Transforming Spaces 2013: Spotlight On The Spaces

By in News on March 15, 2013


Galleries and artists are gearing up for Nassau’s most exciting event in visual art—the Transforming Spaces art tour. On the 16th and 17th of March, beginning at 9:30 a.m. sharp from Dockendale House, patrons can take an air-conditioned bussed art tour around Nassau’s participating galleries: The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, The Antonius Roberts Studio and Gallery at Hillside House, The D’Aguilar Art Foundation, the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Center at the College of The Bahamas, Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts, Doongalik Studios, Stingrae Studio, and the Liquid Courage Art Gallery.

Liquid Courage

Newcomer to the Transforming Spaces art tour this year is the Liquid Courage Art Gallery, a one-room gallery space located on the floor above the Liquid Courage liquor distributor in Palmdale. “We are so excited at the gallery to be involved in the tour this year,” says curator of the Liquid Courage Art Gallery, Tessa Whitehead. “The art community here has been so inviting, and I think that’s why Transforming Spaces is so great, because they are so excited to share what they do. People should take advantage of that and take this tour.”

Following in the wake of their inaugural exhibition that explored the relationship between Bahamian artwork and art beyond our borders, the exhibition for Transforming Spaces, “Stories” will pair the work of Guyanese artist Dennis De Caires with Bahamian artist Maxwell Taylor. Though the artists will present pieces in different mediums—collographs for De Caires and woodcuts for Taylor—both deal with the timeframe of important events. While De Caires’ process is informed by his everyday circumstances over long periods of time, Taylor’s work helps to illustrate the Burma Road riots of 1942.

Max Taylor installing at Liquid Courage Gallery

“Having their pieces side-by-side can highlight the differences in their printmaking processes, and viewers can get a better understanding of their individual procedures,” says Whitehead. “They are both born in the Caribbean and both moved overseas, and while they deal with familiar subject matter to those in the Caribbean, they don’t work in a familiar way, having been influenced by other environments, and people will find that interesting to examine.”

The D’Aguilar Art Foundation

Representations of the nude human figure span time and medium in the art world, but are not without controversy. For every painter who uses the human figure as his muse to create a compelling piece of art –some deeply embedded in art history—there are protests to censor stark nudity. Yet what happens when we confront our preconceived notions about nudity and instead find the beauty artists see and translate onto canvas? In “Disrobed” the D’Aguilar Art Foundation presents to the Transforming Spaces art tour an exhibition exploring the beauty of the unclothed form through a diverse collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures by both Bahamian and international artists.

Art by Steffon Grant – Homosensual IV, Alone, 2010

“The great thing about having this kind of exhibition especially in The Bahamas is that it desexualizes the nude figure and challenges our perceptions or preconceived notions about nudity,” says curator of the exhibition Alistair Stevenson. “In the end, it’s about helping us understand the comfort of nudity and the familiarity of human bodies.” Indeed, rather than present the nude body as a sexual object to fulfill a kind of voyeuristic hunger, the exhibition will instead offer a thoughtful space within which to consider the beauty of the human form, completely at ease in a state of undress. The show will also feature quotes from renowned artists and scholars on the topic of nudity in art, intended to serve as sources of discussion and reflection.

“Because this exhibition will likely help us to face the nude figure,” says Stevenson, “having it as part of the Transforming Spaces Art Tour will hopefully start conversations about the beauty of the nude figure in art in a thought-provoking environment.”

Stingrae Studio

Making an exciting return to this year’s Transforming Spaces tour is Stingrae Studio, offering a refreshing space where realistic paintings and sculpture by several Bahamian artists will be on display and for sale. “This is the only space producing realistic work and people always enjoy coming here,” says founder of Stingrae Studio the artist Malcolm. “We weren’t sure what to do last year with the theme, so we pulled out, but I’m glad to be back, especially these days where realistic art can hardly get a venue.”

Located in Monastery Park, the beautiful gardens and patios of Stingrae Studio will be transformed into six distinct artists’ areas, each showing realistic works of art that easily meet everyday living. The artist Malcolm will show a variety of paintings, prints and even keychains on the theme “See the Sea”; Erlin Carey will exhibit acrylic paintings with the theme “Junknaoo Headdress”; Toby Lunn will showcase small paintings on the theme “Floral”; Quentin Minnis will have on display his acrylic paintings; Craig Roberts will show a collection of his native woodwork items such as bowls, utensils and tables; and Anna Wassitch will display as collection of her photography for the first time. “We’re proud to be realistic artists,” says the artist Malcolm about the group.

