Give her a crown, give mother a crown please, she has out done herself, soften steal, bitten by foes and she is now weary yet trodding with tiresome feet. She’s a beast, stood for many and has never been defended. Dragged through the dusty fields of this life, bruised chin and bruised heels, tasted the salt in her eyes, testified on behalf of her worries, she’s a bit fragile. Mother has been tortured, nevertheless she prays for others, the others who have repeatedly slaughtered her, picked her to pieces, never liked and will never come to love mother. Like I should care, ugh! Like she should care, anyone for that matter. There is a hole in her happiness, her rusty bones creek still mother walks with strength, she’s meek, she strives with determination and only a child can see beneath mother’s frustration, only a child feels mother’s pain. There is a book of tears on this woman’s pillow, a diary of heartaches and sorrows. A lonesome gathering, mourning mother’s family’s malfunction, a burial of connection. Travellers go, travellers come, mothers dead in her solemn hum. Mother has a heart of gold and I don’t know why they treat her so cruel, mother has a heart of gold and sometimes the body gone leave the soul. Watching her get feeble, at times restraint, more so consistent. Her spirit in this material home and the body’s just sitting cold. Give mother a crown for the breath she gave to a dying man, for labouring her days in his house, for being brave even when the heart wasn’t stout, for taking all thrown at her and lay them aside gentle. Misty eyes and silent distresses, there is a time for all this except mother’s everyday. The pain sinks deep into the flesh of her emotions like fangs feasting on her wellbeing, most times i find her in a fossette, most times i find mother in a lost state. Give mother a crown, give her a hand, mother has a heart of gold, yet they treat her cruel, I can’t see her, the body gone leave the soul. Give mother a crown for she is holding the fort.
I always liked Lauryn Hill – and then she retired from music. I still listened to her music. Physically disappearing from the music scene didn’t make her body of work any less valuable. It didn’t stop artists from sampling her work in 2018, and it hasn’t stopped her from touring on the back of the forever beloved ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’.
I’m not sure if I always like writing, but I decided to ‘retire’ from that too. At some unknown point, between 2012 and 2013, I began to write. Poetry that is. It came quite naturally as well. It was an outpouring of unbridled and raw emotion. It was unrefined, unedited and hidden. I hardly ever went back to them, and it was even rarer that I would show anyone. It was in ‘in the moment’ activity, that stayed just there – in that moment.
Writing became a safe means of venting. Pen and paper could not judge or question you. The only person that might have questioned you was yourself, looking back after the moment. Balling up and throwing them away was a symbolic way of throwing away whatever you felt. Writing often feels like therapy. Years later, a certified psychologist would confirm that, and would recommend it as a means of coping and healing.
In the Caribbean, mental health is often overlooked and passed off as demonic spirits, and a cause for prayer. You may be able to pray away pain if there is some special tenacity when it comes to those prayers, but chemical imbalances are just a little more difficult. So when you’re in the moment, and there’s no other choice, you might as well write.
WRITING AND MENTAL HEALTH
- Writing doesn’t mean just poetry. As long as pen meets paper and forms words, then your writing is worthy. Poetry, monologues, rants, letters and fiction all count. By the way, fiction is an amazing way of cleverly inputting your issues without being extremely personal. If it helps, you may as well write an entire book.
- Expressive writing is amazing for supplementing coping methods. It is a free flow of emotion onto paper. It is uncensored, uninhibited and feelings ‘pour out like water from a tap’
- You never have to show anyway. You never have to tell anyone. You can throw the paper away. You can burn it. You could keep it under your bed.
- If expressing feelings by speaking is difficult, then present what you have written – which is (most times) how you truly feel.
- Your mind will almost always feel free after you write. It does a great job at clearing up space in your mind. It creates the opportunity for good thoughts to be substituted in.
