Tag: Art

‘I Am Here’: An Interview with Keisha Scarville

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Salt. 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Keisha Scarville is a photo and multimedia artist who alters and reforms the perception of regular items through themes of transformation, migration and displacement. Raised by Guyanese parents, the Brooklyn based artist uses her unconventional art work as a means to express her nationality and homeland, which has allowed her to be exhibited in a wide number of locations, for example, The Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Studio Museum of Harlem. In this brief interview, Scarville discusses her intuitive direction in both art and photography as well the artistic process surrounding them.

There is a lot of depth in you artwork. Do you find yourself using a form of critical theory to express your work? Does it affect your creative process and thinking?

There is no particular critical theory that completely informs my work. My work is influenced by various writers and philosophies. I love the writing of Gaston Bachelard. His book, ‘The Poetics of Space’, has changed the way I approached photographing spaces and landscapes.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the Passport series, you have touched on the issues of immigration through the eyes of two generations and through the art of mixed media. How has using this type of medium helped justify your artistic vision?

The series, “Passports” is an ongoing project where I repeatedly reinterpret my father’s earliest passport photo. I am interested in the aesthetics of a passport photo as a signifier but also the guidelines that inform how one positions and presents oneself within the frame. Through an interrogative process, I re-imagine the image of my father as a subject of a nation to forge a dialogue with the image. I use collage, paint, and other materials to transfigure and dislodge the unmoving stoicism of the printed image and create an alternate spatial narrative. In each piece, I respond to the shape shifting effects of immigration and my own personal history. I treat the photograph as a platform on which all these embedded and intertwined histories can be explored and layered.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2014 and 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the I am Here Series, I see that passport photo being represented again along with images of a second person. Can you tell us what this series is all about?

I am interested in the notion of home – how it is conceived, transformed, and lost. As a first generation Guyanese American, I often find myself occupying this hyphenated space where I don’t fully identify with being American nor am I considered Guyanese. I wonder what it means to create a space of belonging. What does it mean to designate a place/space as home? The “I am here” series is a personal journey towards claiming and understanding the conception of a home. In the project I explore how rituals, objects, spaces and the body can be visually excavated as primary sites of belonging. This series preceded the “Passports” project and was the impetus for developing that body of work.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Dad’s passport, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

It seems that you are no stranger to photography either. How did you come about learning and developing your skills in photography?

I first learned photography while in high school. It was a transformative experience — holding a camera for the first time and looking at the world around me, deciding what to capture, and then holding those moments in my hands forever. I have been completely obsessed and fascinated by photography from that time. I went on to study photography in undergrad, as well as, focusing on photography and art therapy through graduate level classes.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Bones, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Do you see photography as a way to establish a new perspective in the art of storytelling and capturing moments?

I don’t think of it as new, but an alternative way of conveying narrative. I think people have always used photography to visually communicate stories. Now, more people have access to image-making devices. With the abundance and overwhelming speed at which we can produce images, my concern becomes how we read these images. Like all forms of communication, we need to be able to develop a method to take careful consideration of what images do, how they operate, and how to deconstruct/interpret the narrative.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s ClothesSeries, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In an article for Vice Magazine, you spoke about the search of identity through imagery in a collection of photographs called Mama’s Clothes. How did you feel about this art piece and what would you like viewers to take from it?

In the series, “Mama’s Clothes,” I explore the experience of absence and the camera’s role in visualizing what cannot be seen, but felt. I explore the paradox of abundance within absence and the phenomenology of space. In the photographs, I present my body cloaked in my deceased mother’s clothes. I am interested in how the clothing can be transformed into residual, surrogate skin. In the series, I am looking at ways I can facilitate and construct a visual place where I can conjure her presence while using my body as a medium.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Also in this same series, the usage of clothing had a strong symbolic meaning. Most of your work weighs heavily on the contextualized meaning placed on everyday objects, which is not as subtle in most cases. Do you think this unique feature differentiates you as an artist?

