Thanks to the support of Diaspora Vibe Arts Incubator (DVCAI) and Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the International Cultural Exchange (ICE) was hosted in Jamaica, in March 2012, featuring 20 visiting artists from North and South America.
Coming from different backgrounds and working with various media, the artists shared their experiences and techniques with students of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, in Kingston, Jamaica, exploring the concept of ‘cultural Diaspora’.
“This arts and cultural exchange demonstrates that artistic expression transcends borders. Being Jamaican-born and raised, I am proud to curate this nationally recognised programme and return to the land of my birth. We are looking forward to the homecoming and providing a platform for the artists to interact and showcase their work,” said DVCAI founder, curator and director Rosie Gordon-Wallace.
The participating artists commented on their experiences during the program:
This series is from a book, I published in regards to my daughter’s birth in 2004. I have been exploring the subject matter for the last few years, through mixed media, drawing and sculpture. This work is based on an imaginary child trying to find her place in a new world. The book explores her relationship with her absent father and mother. A teddy bear serves as witness. As she is exploring her world, I find myself moving and expanding the work. I usually move on to different subject matter, but I have just been expanding the work for the past four, five years.
My piece is about Cuba, I live in Miami and it’s hard not to get involved. I like percussion (music) and that was my first taste and then I learned a little more (about Cuban culture). I use yarn a nontraditional form of expression in Art. I am influenced by other artists who use it in their work. This piece is called 90 Miles, its 90 miles from the Keys to Cuba. The work is ninety yards of yarn that if unraveled would reach the miles to Cuba. I have 20 yards so far, I have travelled with the work. It’s performative as whatever space it’s shown the work changes but still can be related. The money for the yarn is from Cubans, first generation and those of Cuban heritage. Their names will be listed as they are a part of the process.
I work with botanicals, flowers of the Caribbean. I lived in the Philippines where I got a first taste of the tropics, the lush foliage. It gets taken for granted. In Miami, people like the plants just get taken for granted. People become a part of the scenery, and some people get left behind and taken for granted. This fascinates me, and I am very detail oriented, my work is like photo realism, very meticulous. Each flower, leaf, person has something unique and I like to bring out that detail. There are imperfections that make each one unique. As plants turn brown and orange and then start to curl, they are just beautiful, showing the magnificence of their lives, so much wisdom and history. Like people plants start green, they are cute, then blossom, then age. But as they age they become really beautiful, through the days, weeks, years. We all have a different maturity process.
I am interested in icons, popular consumerism and how people identify themselves with the positives and the negatives. That’s what I like to explore in my work. The stories told through these pieces are my person narrative. The food items from breakfast, which I remember are from my migration from Jamaica, England and the US. On these representations of popular consumer goods, I have imposed family photographs mixing my personal iconography with the consumerism iconography.
My series came about through my interest in the Afgani Burka, because you hear so many bad things and I wanted to explore and see if there was more. I wanted to see if I could make something beautiful out of something that is usually seen as a negative. The ideas I discovered where about all of our own self-imposed isolation, we all hide behind something. The burka offers protection and anonymity, there is a freeing aspect. So there are some positives or at least another dimension. The works are performative, a dancer moved inside the burkas and I was so memorized by the shapes, I forgot to start taking pictures. It was beautiful watching the movements. The shapes made by the burka are abstract and you really don’t always know if there is a person under there. I found the burkas to be super powerful and feminine. Their gaze of the women is protected and the person outside is at a disadvantage, there is power in the anonymity.
"Violations" come from the idea of intruding on another artist’s work. There are these gilded house flies that intervene and invade a woman’s space. I appropriate photographs and create a narrative. The stories are based on different concepts; political, social, economic, queer theory and humor. They are free associations and I let the photograph take me somewhere transgentally, like a stream of consciousness. I find making the message very entertaining, putting messages out there that the curious can find the meaning to, if they are willing to do the work... I approach my work with a meticulous eye for skill and craft.
"Resurrect" references resurrecting life after death. I am commenting on life’s connection with death. The fish represents fertility. The bones represent the fish and are phallic. So they equal birth and progeny or death, HIV. The imagery plays on both. Trapped shows how we can be entrapped be it mental, physical or emotional. People only feel trapped after their first taste of freedom. The one free wing is that taste of freedom, so instead of feeling protected in the rock it looks trapped. My work comes from life issues, life you have to deal with it.