‘ i shall not never
Write for lovers or
And moon shine romance
Unless they are me
– Call me No Poet or Nothing Like That – Mutabaruka
A simple definition for 4K (sometimes referred to as Ultra HD) is: A display resolution of 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall. This means that a 4K display has 4 times as many pixels as a Full HD display. Most of the latest smartphones and Mirrorless or DSLR cameras are capable of shooting 4K. So why not use the advanced technology now that it is here?
I’m willing to bet that if you were to tell someone “I’m shooting my videos in 4K now” I’m quite sure that they would reply: “Why? No one here (in St. Lucia) has a 4K display; The file sizes are too huge; It’s expensive; It’s not worth it,” and so on.
While few of those responses are somewhat near the truth, there is merit in considering it. Here is my reasoning for shooting my latest short film -Shattered (2018)- in 4K and why you should too if given the opportunity.
THE BEST HD VIDEO COMES FROM 4K
Shooting in 4K (or any higher resolution 6K, 8K etc.) and downscaling it to the more common 1080p will yield overall better results as opposed to shooting in 1080p. Of course your mileage may vary depending on the size of the camera sensor, colour profiles, and most importantly the size and resolution of the display that you compare them on.
Still in disbelief? Test it out for yourself. Record a video at 1080p and watch it on a 1080p display…record the same video in 4K and downscale it to 1080p, I promise you it will look sharper and more detailed than the original 1080p footage.
I am the kind of director who prefers to make as many creative decisions as possible in camera, while on the set. I will admit that it pains me to make this point, but there are directors who prefer this method so I will highlight it anyway. With 4K footage, you can crop it in post-production and still maintain great clarity and sharpness. Trying to do the same with 1080p footage (or any lower resolution) will reap not so rewarding results.
What this means for you creatively is that you can use the extra resolution to reframe and compose your shots differently. For example: Maybe your close up is not as close as you would want it to be… shooting in 4K can allow you to get in closer in post, therefore eliminating the need to reshoot solely for such purposes.
THERE IS A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE (BUT ONLY IF YOU LOOK FOR IT)
“You can’t even tell the difference!” False. If you’re watching it on your camera’s 3-inch display chances are everything will look the same- subpar. But when showcased on a larger more capable screen, you can tell Full HD (1080p) footage from 4K. Maybe not on your first viewing… and you will probably need them side by side to truly tell… But if you are a filmmaker, you will do yourself no disservice by training your eye to know that 4K footage is noticeably different from any lower-res footage.
IT’S MORE AVAILABLE NOW THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN
Not too long ago, 4K was a privilege for the video enthusiast with money to spend. In this day though, most smartphones can record in 4K. Furthermore, very affordable cameras which cost less than those smartphones also shoot in 4K with the added bonus of a larger sensor and much greater control over what your shot looks like. Even though 4K displays are not as prevalent in households in St. Lucia it would still be worth it if you care for the added quality (see point #1).
THE DRAWBACK WORTH CONSIDERING
While my goal is to persuade you to shoot your next project in 4K (if you can), I do not propose you jump right in without being fully capable on managing such a “responsibility”. One of the things you will need to keep in mind is that 4K files are generally much larger than Full HD files. There are of course a number of variables that would determine the exact file size but a 5 second video in 1080p will definitely be smaller than a 4K video at the same 5 seconds. You may even want to do some more digging on the exact numbers if you are curious. In essence, you will need more storage space on your devices to store all of it (which is going to cost more to maintain).
Imran St. Brice is a young Filmmaker from Saint Lucia. He has two independently produced short films under his belt; Secure & Shattered. He also snagged a second place prize and award for Best Director at the 2017 Caribbean Youth Film Festival.
Passion and determination soared their way through the rural areas of Portland, Jamaica some fifteen years ago! There, they found and lifted the wings of a budding writer and talented creative— facilitating her ascent into a world where words hold immeasurable power. Years later, Lorris Shuriah– having stuck to her guns; a maintained commitment to her craft– is now a 24-year-old published poet of two ebooks; Voice of a Poet and Hear no evil, Speak no evil revolutionary pipelines. Some of her creative work can also be found on our “Creative Pieces” page. Lorris awarded us the chance last month, to get to know her a little better.