A great deal of my work focuses on the biological, historical, and symbolic references of objects. I did a two-person exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) entitled, ‘Surrogate Skin: The Biology of Objects’. This project and exhibition allowed me to showcase the elements that inform my art practice.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

What final thoughts would you like to leave for young artists and photographers alike?

Break the rules, read as much as possible, and remain curious. 

 

 

 

Scarville is currently hosting an exhibition at the Contact Photo Gallery, Toronto, ‘An unassailable and monumental dignity from September 21st– November 18th.

For more information on Keisha Scarville, kindly visit her website www.keishascarville.com

Why I Can’t Get Enough Of Princess Nokia

Up – Princess Nokia in Tomboy video, Bottom – Princess Nokia in Brujas video

With my lil’ titties and my fat belly (x10)” – actual lyrics from Princess Nokia’s single “Tomboy”. The song opens up with a baggy shirt and trouser clad Princess Nokia walking across the screen, flanked by two women.

When I first watched the video and heard that cool voice ejecting itself from my speakers, I knew this discovery would be a problem; I would be obsessing over another Artist yet again for an unforeseeable amount of time.

This was not the beginning however. It started where it remains; with her self awareness, self love and spirituality. It was infact these things that led me to her heterogeneous body of music.

I had stumbled onto a video she had done with Genius; “Princess “Nokia “G.O.A.T.” Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified”, where she explains the lyrics of the first verse from her song “G.O.A.T”. At that time, she was decked in floral print sitting against Genius’ distinctive pineapple yellow background.

The video begins, a composed, smooth, raspy voice says “I am a gorgeous woman. That’s not me being egotistical or narcissistic, it’s just a fact. I’m a knockout. I have confidence and je ne sais quoi that is, you know, unmistakable and my pheromones and my chemistry and the way I walk, I am divine feminine energy.” My attention is now grabbed and gripped tight. About fifteen more seconds into the video, to debunk the implication that she is the “greatest of all time” she says “in no way am I the best… I ain’t shit…” To her, “G.O.A.T” was simply a double entrendre that she “decided to run with”, as the analogy of a being “eating off the land, using [its] resources” to become “great” is something she identifies with.

I was enamored. “Who is this woman speaking of herself so brashly?” I thought. “Why is she doing it?” Knowing well the repression societies have inflicted on blossoming women, I wondered, “how did she become this?”

She continues. As she raps the lyrics, I notice that her voice crouches in a corner of her throat, a pur turned into an enticing gnarr. When the video ends, my journey through a hypnotic world of roses, mermaids, passion and weed begins.

Interview after Interview I fall deeper in awe as I witness a dancing, uninhibited spirit and I can’t seem to get enough.

Princess Nokia is a woman who has found her voice. She does not push politics but rather, principles. Having had feminism as a major recurring theme in her life, she speaks to everyone, including the neglected female; the excluded, unjustly demonized black and brown women (and men) who often go unheard and unrepresented in feminist movements. Her work and her world act as compassionate spaces for everyone.

She has acquainted herself with purpose and has leaped into action; Once a journalist and photographer, she also hosted the Smart Girl Club podcast where she echoed the importance and fundamental components of self love and self care – encouraging listeners to connect with their spiritual selves.

She has learned of her roots and of her history. A woman who associates herself with the borough of Manhattan, A woman of Harlem. Her inspiration comes from both the lightness and darkness of that world. A girl familiar with the uncensored night scene of an urban neighbourhood. A girl who walked on its streets alone. A woman of Afro Latinx, Afro Caribbean ancestry living in a society dirtied by color-ism, she is in complete love with her Puerto Rican heritage; “I am an Afro-Indegenous woman, I’m Puerto Rican which means I’m triple raced, I’m black, I’m white and I’m native American” she says in one of her interviews, before going on to explain how these roots have shaped her spirituality and her identity.

She has fortified herself away from the possessive grasps of men who want to be held accountable for her success. She produces her music independently and tours the world performing at sold out venues, a rare thing for underground artists.

