Updated: Apr 10, 2020
In these trying times I feel oddly at peace. COVID is a positive confirmation of what was the most uncomfortable decision/s I made in 2019: choosing to return to Barbados and not live in “ the land of opportunity “ ( NY).
What drove this decision truly felt ‘silly’, and eyerollingly premature, but most definitely real in my heart - I feared a day would come soon where my fragile island would no longer look the same, in a blink of an eye. I wasn’t sure what that shift would be but something would happen, my logical brain pinned all possibilities to weather and climate change effects. A pandemic, I never saw coming.
Somewhere around January 2019 I set out on a mission to make peace with my island... like physically make peace, not just in my mind.
I wanted to do all the things tourists do that locals don’t, I wanted to experience all the treasured areas I never went to, I wanted to do lots of things my race or gender inhibited me from doing and I wanted to do this all with people I care about. On each of my escapades I collected land samples or sea samples with the intention to combine them in art. When the first part of that process felt complete enough I did my first performance in September 2019: a baptism of sort where I finally brought together all the elements of the land, sand, sea, sun and daughter and I invited those who attended to also make peace with this island on their own terms. It felt uncomfortable to do this work in this space and still does but I keep pushing. After the performance the next work that consumed my attention was a series of ‘reliquaries’. I’ve made endless iterations of this “self sufficient” system that utilizes the few things we surely have in abundance: hot sun and ocean. With each experiment I kept altering the combination of necessities the plants had access to for growth: water, sunlight, nutrients and oxygen and observed how they adapted, suffered, thrived or died. For me these plants represent us island people, and these reliquaries are observed or imagined models of Barbados/small Caribbean islands. When do we thrive? Can we ever be self-sufficient? What would that look like? Is regression the way forward? This work began to grow with different intentions but with so much to teach me. The beginning of the story changed as new chapters developed. Art has always been my personal psychic. Revealing things to me about myself which I often come to understand yearsss later. It holds my hand and leads me blindfolded to some place I could never have imagined.
When I started obsessively making these ‘healing devices’ I was fixated on making them ‘work’. Now on the other side of my ‘maker madness’ I see what I needed were objects of anxieties. I was compelled to spend lots of quiet time tinkering in the sun, listening to the birds, breathing on beaches, figuring out science concepts that uncannily parallel social structures, digging into our history, learning about our potential future and unpacking and understanding just what I was feeling about my place on this island as an artist. The more these projects grow the more I listen to them for advice and guidance. Without a doubt, everyday I think about “what if” I made different decisions but the feeling of regret lives nowhere near here. Thanks Rona. Let me just say, none of this work has been without many challenges, indeed as a result of my location ( like jeez can I just have access to a kiln or some woodworking facilities? Or studio space? or not spend $145693 on 1 single sheet of acrylic?) The day will come where I do have to go (again). But I’ll be sure it’s never because there is a promise of something ‘better’ just something different. In such fickle times all we have is the present, and I’m a big fan of this paradise-prison.
Now let’s see if these plants bloom! I’m taking this two week lockdown time we all are sharing to open up my daily practices to you guys! I’m figuring it out along the way so hang in there. I will try to share more and more of these daily rituals and lots more art works that are all still in their ‘ugly experiments’ phase but so close to being ready for the world.