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU START WRITING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THIS PASSION?
Lorris: I started writing at the age of 9. At first it was just something I would do whenever I got tired of playing with my dolls, it was then in the 6 grade at the primary level I realized that maybe I’ll end up being a writer. I had written a poem as a class assignment and my teacher at that time suggested that I should become a writer. To be honest my future ambitions were to become a Doctor and I don’t think it is a loss because I feel as though I can save lives with my writing and I get to be creative with words, inspiring people from across the world.
WHAT ABOUT THE PRACTICE/ART OF WRITING BRINGS YOU BACK TO IT, EVERY TIME?
Lorris: Finding a beat to the words, as if I’m writing a song because really I started with practicing songwriting then it transformed into poetry writing, hence most of my poems becoming lyrics to unfinished songs I have written. So for me it’s the rhythm I’ve always been used to finding back then, now whenever I get to writing these days, the beat and rhyming scheme of each line are usually what takes me back.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR OVERALL FEELING AND EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER IN JAMAICA?
Lorris: My overall feeling is that I’m being underrated, only seen as a potential and less of a professional. To most it’s just a hobby. “Okay she has an IG page with poems that we love”, that kinda stuff. I have experienced situations where if you don’t know a certain person or have a link into this industry then it’s difficult trying to gain recognition or even make a name of your own. I wouldn’t say that it is easy, nothing like Sunday mornings but it is somewhat rewarding, that is if “made Jamaican” takes off on international soil. People here merely appreciate the level of creativity creative personnel possess, it takes outsiders to see that before it becomes adored and applauded at home, half the time.
Improvements that I would really love to see are more effort being made to invest in the creative fields, a stage/platform for all aspects of creativity in spite of colour, background and lifestyle so that local creatives can reap the success they sew and of course credit given to those contributing to the industry.
YOU POST SOME GREAT PIECES ON YOUR IG PAGE, WHAT GAVE YOU THE CONFIDENCE TO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE LIKE THAT?
Lorris: Desire. I wanted to share with the world what I’m able to do with words and sometimes I surprise myself and I get to imagine that expression on someone else’s face and know that it is actually happening, someone is reading my poem or whatever it is I do with words and they feel me. I’m thirsty for that; people’s reaction towards every single lyric I design. It was kind of a “I need to do this.” Why keep all these pages to myself? I thought and I felt like showcasing my talent to others. It was always in the back of my mind. I guess it was all about timing.
THE SUBJECTS AND THEMES OF YOUR WORK ARE OFTEN HEAVY AND SOMETIMES LIGHT. WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO TAKE ON A PARTICULAR TOPIC?
Lorris: Unconventional events, something which strike my senses. I love being caught in the moment of things, mostly strange and questionable because I love to experiment. Whenever I write it is never a “get to it at once” or “waking up it’s a new day write a poem”. No, it comes out of the ordinary. I have to run into unexpectedness to really express my creative self.
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO GO WITH YOUR WRITING?
Lorris: Hollywood. I know that is most writers ultimate dream but that has always been my definite dream from the days of the Harry Potter films and Lord of the Rings. I got so into movies that I wanted to start writing movie scripts and I told myself that I have to become a screenplay writer. It has nothing to do with fame, has never been in my intentions. It’s more of what I want to do with film and Hollywood, I feel like I have my own exceptional touch to add to the art of writing movies and I want to be legendary, that influence and my films being an addiction to those out there who are movie lovers. I’m thinking of something more than extraordinary, somewhere no writer has ever gone before.
