‘!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)

"As artist and 'almost Bajan', I am an observer and a witness - constantly on the lookout for people who 'speak' to me - for the look or gesture which prods me to hang on to that moment, their moment, in paint." (Heidi Berger, "Almost Bajan" artist)

As artist and ‘almost Bajan’, I am an observer and a witness – constantly on the lookout for people who ‘speak’ to me – for the look or gesture which prods me to hang on to that moment, their moment, in paint.” (Heidi Berger, “Almost Bajan” artist)

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!

Heidi's own work is brilliant both in content and technique. She manipulates surfaces and with occasional collage and other devices creates textures, moods and ideas that leave us enviously thinking "I wish I could do that". She's not just an artist but a philosopher and a story teller. She's joined by the greatly loved Alison Chapman-Andrews, "best known for her splendid expressionist landscapes". Alison evokes the moody and moving masterpieces of Emily Carr of British Columbia, whom I've quoted above.

Heidi’s own work is brilliant both in content and technique. She manipulates surfaces and with occasional collage and other devices creates textures, moods and ideas that leave us enviously thinking “I wish I could do that“. She’s not just an artist but a philosopher and a story teller. She’s joined by the greatly loved (seatedAlison Chapman-Andrews, “best known for her splendid expressionist landscapes“. Alison evokes the moody and moving masterpieces of Emily Carr of British Columbia, whom I’ve quoted above.

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.

Corrie Scott's photos of Bajan life - Bajan women - were evocative moments in time. I especially liked Baskets 2, the Bajan Trolly Vendor and the series Tropical Carriage - women with loads of different kinds. Corrie has a remarkable gift for spotting the significant - moving or still!

Corrie Scott‘s photos of Bajan life – Bajan women – were evocative moments in time. I especially liked Baskets 2, the Bajan Trolly Vendor and the series Tropical Carriage – women with loads of different kinds. Corrie has a remarkable gift for spotting the significant – moving or still!

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.

Others in the show are Anne Rudder (two large, rich and dramatic textile panels), Joyce Daniel's multi-media works, Natalie Atkins-Hinds's mixed media works, and Martina and Simba Pilé - mother and daughter artists of enormous creativity.

Others in the show are Anne Rudder (two large, rich and dramatic textile panels), Joyce Daniel’s multi-media works, Natalie Atkins-Hinds’s mixed media works, and Martina and Simba Pilé – mother and daughter artists of enormous creativity.

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!

(Second From Left) Professor Fraser is past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine. Website:  profhenryfraser.com

(Second From Left) Professor Fraser is past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine. Website: profhenryfraser.com

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 …

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  1. Visited the gallery yesterday and was truly breathless with the beauty, the thought, the soul, the wonder of what these women have put together…we have as women such a hard time breaking into the male world of “important” artists but this show lets all of us know…we are on our way up! Try and stop us!! It is so worth going to see…and certainly buying a piece or two ’cause one day we will be the triumphant ones on this island and you will have missed your chance!!!!

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