“In a beautiful country such as this one, there is so much to see and paint. As an artist, you get to see what is really going on in the world, how things are changing and how we are losing our land, so what we do is important, helping others see the beauty of the place in which they live.”

Popopstudios International Center For The Visual Arts

Being a collective of artist studios, exhibitions and workshops, it is no surprise that Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts often inspires collaborations. None however are more fascinating and serendipitous than the creative exchange between Popop resident and Bahamian abstract expressionist Kendal Hanna and Eleanor Whitely, whose pieces in “Two Points of View” in the Popop gallery will pay homage to their longstanding creative commitment. The pair met at a drawing class at Popopstudios three years ago. Once the class finished, Eleanor proposed that she and Kendal keep going on their own, and for every week since, the two have sketched and painted live models together at Popopstudios. During the Transforming Spaces Art Tour, viewers will be able to examine their different artistic approaches and styles as they’re displayed side-by-side in the gallery, says curator Jay Koment.

“Eleanor’s work is much more deliberate while Kendal’s work has a feeling of spontaneity,” he says. “Their approaches are certainly different even though they draw the same figure. Eleanor felt she was influenced a bit by Kendal, so her work became a bit abstracted over time.”

“This is a big aspect of Kendal’s work that we’ve never seen before because he hardly drew figures,” he adds. “He did a lot of self portraits, but not much figure drawing.” The true beauty of the exhibition, however, lies not in aesthetic but in the very collaborative heart of the show. The exhibition does not mark a closing for the pair who will continue to enjoy a creative exchange every week. “This show is a tribute to time, that slow growing and changing process that comes about when two people work together,” says Koment. “It’s more than just the art on the wall—it’s also about this friendship that was created, this long-term constant that means a lot to them. So this goes beyond the show—they will keep meeting and creating together.”

Antonius Roberts Studio And Gallery At Hillside House

Artists often support fundraising events around town by donating their work, but when it comes to supporting creative endeavors from their own community, where can they turn? The Antonius Roberts Studio and Gallery at Hillside House in collaboration with Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts will present an opportunity to give back to those among us who give so much to build and sustain our very culture with the event “Ripple”.

“It’s called ‘Ripple’ because for as long as I can remember, we as artists have supported the community by donating works and our time, and we’d now like to help those who we supported understand that we need to be supported too in order to keep creating and donating,” says curator of the event, Antonius Roberts.” So it’s about building relationships and sustaining that support, creating that ripple effect.”

The first in what they hope will become an annual event, “Ripple” brings together more than 50 donated works by local artists to be part of a non-traditional auction on the evening of March 15that Hillside House. Proceeds will directly benefit the educational and collaborative efforts of Hillside House and Popopstudios ICVA, including the Popop Junior Residency Prize.

This artist-led initiative will create a sustainable and internalized mechanism to help fund the vibrant community of Bahamian artists, says Roberts. For that reason they are thrilled that this milestone is part of Transforming Spaces—patrons on the buses will get to see the donated pieces during the weekend after the night of official event.

“More than an exhibition, Transforming Spaces is an event,” says Roberts. “The whole concept developed as a result of a community coming together to form a sustainable event to create opportunities for artists and also to develop a relationship with the public, educating them on what artists and art spaces are doing in The Bahamas.”

“’Ripple’ is another milestone event,” he adds. “Transforming Spaces is one thing, but we are also interested in transforming lives through art.”

Claudette Dean- The Offering. Part of Ripple at the Hillside House

The National Art Gallery Of The Bahamas

Building upon last year’s Transforming Spaces theme of “Fibre” that challenged artists to create art pieces using indigenous materials, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas will present “Fibre 2” in their Project Space for Transforming Spaces 2013, where select artists will exhibit further considerations of their initial concept seen last year.

“What we want to do is have these artists take their projects from last year and evolve it somehow,” says curator of the NAGB John Cox. “We want to expand on initial ideas seen last year and through its evolution question its potential. I want people to come in and consider the suggestions of these materials and their forms.”

Meanwhile, in the Permanent Exhibition space of the NAGB, those on the tour will be able to view “SingleSex”, portraits of women by over 20 female artists of The Bahamas. Examining feminine identity and representation, the exhibition alternates between nostalgic feminine ideals and realities that challenge these to portray the complex range of what it means to be a woman.