To release is to kiss ones’ reflection in a pond, starting that pacifying and effortless ripple;
To wake up and smile at that troubled part of one’s self;
Stepping out from those towering images; oh sweet green pastures,
Filling one’s senses from that picturesque place within;
Sitting amongst your greats thinking nothing but…
The excitement after a climb;
The rhythmic heartthrob after facing it;
The support that’s there after pushing and dodging;
That final breath after your journey, no looking back…
She doesn’t know what she wants the store clerk selling FLOW cell phones, mostly cards and talking down to the men in her life. So to say her style matches the company brand, a flow that is just going, fluent with no sign of destination, a poor signal sense of direction in the clear view. Blurred young bird flying low afraid of the storms of life, her lipstick is not her size, she’s just a child, innocent and incapable, searching for love in a place where it is omitted and I have never seen a tender touch here, heard the words of a kind hearted fellow, they all want one thing, a taste of the grape so they keep picking until the sweetened becomes displeased, its sugar unsavoring. They all want one thing from this sylphlike figure, could it be just her, oh I wish it were… What do I know? Sure it has to her precious pride for these beard and muscles, up and between the legs, all she possesses in her spandex, cotton, victoria secret seat. She walks holy, the groove of a virgin, she struts down the aisles of this grocery mart with a warm, colossal, soft heart and a cosmetic face that rarely smiles in my new home from 10am to 8pm. Black Opal’s foundation is eligible to crumbling, she’s always minutes away from falling in her speech however, somehow she manages to catch herself, standing corrected. The one thing saving her. A chef for a man, preparing jealously… a meal she doesn’t enjoy, her hunger is thirst for meeting and becoming accustomed to and with, not just anyone I suppose. She doesn’t know what she wants in her red shade everlasting matte running dry of one’s self, still she flows to and fro, waving hi, our conversation exceeds the general “just acquaintance” as if I have known her all my spent years leading up to now. Black Opal white T and blue jeans, uncertain of her 21 and where she wants to be, all is said when she doesn’t speak, lying to herself in a concrete form. I know this: the world of love, I know this: growing up. I know this… Her personality vomits on you, spilling her confidence. Air-conditioned face dabbed with concealer and powder, her height is an image of her short coming decisions and her voice is drawn to only one conclusion “I don’t know this.” She still has a lot of growing to do, she’s reaching but the sun is being blocked by all the fucked up misleading men she has had watering, watered her roots. No sunshine for the murky girl living in a fast turning world.
— Lorris Shurriah, Jamaica
I love movies but, currently, seeing Caribbean actors in Hollywood movies does nothing for me
I anticipated BlackPanther’s release so much that I may have been the only local to have noticed the release date changed three times; from February 16, to the 22, and then the 21. I was livid, by the way, the day I noticed it was pushed back to February 22, noting that here in the Caribbean, we would be among the last–certainly the last in the African diaspora– to see it. On February 21, when by chance I logged in to the Caribbean Cinemas website and saw it was showing a day earlier, I joked with friends that it was a must that I be amongst the first on island to see the movie because no one deserved it more than I did (Marvel fans don’t fight me, it was really a joke, although I am also always one to say; people often disguise truths as “jokes”) but my reason for wanting to see it may differ from most.
Cast and Crew
In 2016, when I learned Chadwick Boseman was playing Blackpanther in Captain America Civil War, I dragged myself to the cinema to go watch a superhero movie—Superhero movies are not my least favourite but they certainly are not my most. Needless to say, I was a Chadwick Boseman fan. I had seen him in Get On Up, 42, even his smaller roles in movies like Draft Day, and as one of the few black faces in the tragically whitewashed “Gods of Egypt.” Ofcourse Boseman shone as BlackPanther in Civil War, and when Marvel confirmed the character would lead his own film, you guessed it, my non-superhero movie watching self was through the roof.
Months later, I discovered Ryan Coogler would direct BP which would also star Lupita N’yongo and Michael B Jordan alongside Boseman. It was not N’yongo’s impressive portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave or her other roles in The Jungle Book, Star Wars or as the flight attendant in Nonstop (yeah, I caught that one too) that had struck me most about the Kenyan actress. But more so the elegance, intelligence, class and sensuality with which she moves through the world all while cloaked in humility and “realness.”