She has blossomed in her solitude. Outcasted for her frank queerness, her rugged way of existing and her outright eccentricity at a young age, she spent lots of time alone. Now, as a twenty five year old woman, alongside her healthy relationship with nature, (and its generosity towards providing us with life and beauty hacks) retreat is a chief component of her spirituality.

She has stepped into herself as a woman and embraces who she is so audaciously it is delicious to even watch and listen. A woman who was not bred under a glorifying gaze towards her beauty but was stripped of it, having her crown mutilated at a young age for no reason, then to grow into a body that is not conventionally lauded, she now declares her own beauty.

In the span of a few days I have watched and re-watched several of Princess Nokia’s interviews as well as her Fader documentary “Princess Nokia – Destiny”. I cannot cover all that she is in an article but I did want to show my love and appreciation for who she is.

Her confidence, her magic, her full acceptance of self is damn near tangible – it’s contagious. I have felt more beautiful, more a woman, more intelligent more confident in my struggles, triumphs, spirituality and perspectives because of the bravery of this woman. My wish is that girls and women everywhere can hear, see, feel Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, aka Princess Nokia and be moved by her in the same way that I am.

 

PS I watched this interview and revisited it about 5 times in one weekend:
Princess Nokia at Brown University (click the photo)

Interview w/ Caribbean Filmmaker Pierre Chester

Millennials – Technology – Creativity. Is it me or do these three go hand in hand now?

This is certainly the era of the Iphone, the Android.. of Instagram, YouTube and the like. Consider it .. how many photographers and videographers do you know? It’s cool though, who doesn’t like a fancy photo, or some quick burst of ethereal scenery in motion? How many of us spend an embarrassing number of hours skimming through the portfolios of creative lens maestros? Not to mention we especially love the work of our counterparts who think outside the box and use their gifts to tell unique stories. Pierre Chester is a storyteller/ filmmaker from Saint Lucia.

To read about Pierre’s journey and perspective on Film in the Caribbean, click here.

“Being on set is a great feeling, with everybody coming together and making a script come to life, it’s a rush.” – Pierre Chester

 

Gilroy H- Choosing Art No Matter What

A dedicated, young, Caribbean Artist. I have known Gilroy for a little over ten years now. Although his persisting passion towards Art was something I came to notice later than sooner, his creativity had always stood out to me. Not long into my brainstorming session – trying to figure out how many interesting, inspiring people I knew to possibly feature – did he occur to me as an obvious choice. Below is a snippet of our interview:

You have been doing this for so many years, what would you say pushes you to continue with your Art so consistently? 

There are actually different reasons for me pushing myself to continue…trying to be an inspiration to others especially those younger than myself to show them that even if it’s difficult and people tell you otherwise that you should always believe in yourself and do what makes you happy, do what makes you feel complete.

For my Family and not just those related by blood but the friends who became family as well. They have been with me throughout this from the beginning. From me as a child drawing on everything in the house to me being stubborn turning down jobs because it had nothing to with Art. To me leaving jobs because I felt limited and stifled as an artist and wanting that freedom to create whenever I felt like it. It’s been tough, really tough. I won’t say there were not times when it felt useless doing this because at the end of the day, bills had to be paid, mouths to feed.

But they’ve always had my back, supporting and encouraging me telling me that a door will open some way somehow…I just had to keep pushing. It’s given me that drive, that mentality to overlook everything. Even after suffering a life changing injury from my previous job which has now put so many limitations on my life, my mobility, what I am able to do and not do now these people still encourage me to focus on my happiness even with these limitations and everything else will just fall into place when you work hard enough for it pray and continue to trust in God.

 

To read more, click here.

 

 

“I Will be The Hero in My Story”

Unwatered Childhood Dreams Part II

Occasionally I have flashbacks of my younger self, sitting on the floor of my childhood home, absentmindedly staring up, out of the window, into a vision my mind projected onto the sky. Between my open thighs would be some emblem of the crafts I loved most; either a notebook with words clumsily strewn together for 1, a poem that would never be published 2, a song I would hope to one day sing 3, words I would hope to one day act / my little silver and blue cd player, open cd cases and cds scattered on the tiles while I prepped for a bedroom concert – a sure way of training for a career that would spring from some hopeful seed / sheets of paper with bad drawings of one of the many things I would “eventually” design.

