mean for the growing and strengthening community of female Bahamian artists?”
Seen as pendants to one another, the two shows “Master Artists of The Bahamas” and “SINGLESEX” show the vast range of contemporary practice in our country by a myriad of talents in a stunning variety of media and materials.
• ‘The John Beadle Project’ and ‘Master Artists of The Bahamas’ open on Thursday, April 25, 7-9 p.m. at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, West Hill Street. For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013