Jordan on the other hand, caught my attention for less noble reasons. The crush I developed after seeing Chronicle for the first time ran deep. I was elated when I spotted him in the fourth season of the series Friday Night Lights. Although it has been over 6 years and fully healed from my crush, I had along the way watched Red Tails, That Awkward Moment, Fantastic Four, Creed and Fruitvale Station for more of Jordan’s magnetic, star power. The latter two movies mentioned however bring me to the most significant of reasons for my interest in BlackPanther; they were both directed by Ryan Coogler.
I learned of Ryan Coogler after watching Fruitvale station— the Director’s first feature film out of film school. I was hooked then, not by Hollywood glitz and glamour, but Fruitvale station told the compelling story of the deceased Oscar Grant who was unjustly shot dead in Oakland by police. I learned through interviews with Coogler and his leading cast that the film had received critical acclaim and picked up the Audience Award and Grand Jury price at the Sundance Film Festival as well as several other awards around the world. The fact that Coogler had made such an impact, right out of film school with a small budget was reason enough to follow his career. I would follow his career to when he made Creed. Coogler appears to move throw the world with a sense of purpose, naive millennial confidence coupled with a healthy amount of self-doubt, which I sense may very well be the driving force behind his pragmatic film-making style. The logistics behind his films are identifiable, yet seamless– he is a unique talent, one any young filmmaker would view as an inspiration.
Seeing Black Panther for the first time
When I made it to Caribbean Cinemas on February 21, Wednesday night, straight from work, I was there mainly for the cast and crew. All of whom ofcourse, did not disappoint.
My favourite character in the movie was Shuri. I fangirled over her coolness, her intelligence, her strength, and this was before I learned the actor playing her was Guyanese.
Both Letitia Wright and Winston Duke – actor behind M’baku, who now has a large group of female admirers– were heralded in Caribbean circles, primarily on social media, for their Carbbean heritage (Duke being “Trinibagonian”). When I learned of it, I too, proudly relayed the information to my family and friends and the news was met with pleasant surprise. But upon watching interviewe related to the film, I noted that both actors had left the Caribbean before the age of ten.
When atleast one parent is from the Caribbean, a child is bound to grow up identifying heavily with Caribbean culture but what they may not identify with is the actual physical limitations of living on a rock, or a dot on a neighbouring continent with similar history and setbacks. Caribbean people too, have dreams. We, as children, grew up watching movies like everyone else, and some of us developed a deep seeded desire to make and be in them as well. But for many of us, our dreams come to an abrupt halt once we leave secondary school and the impracticality of surviving on a passion forces us to change course simply because there is absolutely no avenue or opportunities for growth nor rewards for your natural expertise. You also have what feels like 0 resources at your disposal. The few of us who remain adamant about pursuing our interests ofcourse then, look for the easiest way to book a flight out. Will the time ever come when leaving will not be the only option?
Our creative industries often see the dark halls of inconsistency as ideas come and go; intiatives start, thrive then end— the money to keep them going never a certainty. We simply do not have the platforms to fortify our talents; to give artists that feeling of accomplishment, even after productions and projects begin, run and end. In a world where the American voice and accomplishments are so loud and bright, they penetrate our world at all angles and make our initiatives seem small, and overlooked by the wider public. Where as small towns in foreign places may have community theatres, where paid acting work may be only a bus or train ride away, here in the Caribbean, you better learn fast how to make your own oppurtunities.
Moving on, anyway
As we often do, we learn to press on. There are still creatives churning, working, growing, throwing things on the walls and hoping they stick. The Leila Janah quote “talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not” often comes to mind when I think about Caribbean actors, filmmakers, directors and the like. Everyday, the number of persons pursuing their interest in film seems to grow here, especially with the rise in festivals, workshops, competitions and clubs. Information regarding the ease with which films can be submitted to local, regional and international festivals is reaching more people. We all look forward to that time when travelling will not be a necessity for working on craft, but only the positive result of hard work, opportunity and achievement.
