Camille Chedda was born in Manchester, Jamaica in 1985. She graduated from the Edna Manley College with an honours diploma in painting, and received her MFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her works have been featured in major exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica, where she was featured in the National Biennial (2006, 2008, 20 12) and Materializing Slavery in 2007. She has also exhibited internationally in Boston, New York, Germany and China. Chedda was a part-time lecturer in drawing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Albert Huie Award, the Reed Foundation Scholarship and a Graduate Thesis of Distinction from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Like many Jamaicans, I habitually collect and recycle the black ”scandal bags” I receive after purchasing items from the grocery store. Upon moving to the United States, however, I was immediately struck by the absence of black scandal bags from everyday life. Black plastic bags are reserved for a more mature audience, distributed predominantly at liquor shops and adult stores. Within this context, I came to the quick conclusion that black scandal bags are only given to people who have something to hide. They are called ”scandal bags” for a definitive reason.
The paintings seen here began out of this context; I wanted to give bags an identity, a face that could confront the viewer openly. What began as an innocent collection of black scandal bags in Jamaica became a ritual of observing and painting my own face onto disposable sandwich bags in America. The paintings are at once durable yet fragile as a result of their material properties. Due to the bags’ transparency, the viewer has access to a private world that begins to fall apart, as it unavoidably comes closer to expiration with each passing day.
How many of us are willing to take that long hard look at ourselves? To look unsparingly at a face that can reveal not only our personal identity but our social and racial histories as well. What do we see when we, as Brenda Shoshanna put it, remove the mask that “[w]e create […] to meet the mask of others.”
In Camille Chedda’s exhibition, a multitude of self-portraits confront you. Painted on plastic bags of various sizes, in tones of black, white and grey, they are at the same time representational and abstracted, confrontational and introverted, and their fragility, both in imagery and material, speaks rather poignantly to what may lie within.
It would be easy to think of this body of work as a form of exhibitionism but the sheer volume of self-portraits presented by Chedda does not reflect the vanity of the Facebook/Instagram era but rather a willingness to delve into oneself again and again to the point that no facet remains unexplored and a real truth is revealed. The work is not just a revelation of the artist herself but also an invitation – a dare, if you will – for the viewers to also look at themselves without artifice without preconception, without the opinions of others to find their own real selves and their own truths.
For more on Camille’s work, see: http://camillechedda.webs.com/