As the Permanent Exhibition Space exists to contextualize Temporary Exhibitions, SingleSex prepares viewers for the April exhibition “Master Artists of The Bahamas”. A successful traveling exhibition based on the documentary film by Karen Arthur and Thomas Neuwirth, it nonetheless raised concerns at home about an all-male focus in Bahamian art history.

“Lots of people criticized that exhibition for no major consideration given to female artists,” explains Cox. “There’s been a huge spike in female visual representation in the country and we should think about what they are saying and doing now in the country.”

Rather than be the jumping-off point for the Transforming Spaces Art Tour like in years past, the NAGB is excited to showcase the new gallery layout—including the new Project Space and Permanent Exhibition Space—to patrons as a formal tour stop and educate them about how they can get involved.

“I want to make a big deal out of our diversity and opportunity for artists to exhibit work here,” says Cox. “I want artists to realize that the NAGB is really working on giving visibility to people on an ongoing basis and changing the anatomy of the gallery helps us do that. I think there are options and people can become part of the conversation.”

The Pro Gallery At The College Of The Bahamas

What happens when art and science collide? This year at the Pro Gallery—the art gallery of the College of The Bahamas—students present experimental interpretations on the theme “Kinetic”.

Chosen by a student during an anonymous voting process, “Kinetic” has offered them opportunities to create pieces that bridge the gap between painting, sculpture and ceramic and that encourage audience participation. Whether working alone or in groups as part of their school curriculum, says faculty advisor Katrina Cartwright, the pieces definitely show that our emerging artists are not afraid to push the boundaries of art.

“Many of them have come up with pieces that will stop and make you think,” she says. “After the work presented by students last year on the tour, these students were encouraged to produce equally challenging work. They prepared really adventurous pieces that use sound and movement and audience interaction to challenge visual-only kind of artwork.”

Even though Transforming Spaces has been a platform for established contemporary artists in The Bahamas, it also exposes the work of emerging student artists studying at the College of The Bahamas.

Last year under the theme of “Fibre” the student work took center-stage as breathtaking pieces showed the fearlessness and ambition of the next generation of Bahamian artists. Their standard of work catapulted several of them into major opportunities in the art world, such as exhibiting in the Sixth National Exhibition at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas or earning the Junior Residency Prize at Popopstudios ICVA. Each year, as the students keep raising the bar, patrons are reminded of why it is so important to include the student gallery as part of a wider tour of professional artwork.

“I think Transforming Spaces has challenged them and made them more cognizant about the process of their craft,” says Cartwright. “It also helps them get out of their COB vacuum which is important—having their work seen and critiqued by someone other than their teachers and peers.”

Doongalik Studios Art Gallery

Two major senses will be stimulated at the Doongalik Studios Art Gallery in “Sue An Ty: A Symphony of Sound and Sight”. Combining the work of three prominent Bahamian artists—Sue Bennett-Williams, Andret John and Tyrone Ferguson—the exhibition will take over both inside and outside of the gallery space. Outside, bells by Sue Bennett Williams and Tyrone Ferguson will chime in the trees. Bennett-Williams fashioned her 40 functional bells out of ceramic—which will be on sale—pushing clay into new territory to examine the surprising strength in an often-fragile medium.

Sue Bennett Williams’s ceramic bells which will be on display at Doongalik Studios for “Sue An Ty”

Meanwhile, keeping with his eco-conscious practice, Ferguson was inspired to make bells out of discarded forms from the tank graveyard in Freeport, breathing new life into waste material. “It’s a worthy cause to use waste material if it is useful, because instead of taking up space in a landfill, it is transformed into a beautiful object that is great to look at and also functional,” says curator Pam Burnside. “Plus sound adds a whole different dimension to artwork. I love the work that is going to be on display and I can’t wait to hear how the sound surrounds us.”

Inside of the gallery, Andret John will hang his Junknaoo-inspired work cobbled together from discarded parade pieces. Not only will viewers see Junkanoo in a new artistic light—moving the pieces from the street and into the gallery space—but coupled with the bells chiming outside, they can also expect a serene and somewhat deconstructed Junkanoo experience of sorts. Such an exhibition touches on the core mission of the tour to provide insight into the way contemporary Bahamian artists are reshaping and reimagining our culture, says Burnside. A decade of Transforming Spaces tours has brought cultural and creative tourism to the forefront of the Bahamian consciousness and is set to take the global spotlight.

We are very excited to host another year of the tour here on the property and look forward, as always, to presenting the best in Bahamian art,” says Burnside. “We are also happy to note how the tour itself is transforming to include a wider international audience and look forward to even greater growth in the years ahead.”

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By Sonia Farmer

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