This was how I felt when I saw the list of sp books that I would be obligated to study during my first year of college. Typical Shakespeare, lack luster Australian poetry, a truly entertaining Barbadian-American bildungsroman, and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
A muted cover with an author’s name that was difficult to pronounce: I wasn’t immediately interested. That was probably why I refused to read it until I absolutely had to (don’t judge a book by its cover!). The synopsis read in part:
’15 year old Kambili and her […] brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu Nigeria. […] They are completely shielded from the troubles of the outside world. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home – a home that is silent and suffocating’.
By the time I had finally gotten through the first page, I was hooked. It wasn’t just the way that Adichie had written the novel. It was more than the detailed descriptions and the gripping plot and dialogue. It was more than how she casually threw in Igbo dialect. It was a sort of familiarity. My only connection to Nigeria was knowing two Nigerian priests based in my community, yet it all seemed relatable. The fact that a book about an abusive Nigerian father who ruled a submissive wife and daughter under the guise of religion, could resonate in the mind of a Caribbean reader, speaks to the continuity of our inherently African ties.
After two years of studying books that I had no part in choosing, I could finally go back to picking from my own wish list of books. Yet my first instinct was to find something else Adichie had written. Whereas most people know of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because of her feminist monologue popularized by Beyonce, I was about to really get to know her through her portfolio of well received novels.
And so I purchased Americanah. Five hundred and eighty-eight pages of familiarity. Americanah chronicled the life of Ifemelu, a Nigerian expat living in America, after moving there for school. Sounds familiar? After leaving the love of her life back in Nigeria, Ifemelu eventually prospered in America; doing well at school, running a thought provoking blog on American blacks, and meeting new men. All the while, her first love in Nigeria tried desperately to hold on to the thinnest of strings which still connected them. Sounds familiar? Many Caribbean relationships often suffer when one person moves overseas for ‘a better life’ – that includes the parent-child relationship.
After experiencing a brutal identity crisis, failed relationships, family issues and an overall longing for home and what she left behind, Ifemelu made the brave decision to return to Nigeria. Sounds familiar? Like many West Indians who move back home, Ifemelu always felt like Nigeria could be just a little more developed. She felt like her new workplace could be so much more – the people could be so much more.
I was always fascinated by Americanah. It was odd how well the book resonated with me, although I have never left the country for anything more than vacations. Vague themes of love, sacrifice, perseverance and even corruption struck a genuinely West Indian chord. One of the characters being the owner of a collection of poetry by Derek Walcott created an even greater connection between Chimamanda and myself. In ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, the mention of Campari made me remember that it wasn’t a St Lucian product, however much that it is loved by St Lucians, and that the connection spanned more than just themes, but even taste in liquor! Change the names of the characters, and switch up the setting, and Americanah is easily a Caribbean novel, maybe even the work of Jamaica Kincaid or Paule Marshall.
It is always wise to read the work of your people, and work that accurately represents your culture. Caribbean writers are in no short supply, from the classic pieces that you were forced to read at school, to new writers who tackle more modern Caribbean themes and issues. However, when you can find a writer who is so detached from your culture, yet at the same time reminds you so much of your own self, it is almost imperative that you immerse yourself in it.
I am sure Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie cannot relate to green fig and salt fish, roti, callaloo and oil down. I, as well as millions of other West Indians cannot relate to jollof rice, egusi and fufu. But just like both cultures love yams, the connection between Nigerian and Caribbean literature is unintentionally similar, and speaks to the depth of our African roots, and the genius of Adichie as a writer. I am presently reading another of her novels: Half of a Yellow Sun, and I am sure there will be much to say.
— Nelly Charlemagne is a Saint Lucian Writer
She speaks the colonizer’s tongue?
You question her tongue?
Helen was fought for 14 times over,
She was forced to learn no other,
Shamed to speak the other.
She speaks the colonizer’s tongue?
You question her tongue,
Or her look?