These flashbacks are always specked with warm, glimmering rays of light, a construct of the magic associated with childhood; innocence, wonder, desire, faith, knowing, but it would all be enveloped in the bittersweet sent of nostalgia.

It was classified as “dreams”. The thing you wished to be most successful at in your current lifetime was your “dream”. Not sure how many others suffered this delusive habit, but as a child my “dreams” were always set as some future occurrence, while my face and body mimicked my then youth. I later learned that something our deepest desires and ‘wildest dreams’ cannot beat is the constant inching hands and ticking of passing time. Envisioning things as happening “sometime in the future” turned my ‘dream catching’ into a cat and mouse game. I did not catch the mouse and my age and appearance overtook that of the girl in my ‘dream’.

Nevertheless, the “glimmer and magic” mentioned above are things I involuntarily associate with my childhood, yet as an adult I still feel their accompanying warmth like an ember continuously lit in my spirit. That constant pull of an unfulfilled ambition – an image I can better describe as the child version of myself tugging at the hem of the skirt or dress shirt of my office outfit each day.

For many “grown ups” with unrequited dreams there is a trail of events in their past where parts of themselves and their dreams died; times where they expressed their desires to a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, teacher but met ridicule or no offerings of support in return – where they attempted a step forward but failed and lost the courage to try again – where they observed others receive abundant, overt praise and believed that they were not as good – they expected opportunities to present themselves but they never did, so it was taken as an indication that perhaps it was not meant for them… Until they eventually arrived at a place where they saw no point in believing in “a dream”.

Some may claim that there is no longer an ember glowing in a dark corner of their soul reminding them of a desire that once burned. However I also know that there are others who will until the day they die feel that tug from little hands beckoning a quick glance at the thing their soul most desires.

 

A new feat of my flashbacks though are their proceeding thoughts; what was once a conundrum, that is, regretful feelings of losing faith, settling, resentment towards those who made me feel that it was wrong to want to do things differently are now replaced with the realization that all the things I expected others to express to me, I could express to myself, that as an adult, I can seek, search, grow and learn to reinforce my positive thoughts and beliefs in my capabilities. I have the power (and tools in this information age) to learn the things that were not taught to me, and I can reignite that flame by fueling my spirit and pouring its richness onto my own glowing ember.

Keeping my desire burning is my responsibility. Picking up a pen to write again, stepping behind or infront a camera, using creative skills to manifest new ideas are all things I like to do and want to do and can do. 

Becoming ones own Hero sounds a bit romantic, but it is an expression and declaration of a willingness to go “all in” on a bet on oneself. It is choosing to believe and rely on ones innate and acquired abilities. If there is a deep desire to do something at any point, at that same point there will be the possession of what is needed to take atleast a small step forward in manifesting that desire, and if no possible small steps are available, it might simply mean that the time is not right but it does not mean the time will never come. Moreover, part of ones heroism is to figure out a step. Part of ones heroism is to stop waiting for someone to offer a “go ahead” or a “you are good enough”.

Part of my heroism is accepting that if no one gives me a chance, and I want to do something, I will create my own chance.

A (2017) Take on Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Much of the joy of reading is tied to the exposure one gets to purposeful, reflective stories and delighting in creative story telling. Now twenty-five, I find myself eager to read not only for enjoyment but also to find stories that enrich my spirit and mind as a Caribbean woman moving through the world. (And now that I am looking for any and everything to write about – because I just want to write and write some more… to hopefully one day be great at it) I thought a recent book I read made for a good challenge and topic. Below is a synopsis including my thoughts on a recent read but a 30 year old Toni Morrison classic.

Loaded. Important. Spell binding. Toni Morrison’s Beloved receives no stars from me because it defies the commonness of star ratings and exists outside the classifying lines of “fictional novels”.

