Last Sundays, July 26, 2015: Artists Talks, Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for July 26, 2015 will feature the much-anticipated artists’ talks to accompany its current exhibition Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists, which invites viewers to reflect on the role and status of women in the Jamaican art world. Participating artists will include Miriam Hinds-Smith, Amy Laskin, Prudence Lovell and Berette Macaulay, who will speak about their work and the issues that surround it, in the context of local and global debates about the role and advancement of female artists in the art world.

Visitors will not only be able to view the Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists exhibition but also the Kapo and Edna Manley Galleries, the Historical Galleries, and the A.D. Scott Galleries, as well as a temporary exhibition consisting of sections from the Gallery’s modern Jamaican collection, which is staged while those galleries are being refurbished. The latter exhibition includes major work by Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Carl Abrahams, Koren der Harootian, David Pottinger, Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Everald Brown, Albert Artwell, Colin Garland, and Gloria Escoffery.

As is customary on Last Sundays, the doors will be open to the public from 11 am to 4 pm and admission, guided tours and children’s activities will be free. Contributions to our donations box are greatly appreciated and help to fund exhibitions and programmes such as the Explorations series and our Last Sundays programming. The gift and coffee shop will also be open for business.


Last Sundays, June 28, 2015 – featuring “Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists” and “The Way Home” by Millicent A. A. Graham

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for June 28, 2015, is staged in association with the 2015 Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) urban art festival. The programme will feature special tours of the Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists exhibition and the launch of the poetry collection The Way Home by Millicent A.A. Graham.

Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists, which opened on May 31 and continues until August 8, is the third edition of a series of exhibitions that explore the big themes and issues in Jamaican art. It asks whether any concept of women’s art is relevant in Jamaica today and features work by Kereina Chang Fatt, Miriam Hinds-Smith, Berette Macaulay, Amy Laskin, Prudence Lovell, Judith Salmon, and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan. Explorations 3 was curated by National Gallery Senior Curator O”Neil Lawrence.

Millicent Graham

The Way Home is Millicent A.A. Graham’s second poetry collection and is published by Peepal Tree Press; her first collection, The Damp in Things, was published in 2009, also by Peepal Tree Press. Graham is a fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, 2009 and was awarded the Michael and Marylee Fairbanks International Fellowship to Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, 2010. The Way Home will be introduced by the critically acclaimed poet and novelist Velma Pollard, who is a retired senior lecturer and former Dean of the Faculty of Education, UWI Mona. This will be followed by readings from the poetry collection by the first lady of Jamaican theatre Leonie Forbes, by fellow poets Jean Binta Breeze and Yashika Graham and by Millicent Graham herself.

Admission and guided tours on Sunday, June 28, 2015 are free but donations are gratefully accepted. The doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm but the book launch will start at 1:30 pm. The National Gallery gift and coffee shop will be open.




Tanya Shirley – “The Female Artist: Living Bad a Man Yard”

Guest speaker Tanya Shirley at the opening of Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists

Guest speaker Tanya Shirley at the opening of Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists

We are pleased to present the remarks presented by poet and scholar Tanya Shirley at opening of Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists on Sunday, May 31, 2015:

If my grandmother saw her children looking untidy she would say, “How you look like you a live bad a man yard so.” The aim of my talk this afternoon is to reclaim my grandmother’s phrase and apply it to the Jamaican art scene where Jamaica is the man’s yard and female artists through the simple act of creating art are being bad. However, I perceive this badness as a good thing: a subversive act of rebellion. My grandmother used the phrase to imply that her daughters looked as if they were being ill-treated by a man. One could argue that the phrase is a metaphor for how patriarchal strictures in our society still prevent female artists from gaining the maximum benefits that could be derived from their artistic output. I want to make it clear that I am not talking today as an art critic. I leave that to the experts like Veerle and O’Neil. I’m a poet and poetry is art; therefore, I am talking about my journey as a female artist. From that viewpoint, I will also address the term “women’s art” or “female art” and how I think the category assists and restricts the work that we do as female artists.

When I was a graduate student at the University of Maryland, I had the honour of having breakfast with the esteemed poet, Derek Walcott. Of course I’ve seen Walcott on many occasions since then and I can tell he has no recollection of our meeting and why should he, I was but a mere graduate student at one of his many university visits. However, that meeting was instrumental for me because one of the things he said very early on in our conversation was, “Don’t ever get married or have children…I’ve met too many good female poets who’ve stopped writing because their responsibilities got in the way.”