Specify which one,
I can explain the two in detail for you.
She speaks the colonizer’s tongue?
You question her tongue
But I’d think you’re unsure of her intellect.
She had to survive;
Clenching what was left of her modesty
For a voice, the pen was her way.
Her look and her tongue are one.
They are dressed in expression of the heart,
Stand with pride of historical lionesses
Her silence snatches the very essence of the Omega!
But yes, she speaks the colonizer’s tongue.
Georgia Fullerton was drawn to artistic expression as a young girl living Jamaica. Years later, now based in Toronto, she has found her footing and embraces the mantle that comes with living life as a full time creative. As we prepared to close the curtain on 2017, while Fullerton readied herself for a coming art exhibit in her home country; Jamaica, she fit us into her schedule and gave us the opportunity to get to know her, her art and her journey.
I am always interested in a person’s artistic journey, can you tell me about yours? When did you start painting & drawing? And, when did you decide to build a career from this?
Georgia: My journey in art began, from what I can remember, at age 2 when my mother was still in Jamaica (my birthplace), preparing to come to Canada. My father was already in Alberta, securing a teaching job and finding a home for the rest of the family. My parents would write letters back and forth and in one particular letter I had scribbled a small ‘note’ to my father. It was my first markmaking as a young artist. Moving through my school age years I spent time on my own drawing but the original inspiration to came from my mother, who in the mid-seventies got her Masters of Education at the University of Calgary and brought home many lithograph prints and drawings. I would sit and look through her work and conduct my own critiques and sometimes title the works for her. My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to pursue areas in the arts. In 1983 I enrolled at Red Deer College in Alberta and studied visual arts with a specialization in Printmaking. Transferring to York University’s Fine Arts Department in 1985 I received my Bachelor of Arts degree and began my working career in the print industry. I learned and succeeded in multiple areas of print production; from apparel printing, offset printing to leading edge digital print on demand and direct mail marketing. After an 18-year career in print production my desire to pursue my passion for visual arts led me to put aside the nine to five and focus on becoming a full-time artist. As it is, we artists wear many hats and I am no different as an arts educator, facilitator and an expressive arts therapist; a new direction.
How has your art evolved throughout the years? (What themes did you explore before and which ones do you do now?) And why?
Georgia: My earlier work was mostly portraits and figurative in theme. Using acrylic paints, I would focus on people who made some kind of impact on my life, like my family members, exlovers and others who were part of my journey. The figurative works were inspired by my own curiosity with the human form. Also because in college and university I was heavily involved in sports, I grappled with the duality in my art of “the artist and the jock”. Today I consider myself to be an abstract expressionist artist, as my style has changed to a more intuitive way of conceptualizing and painting. I still paint with primarily acrylics and use found objects like wood, hair, fabric and plant life to add texture and play to my art. The themes in my work today explore the self, healing from trauma and the relationship that occurs between artist, image and the liminal space between them. My work delves into the psychology of art and relationship.
Correct me if I’m wrong but, your latest work seems to be mostly Abstract Expressionism, what lead you to make that artistic choice? (If not, then feel free to still explain why a large part of your collection is Abstract Expressionism)
Georgia: Yes that story is one I find myself telling each time I’m asked to do an artist talk or present at a school or community event. Back in 2010 I was the victim of domestic abuse and that experience not only changed my life and sense of self, but also was what changed my artistic style. The result of this one-time abusive situation found me back at the matrimonial home of my exhusband who allowed me to stay there until I “sorted myself out”. The six months I stayed there with our daughter, I spent a lot of time in the spare bedroom surrounded by canvasses, paints, brushes and my memories of the recent trauma I suffered. It’s here that I began to view my relationship with art differently. I started to use my art therapeutically and my paintbrush became my healing stick. As a result of this awakening, I created 3 large pieces that exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in the largest group show at a major venue featuring artists of Caribbean and African descent. It was a turning point for my art and my impending career. I was introduced to a new type of therapy known as Expressive Arts Therapy. Throughout my training in this form of therapy, my studio work began change to abstraction and unearthed a more intuitive approach to art-making. I began to focus more on the process than the end product.