Heavy with themes of slavery, race, home, guilt, love, community and identity, Beloved follows the story of Sethe, a mother of four in 1873, who was put in the position of sending her three young children (two boys, and a “crawling baby girl”) off in a wagon in order to have them escape the perils of “Sweet Home” and its slavery. Swollen with her fourth child still in the womb, Sethe later flees “Sweet Home” on her own, to reunite with her children and to live in freedom.

Following a set of events, including delivering Denver, her second daughter and last child in a sinking boat, Sethe eventually makes it to freedom; a two story house referred to as “124” on Bluestone Road in Cincinnati Ohio, inhabited by her mother in law, “Baby Suggs”, and Sethe’s children. In this corner of Cincinnati, the freed lives of blacks are full of tenderness, love, determination, and chants of hope, all the things Sweet Home was not Sethe realizes, but for her the joy of the place is short lived. A disturbing encounter leads Sethe to murder her first daughter in a desperate act of protection, marking the beginning of the demise of the once haven, 124, which later becomes haunted by the baby’s ghost. The house, which was once a hub for the community turns into a place of scorn.

Later, in various forms of abandon Sethe, Denver and Paul D, another sweet home runaway who wanders into the picture at the beginning of the novel become the only three inhabitants of 124, excluding the ghost. Paul D presents to Sethe a new opportunity for something other than the seeming alienation that has eclipsed her life, but this vision is seared when they come home one afternoon and find a young, ailing girl who goes by the name “Beloved” on a stoop infront the house. It is hinted throughout the story that the girl may be the ghost of Sethe’s dead baby in human form. This welcomed intrusion (oxymoron intended) sews, plants and rains uncontrollable things into 124 that leaves its members emotionally hypnotized.

Beloved is an uninhibited peer into America’s history. Stripped of flowering, the language is raw, simple, yet fluid in the way of the most intoxicating poetry. Nonlinear, the events of the novel are revealed as the plot moves back and forth from present to past tense effortlessly.

Additionaly, although Sethe is at the center of the story, the narrative moves freely from 1st to 3rd person between each character. Hence we are made to consider a difficult time and circumstance from various perspectives;

Sethe’s narrative forces us to face the realities of her experiences as a slave woman, the brutality she came under while working for her white slave owners, the traits of which were so dark, she preferred her children dead than to have them live through it. The way the guilt and aftermath of her actions rocked her own-better life at 124 with Baby Suggs, her children and their surrounding community shed light on the relationships and intricacies of Black communities held together by the willingness of its members to create lives worth living in a world designed to stump the very prospect of this out of the picture.

Sethe’s daughter Denver’s narrative invites us into the confines of the life of a first generation “free” African American. Having been with her mother “all her life”, Denver up until the age of 18 comes across a product of a grief stricken but in her own right resilient matriarch and her loyalty, loneliness and will prevail at various stages of the novel.

Paul D, an African American man’s fragmented journey sketches a map of hardship across America’s southeast. Here we have a male perspective, from his life as a boy, his humanistic desires contained to a cottage and field, a young man shackled and buried, then uncertain and lost once he is free, a grown man cold and hard, scouring for things he is not even sure exists.

Baby Suggs, an endeared woman even after facing the brunt of slavery in its varied forms; savage then lenient, folds into herself after witnessing white men with self-rightousness etched into their eyebrows, spread malice through and to the lives of “negroes” like an infection.

Sethe’s “crawling baby” a reminder of the innumerable, unlived, severed African lives. Children who were turned over into unconsciousness by parents who felt the life waiting for them in this world too filled with torture and violence, so death seemed a more desirable alternative.

This was my vain attempt at summarizing a work of Art with complexities that have been analyzed for 30 years now, the resulting variety of ‘conclusions’ conflict in so many ways that an attempt to put a finger on one true meaning would be futile. Nonetheless, Beloved is laden with meaning and story. The events of the plot are precise but it captures the essence of a time when the definitions of life and living were violently distorted. All in all, my rating of Beloved is that Everyone should read this book at-least once in their lifetime.