One could argue that his sentiment was fuelled by chauvinism and stereotypical ideas of femininity. However, the truth of the matter is that many great female artists have had to deal with the burden of creating art while fulfilling society’s role of the “real woman”; especially in our Jamaican context, where I would argue that art is still not perceived as a viable occupation and though we have many women in managerial positions, women are still judged by their ability to master the traditional roles of wife, mother and housekeeper. As an aside, I will give you a joke, I went to the mineral bath in St Thomas a few years ago and one of the informal masseurs, while massaging me, asked if I had children and when I said no, my good-good therapeutic massage turned into a blessing and a “balming” for my poor, barren womb. Up to when I was getting into my car, this man was still reaching through the window to touch my belly and chant a few Psalms for my womb.

Prudence Lovell - Untitled (Conversation I) (2015)

Prudence Lovell – Untitled (Conversation I) (2015)

As female artists, when we create in an environment like this, we are constantly aware of the politics of going against the grain. Women are permitted to dabble in the arts as a hobby but when you brand yourself as a serious artist, when you have the audacity to exhibit your work and to spend countless hours creating art, it means that you run the risk of being perceived as a ‘bad’ woman, one who is perhaps neglecting the more important work of contributing to society via traditionally prescribed roles. As the writer Virginia Wolf said, women need a room of their own and metaphorically that applies to having the space to create. The challenge for women artists is that society often does not grant them that space in the same way that men are given the space to work. In the same way that black children in the United State are often told, “you must work twice as hard,” the female artist has to work twice as hard just to claim and maintain her space as an artist. Therefore, when a woman produces art, it is in many ways a rebellious act and her work automatically becomes political. Continue reading

Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists – Jasmine Thomas-Girvan

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - None but Ourselves (2015)

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – None but Ourselves (2015)

Here is the final of our posts based on text panels in the current Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists exhibition, which opens today and is on view until August 8:


Born in 1961 in Jamaica, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan attended the Parsons School of Design in New York, where she received a BFA in Jewellery and Textile Design. Thomas-Girvan currently lives and works in Trinidad.

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - Anansi (2009)

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Anansi (2009)

About the Work

Other artists in the exhibition produce work that conforms less to narrow expectations about women’s art but nonetheless seems to reflect female perspectives. The sculptural and sometimes wearable work of jeweller Jasmine Thomas-Girvan explores the complexities of Jamaican and Caribbean histories as well as the cultural and political implications of those histories. Her spectacularly surreal assemblages often employ, or are inspired by naturally occurring plant matter and actively utilise found objects that have a personal resonance with the artist.

She often takes inspiration from Caribbean and Latin American literary sources. Olive Senior’s Gardening in the Tropics is a strong reference and Amazonia embodies the spirit of Senior’s words. Regally depicting, in bronze, wood and calabash, the type of woman many in this exhibition have had to be: balancing the concerns of childrearing with the other responsibilities that usually revert to women and still being able to express themselves artistically.

O’Neil Lawrence, Exhibition Curator

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - Dreaming Backwards, mixed media - detail

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Dreaming Backwards, mixed media – detail

About Women’s Art

“When I think of women’s art two words come to mind: tactile and contemplative. Tactile, because process is an inherent characteristic; and contemplative, because the creative process, from idea to completed work, is often interrupted by domestic life, which though messy and frustrating exacts a kind of deliberation that gives ideas time to ferment, developing a dialogue with time. A female sensibility does not only exist in biological life experience but is a product of a specific cultural time and place.”

“In the contemporary Caribbean space, women’s creative pursuits mirror dynamic challenges to previously determined canons and this does not necessarily translate to confrontation. It means understanding your perceived role as an artist, the function and purpose of your art, reconciling this with private and public realities, always searching for a connecting thread or meaningful metaphor.”

“My energies are always in dialogue with our history, past and present, returning to the primal locations of life – to memory, to the body of self and Earth, to birth, growth, decay, death and rebirth in a ceaseless cycle, recognising a connection to the ephemeral elemental forces that shape us alongside the historical, political and cultural forces which have damaged us.”

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan

Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists – Judith Salmon

Judith Salmon - Pockets of Memory (2012)

Judith Salmon – Pockets of Memory (2012)

The Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists opens today, May 31 and will be on view until August 8, 2015. Here is another text panel from the exhibition:


Born in 1952 in Kingston, Jamaica, Judith Salmon holds a graduate certificate in Museum Studies from the University of South Florida; an MFA from Johnson State University in Johnson, Vermont; a BA in Liberal Arts from Norwich University in Vermont, USA; and studied painting and printmaking at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, USA. Salmon lives and works in Kingston, Jamaica.