There is a lot of beauty and soul in your Portrait and Figures pieces. What inspires these most?
Georgia: These pieces always come around because of an emotion that I feel from someone I’ve had communication with. It’s a simple representation of a feeling or thought around an experience I’ve had with someone or something. The element of surprise is the existence of bold sensuality and sometimes eroticism in some of these images and their expression.
Q: Femask and Maskulyn in particular, can you explain the vision and choices behind them?
Georgia: Like so many of my early works, there is always a back story to the back story. The inspiration with these two paintings came from an exhibition theme called MASK (Scotiabank Caribana exhibition; Blue Dot Gallery, Toronto). This duo expresses the idea of the masculine and feminine sensibilities through the lens of sexual dominion and role reversal. ‘Femask’ accentuates the strong, beautiful, and sensual energy of a female inspired mask. The male counterpart is the painting ‘Maskulyn’ that fuses a masculine figure with the seemingly more feminine act of crying in an attempt to show that regardless of the temporary mask or masks we wear, expressing who we are and what we feel brings forth both feminine and masculine traits.
“The healing impact of the arts on the human experience,” seems to be important to you. Can you expound on that? (Why do you feel that way?)
Georgia: I think we live in a society today that at times overlooks the inclusion of the arts as a way to address the global concern of human suffering. Mental health/mental illness as topics are ‘trending’ in the world today, and I feel that with social justice issues and our obsession with technology; for example, people are missing the importance of using creativity as a way of healing and gaining greater self-awareness and overall wellness. I also make that statement because I have experienced art and art-making as innately therapeutic. My mission is to be a messenger in communities where the arts is overlooked or not viewed as something that can help us in our attempt to live a whole and healthy life!
I also like to ask successful Artists to share a bit of advice or words of encouragement with others who are considering that path. Can you share one key lesson or life mantra you adopted along your journey, that you think helped you a lot?
Georgia: Be open to discovery and change in your artistic career and use everything you encounter as a resource to developing your practice. I’m a big believer in what I call creative cross-training; where exploring the use of other modalities of art can enhance, and open up new pathways of ‘seeing’ and relating to your primary form of artistic expression. I’ve learned that from my work in expressive arts therapy, that movement, using voice, writing or playing an instrument, has informed and inspired my visual art and brought it to a new creative level. My vision puts a spotlight on a world where play and imagination through the arts leads to overall wellness. I love the quote by Georgia O’Keeffe: “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” To add to this beautiful vision, in my own quote I say, “It’s in that place of non-judgment where art expands the possibilities.”
What is next on your journey?
• I plan on continuing to practice and promote my original art and build my brand FULL Fine Art in 2018. The continued support of community helps to keep me grounded and engaged with marginalized populations, continuing to offer therapeutic arts programming and give back to my community.
• Expand JustGeorgia® my arts-based business that delivers therapeutic arts workshops in community settings and helps to stifle the stigma surrounding mental health in marginalized communities.
• Bring Expressive Arts therapy programming to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean.
• A live painting and mini-exhibition event, Christmas 2017 at Living Spaces-Fine Furniture & Accessories in Kingston, Jamaica.
• Partner with the City of Toronto SPARK Funding program from May to October, 2018, as part of the city’s Cultural Hotspot community arts initiative.
• Assist in the creation and facilitation of a new Art and Health Program at TAIBU Community Centre in Toronto.
• Begin the process of becoming a registered psychotherapist with the College of Psychotherapist of Ontario
• In the future to partner again with The Royal Ontario Museum for their Friday Night Live events.
• Continue to develop The Imaginative Language of Art Program™ (The ILA Program™) a therapeutic arts program for young and old with learning differences. I anticipate a combination of individual and collaborative opportunities in my future, that will keep me living artfully!