5 Caribbean Art Festivals To Look Out For

For years Caribbean Artists have ploughed the fields of creativity in order to bear works that adequately reflect the region’s unique stories and perspectives. Interestingly, with each passing year, the margins of artistic platforms widen (a feat perhaps of the rapid technological advancement characterizing this age), allowing for increased opportunity and audience interaction; more places and spaces where artists can share their work. Yet, many still express that there is a lack of respect shown towards their craft. Nonetheless, several Caribbean Artists refuse to be pushed beyond despair into a place where they are made to abandon their beliefs in their work and their purpose.

In the hopes of one day having a more than thriving Art culture here in the Caribbean, I went searching for consistently held regional Art Festivals, ones which serve as platforms for both new and seasoned, regional writing, filmmaking and performance talent. Below are five that everyone should look out for.

 

1) The Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival

In 2016, some 26 films were featured at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival; an annual event held in Port of Spain to showcase the work of Trinidadian, Caribbean and international filmmakers, and to highlight projects that appeal to the Caribbean Diaspora. Among selected and screened projects are feature length films and documentaries, as well as short and experimental films.
Actual screenings are put on for about two weeks in September, however entries are accepted as early as February of the same year.
The committee behind the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival encourages Caribbean Filmmakers to submit their work for free via their website http://ttfilmfestival.com/ where more information regarding the festivals history as well as submission regulations can also be found.

 

2) Calabash International Literary Festival

One of the longest running Art Festivals in the Caribbean, the Calabash International Literary Festival was founded in the year 2000. Held in Treasure Beach, Jamaica the event is hosted on a benial basis, on even years.
This event attracts book lovers, authors and anyone willing to bask in a downpour of reggae, relaxation and literary prowess, in a quaint South coastal Jamaican village. The Calabash International Literary Festival Trust which operates the event also provides publishing seminars and writing workshops throughout the duration of the festival.

For more information visit: http://www.calabashfestival.org/.

 

3) Carifesta – The Caribbean Festival of the Arts

‘Carifesta xiii’ is slated to be held in Barbados with the theme “Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves” from August 17th to August 27th of this year.
With a name most Caribbean nationals are already familiar with, this event stages a number of creative Caribbean “music, dance, drama, painting, sculpture, folk art, photography and literature” talents.
The festival which comes around every few years, aims to highlight the kaleidoscopic vibrancy and diversity of Caribbean and South American cultures and artistry.

For more information visit www.carifesta.net.

 

4) GIMISTORY; The Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival

Storytelling is rooted in tradition and is one of the world’s oldest art-forms.
From November 25th to December 3rd story tellers from all over the world travel to each district of the Cayman Islands as well Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, to perform stories some of which meant to reveal details of ancient “myths and legends”, as well as to evoke “laughter, drama and wonderment”.

The event, which began in 1997 and is held annually, serves as a canvas for the imaginations of audience dwellers. With its storytellers as the brushes, each word strokes the assorted colours and layers of the world’s heritages.
Through an application process the festival’s founders and operators welcome anyone to its stages.

For more information visit http://www.artscayman.org/gimistory.

5) Caribbean Youth Film Festival

A fairly new festival aimed at creating opportunity and a platform for precisely younger filmmakers, The Caribbean Youth Film Festival is a four day event held in Saint Lucia. This year the festival, which is held annually, will run from August 7th to August 17th making it five years now since its inception.

The Caribbean Youth Film Festival committee invites anyone ’35 and under’ to submit his/ her work (short films only) which will be screened to local and international audience members.
In the spirit of cultivating the Caribbean’s film landscape, the committee adds to its roster workshops and seminars held around the time of the festival as well as throughout the year, for persons of all ages and backgrounds, whether new to the art of filmmaking or seasoned.

For more information visit facebook.com/CYFFestival.

Some say, ultimately, it really depends on a person’s will and dedication to his/her craft to determine whether they can build themselves up and together as an Artist. Knowing that there is an audience ready and willing to bare witness to ones work however, can serve as motivation, especially in a culture where emerging Artists may feel invisible.