‘!Behold! Women’s Work: “never done” but ever better!’ by Henry S. Fraser
“There is something bigger than fact; the underlying spirit – all it stands for; the mood, the vastness, the wildness.” (Emily Carr, Canadian artist and icon [1871 - 1945])
“Men resent a woman getting honour in what they consider is essentially their field.” (Emily Carr)
Don’t miss it! The Gallery of Caribbean Art in Speightstown is host to an extraordinary and perhaps ground breaking exhibition “!Behold! Women’s Work.” It’s a splendid, rich collection of the work of a dozen Bajan or “almost Bajan” artists, as Heidi Berger puts it. The show is Heidi’s brainchild. Not only is her own main body of work based on women – their lives, their challenges, their beauty and strengths, and their stories, which she seeks to read and interpret with feeling, sensuality and conviction – but by her work she seeks to re-dress the imbalance in the recognition of women in art.
This is a much debated subject, because through the centuries there have been no women artists to match the great male artists – Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rodin, Cezanne, Van Gogh or Rodin. Was it genetic, and something to do with biological differences in the left brain and creative focus – perhaps the opposite of that remarkable female ability to multi-task? Was it sheer discrimination, and part of the suppression of the rights of women, that took the suffragettes and the Second World War to change? Or was it simply the obligations of motherhood and child rearing?
It was not until the last century that really creative giants such as Canadian icon Emily Carr, American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986) and the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1975) gained fame.
It suggests that removal of the discrimination and the obligations of motherhood allows women artists to hold their own. Here in Barbados we had Golde White many years ago, while Edna Manley, wife of Premier Norman Manley, mother of Michael Manley and grandmother of Rachel, poet and author, was the doyen of art in Jamaica. She was artist, sculptor, teacher, mover and shaker extraordinary. And our own explosion of local art in the last 30 years has produced many performers, to whom this exhibition opens a wonderful window, but, because of lack of space, leaves us begging for more!
Heather Dawn Scott evokes the past, painting from old photographs, with a free, almost lyrical style for her women of the “olden days”. On a larger scale they would make great murals. Tracy Williams also paints her women with a lavish, free and colourful style. I was particularly attracted to the beautiful, poignant “Spirit of the Goddess” series of Lilian Sten-Nicholson. These mysterious, spiritual and perfectly framed miniatures had the strength of Russian icons, and worked superbly, individually or together. If I could have chosen a Christmas gift from the show it would have been at least a pair of these precious gems.
This column’s space doesn’t allow detailed comments on all of the work, but I have to mention the extraordinary sculptures of Nakazzi Hutchinson. Nakazzi is the daughter of Ikael Tafari and the brilliant Jamaican artist the late Dawn Scott, and her work – her painting and her sculpture is every bit as innovative and brilliant as her mother’s.
Patrons of Brown Sugar restaurant will recognise her masks and the romantic mural there. Her work should be purchased by local banks and business houses for PUBLIC appreciation. The Gallery also has on sale a beautiful retrospective compilation (book) of some of her work to date.
The show is a brilliant showcase of our women’s work. It emphasises the potential of art to enrich us all. It continues until January 15th, so if you have the slightest interest in Bajan art and creativity, don’t miss it. Head for Speightstown and start the new year with some creative inspiration!
Bouquets of the week: To the authors of the two books which provided my Christmas reading – Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and … Me, by Mike Yates with Keith Miller, available from Miller Publishing or SOCCER FAN at Sheraton; and Down Danesbury Gap – Echoes of Memory, by Austin Yearwood, from the Barbados Museum shop. Both are quite splendid, in very different ways – more about them in due course …