Judith Salmon, Palimpsests (2014, detail)

Judith Salmon, Palimpsests (2014, detail)

About the Work

The dynamics of memory and the resonance of materials are at the heart of the installation and assemblage work of Judith Salmon. The multiple physical and conceptual layers of the work Palimpsests of Life, made from liquid beeswax and found objects, represent a tactile accumulation of experiences and explore the way in which memories are preserved, obscured or lost over time. The invitation to touch, to share in an experience is a real one in the interactive and ever-expansive Pockets of Memory which invites viewers to leave notes or other items of personal significance in the crocheted pockets enabling their experiences to become part of a work representative of the collective human experience.

O’Neil Lawrence, Exhibition Curator

About Women’s Art

“I grew up in the era when children were expected to be seen and not heard. My socialization evolved from activities at home, school, church, and entertainment such as Miss Lou and Mass Ranny, float parades, Jonkonnu, and making Christmas cakes.  Art seeped into my awareness during high school and became my passion.”

“According to the art historian Linda Nochlin: ‘It is only by adopting … the “masculine” attributes of single-mindedness, concentration, tenaciousness, and absorption in ideas and craftsmanship … that women have succeeded … in the world of art.’ These qualities are necessary for achievement in any field, whether art, athletics or business. They are neither masculine nor feminine attributes, but strategies for survival, which women, especially those who play multiple roles like artist and mother, must actively cultivate. What comes before single-mindedness, however is nurturing, and permitting children to be heard.” 

“This exhibition can function as a looking glass for assessing our journeys and contributions as women. It can also be a window for looking regionally and globally to assess how we measure up. Audiences may become curious about the creative processes for women, and making art could be demystified. The imaginative life is work, after all.”

Judith Salmon

Judith Salmon -  Book of Days (2014)

Judith Salmon – Book of Days (2014)

Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists – Berette Macaulay

Berette Macaulay - (CrowDED) (2009)

Berette Macaulay – Anishka (CrowDED) (2009)

The Explorations 3: Seven Women Artists exhibition opens tomorrow, Sunday, May 31. Here is another text panel from the exhibition:

Born in Sierra Leone, Berette Macaulay grew up in Jamaica while also spending considerable time in the UK. She obtained her BA degree in Theatre from Marymount Manhattan College, New York, and now lives and works in New York.

About the Work

The search for personal identity, selfhood and belonging is at the heart of the photography and multimedia work of BeretteMacaulay. She not only explores traditional analogue and digital photography but also uses various experimental techniques, such as Polaroid image transfers and chemical manipulation. Using these techniques, Macaulay has produced several seemingly divergent bodies of work, such as the CrowDED, Neue Rootz and, most recently, the ongoing ReKONstruction: Differentiated Possibility series. The haunting, turbulent images in CrowDed speak to overcoming personal trauma; the drive to resolve those histories and its relationship to the construction, reconstruction and establishment of family ties is seen in her Neue Rootz series, which explore her family’s African, Central European and Caribbean connections. Her most recent series, ReKONstruction, in turn, embodies her preoccupation with mythology and the power of memory, to speak about evolution and personal growth. While the work may seem divergent, there is an inner logic that pulls it all together into a complex exploratory narrative about personal history and resolution.

O’Neil Lawrence, Exhibition Curator

Berette Macauley - Lisa (Neue Roots) (2013)

Berette Macauley – Lisa (Neue Roots) (2013)

About Women’s Art

“As a West African and Jamaican artist deeply influenced by these matters via my family’s cultural and vocational background, I see the reflection of ‘women’s issues’ in the arts quite clearly. Historically black women have been pressed to appease the fears, burdens, and shame of others, to supply an endless source of nurturing for everyone’s children, and to be the pastime pleasure of our leaders. In Jamaican art, women are used as subjects to be admired, examined, sexualized, or celebrated as mysterious creatures empowered only with the ability to bear life. Women are almost promiscuously present in the arts, but we have not been agents of this influence.”

“The ways in which this can be addressed scale the spectrum of policy, legislature, advocacy, documentary, and creative fields. While I can see through all these lenses, I am using mythological tales from transcontinental influences to find a common root, a universal idea, a single memory that binds us back together. The forgetful space in which we reside globally that allows abuse and violent neglect of women is ready to be filled by our contemporary creative warriors. This is the
ultimate feminine power – irrespective of nation or realm.”

Berette Macaulay

Berette Macaulay - We Connect at the Root of a Beautiful Catastrophe (2012)

Berette Macaulay – We Connect at the Root of a Beautiful Catastrophe (2012)