In the Year of the Horse, movement, migration are the themes; so in this series I explore the immigration of Chinese women to Jamaica. At first I did not find a great deal about these women. But then I found a record, a description of Chinese woman from a British official in Port of Spain. They were widows and he was fascinated by their feet, he thought they had been amputated. But when I looked at the record, I realized that their feet must have been bound. I started thinking about how the feet made the women caged. We are all bound in some way, a kind of mind bind, psychologically, spiritually intellectually and it can happen anytime, anywhere.
I am very meticulous; I formulate, and execute plans… I tend to make work that is separate from me, work about human condition. This piece is interactive and the candy thing is about giving something back or giving something in exchange in general. I think it’s easier to make a connection to art when you have something, a commodity in hand. Hopeton Denham Morris came to me when my friend talked about wanting to find out more about her father who is from Kingston. The scan codes on the print and web site address on the cards will allow the viewer here in Jamaica assist or follow her search. As she posts information related to her father the view can leave information.
Aisha Tandiwe Bell
Chameleon comes from how we all put on camouflage to fit in in different situations. Each silhouette is a different pattern and is inspired by performance, code switching. The possession, where in that moment we change and how we present ourselves. At any given moment we are possessed by different circumstances. Like chameleons we code switch for survival. The patterns are like the clothes that paper dolls wear, the chameleon changes colors and moves throughout multiple consciousness. In breaking through two to three dimensions the viewer is asked to look through the stagnation of two dimensions to the revelation of three.
I love stories and storytelling; also I love creepiness and a little weirdness. Illustrations are open to interpretation and you are meant to interpret the work in some way. Silk screen, the technicality of silk screen, I love the way my own drawings are illustrated through silk screen. And I can explore my own heritage through silk screen.
This work is sculpture, but generally my work is multidisciplinary. This piece is duct tape, newspaper, carpet. The works from when I saw my first armadillo and I loved them and wanted one. But I found that they carry leprosy. I liked the idea that in mass they look ominous and so I worked with the idea of them migrating and taking over. The name of the work is Himlich which means of the home or hidden within the home.
My work hinges on the one thing that held my interest over many years; my ability to capture evidence with cameras. As an African American kid what disturbed me was the lack of information presented about my people. It seemed that my people or family history could only be talked about for two generations but others went back for centuries. Going to a Freedom school changed that for me, they taught our history, of our people before colonialism, of the south and of rebellions. My people did have a history and that left an impression on me. Unearthing our history is like a treasure hunt, finding these stories, images, evidence. I wanted to be the female Gordon Parks growing up. I love new forms of creative expression and to engage young photographers in discussions of the documentation of our times. We are the Griots of this generation.
I chose a group of poems to perform, with which I felt everyone could relate. House Door Series is about the rooms where we live and what happens there, they are also about the doors that serve as witness. "Kitchen" and "Bedroom Door" relate experiences we all can remember and enjoy. "Side Door" illustrates my personal experience of not having a straight path in life or not always reaching one’s goals, of having unexpected arrivals and departures.
"Sign of the Times", is based on street signs, I have done 100 works all about different things. This sign is about relationships, the idea of stay in your lane, women want to be men, men want to be women, no I don’t agree with that. Stay in your lane. "Black Entertainment" is a reference on black on black crime, and social media. The gun, there could be a 1000 people between the muzzle of the gun, but the outcome is the same, someone gets shot. It’s a wry commentary on social media, its black entertainment at its best.
My collaboration originally came from a dance video. I wanted to work with the shadows and silhouettes that were filmed just at sunset. I realized they were really nice stills once I upped the resolution. While filming and watching the movement, I knew the silhouettes were going to be good.
These three pieces were inspired by Italy during Christmas. One shows people shopping while someone else was praying and obviously had little money. It was like a parallel universe. I liked the contrast of religion versus commercialism. In another work the shadows beam, there is a mix of tourists and religion is making money off them. In the last work the fog rolled in while I was working, it was biblical. I work in digital photography and for any technical concerns; I just thank the amazing lighting.