Popop Nurtures Up & Coming Artists
Four Junior Residents At Popopstudios ICVA Reflect On Their Summer
At Popop Studios Center for the Visual Arts, student artists are getting a chance to form their future artistic practice in a creative, experimental and educational atmosphere.
College of The Bahamas students Richardo Barrett, June Collie, Keva Fawkes and Alistair Stevenson were all selected by Popop Studios CVA as their second set of Junior Residents, receiving studio spaces within which to produce their work from June to August.
To Popop Education Officer and COB teacher Katrina Cartwright, the four demonstrated promising skills that helped them stand out as the nation’s artists-to-watch: the ability to work independently, think innovatively and take energetic and enterprising approaches to their practices.
“It’s not one of those situations where we look for people who will do things by the book and who are very academic — we’re definitely looking for individuals who have a very open-minded avant-garde approach to their medium, whatever their medium is, and those we can see who have the potential to go even further if they choose to,” says Cartwright.
The Junior Residencies, funded by The D’Aguilar Art Foundation, is something that Popop Studios CVA hopes to continue to offer to a group of promising young artists every summer. It’s also another small step they’ve taken toward becoming an educational center of sorts in the future.
“I think that’s a way to bring in more young talent because they get to be here, they get to work, they get to interact with other professional artists and see that there is a way to have a career as a professional artist,” says Cartwright.
Though they experimented and worked intensely on their pieces, the junior residents also gained invaluable experience working with well-practised Bahamian and international artists on the premises.
In July, they visited the renowned Schooner Bay settlement being developed in Abaco to take part in an outdoor installation piece with Antonius Roberts, John Beadle and John Cox. As the settlement is known for its sustainable values, the piece was fittingly made from found objects washed up on shore in order to bring awareness to clutter and recycling.
Afterward, they embarked on a 10-day intense learning experience in New York City, soaking up the sights of an international artistic hub.
The summer proved to be a valuable time for the four junior residents, who will use the lessons and experiences they gained far beyond the close of their studios next week.
Spending the summer between his two-year Art Associate’s degree at Popop Studios CVA provided Barrett with a great community of artists while he produced his work.
“One of the things I valued what the fact that there was a community of artists and a dialogue that happened amongst us being there,” he says. “It wasn’t only me in the my studio creating work; I also got to communicate with other artists.”
Barrett’s work — found object assemblages and reused cardboard — offers viewers fascinating insights into perspective and reclamations. It’s this method he got to put to good use in Schooner Bay.
“Starting off the residency at Popop with found objects, I didn’t really take into consideration that when we went to Abaco we would also be working with found objects,” he says. “So it kind of opened up my mind more about what I could actually do with found objects.”
New York City, too, provided another excellent community he could be a part of, even for a short while.
“The environment there was so engulfed with art,” he says. “Even on the streets there you see art, and the people are just so vibrant. It was great to experience that.”
A semester away from earning her Associate’s in Art, June Collie is grateful for the time to focus on her ceramics and painting while dipping her toes into making art films.
“I just wanted to experiment, that’s what I wanted my time to be here — experimenting without the limitations of school,” she says.
“My experience here was amazing,” she continues. “When I walk away from this program I’m definitely walking away with a lot. I look at how much I’m grown with my work and that’s very important to me.”
The work she’s produced over the summer is luscious in subject matter — scalloped female torsos in ceramic decorated with leaves and paintings of the voluptuous female figure in unapologetic lines and flat colors are evident of an artist with a bold eye and playful spirit.
For Collie, the experience itself of being at Popop Studios CVA, surrounded by other local and international artists, holding conversations with them, truly helped her expand her perspective — and trips to Schooner Bay and New York City helped her realize that.
“I learned a lot just listening while we were all working,” she says. “How they approach things and how they look at design — I was just floored, because I didn’t see things how they did. Sometimes you just have to open up.”
“The one thing I can appreciate about New York is that they’re open to everything,” she continues. “You could have any type of art — you could put a toilet in the middle of the road and they don’t judge it. First they’ll listen to why you did it and then talk about it. There’s freedom there.”
Finishing up her Art Education Degree, Fawkes knew about Popop Studios CVA long before she became a resident — she spent a significant amount of time there already since many of her friends at College of the Bahamas were residents the previous year. But nothing prepared her for her own experience.
“To say that it’s been amazing is an understatement because there are just so many opportunities you get to experience — you meet a lot of local and international artists and just the fact that you get to be in a space with artists means you’re able to just grow at Popop,” she says.
Visiting Schooner Bay had a significant impact on Fawkes, who spent the earlier part of her residency producing large volumes of different types of work.
“Usually I’m interested in ceramics or building, so when I went to Schooner Bay I came back with a different outlook on making art,” she says. “Art doesn’t necessarily have to be a situation where you purchase something to make something else — it made me more interested in found object art and just creating things from already existing objects.”
On a similar note, she became trusted with recreating the back entrance at Popop itself into a more engaging space. At the moment, it’s cluttered with discarded materials or work on pause from the artists on the premises, yet Fawkes’ revisualization is a clean, exciting and fresh space from the mind of a detail-oriented and visionary artist.
“I would like it to be a space where you can still do work but its also an entertaining space,” she says. “A lot of the people who come to Popop usually end up coming to the back space, so I think it should be a lot more inviting.”
An art education major just one and a half years shy of his degree, Stevenson felt that working in a space with other more mature and practiced artists really helped him learn about his own craft and practice.
“Just having that constant environment, living and working in that environment, has been one of great education — being able to learn from each other and understand things that we’re being taught, it helps to teach you as an artist how to grow and how to develop,” he says.
It wasn’t until his trip to New York City, however, that he gained that push and inspiration necessary to help him form a consistent artistic practice.
“It was my first time in New York and being able to visit these museums and experience the work there in person — you see this work in art history books, in lectures, on the internet, and when you look they’re right in your face,” he says. “I got that confidence to produce work more geared towards what I actually want to do.”
The clay pieces he’s been producing explore combinations of “nature and refined living”, juxtaposing tree trunks with streetlamps and other architectural objects, all with a sense of decay or decomposition — evident of a young artist able to pierce the veil of reality.
“Now my challenge is to just produce the work on a consistent basis that follows a particular theme and being more self-critical in understanding how I’m producing the work and why,” he says.
“I would hope to see us working more consistently as artists, independent, outside of COB, working within the art community more.”
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture Section