Barbadian-Canadian painter Jordan Clarke shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. In addition to familiarizing herself with Barbados, which she has never visited before, Jordan shares some of her thoughts on grappling with notions of identity and belonging in an environment that is both a part of her heritage yet still a foreign space. Read more below:
I cannot believe it’s been almost a week since I arrived in Barbados.
Shortly after landing on Monday we headed over to Fresh Milk where Annalee gave a lecture to a couple art students from the University of the West Indies. The lecture was a great introduction to the Caribbean and its art scene. We were introduced to the various informal art networks happening throughout the Caribbean such as Alice Yard (Trinidad), Popopstudios (Bahamas), Tembe Art Studios (Suriname), NLS (Jamaica), Beta Local (Puerto Rico), Instituto Buena Bista (Curacao), and Ateliers ’89 (Aruba).
Annalee referenced the book, An Eye For The Tropics by Krista Thompson, to discuss how tropicalization has developed throughout the Caribbean, and how the image alone has been used as a tool in creating this inaccurate idea of a ‘tropical paradise’. It seems that these networks are creating platforms for contemporary artists to be able to experiment and to exchange ideas, while providing safe spaces to foster self-expression.
Both Annalee and Katherine have pointed out various books from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room they thought would be of interest to my art practice.
See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self Portraiture From The Caribbean really stood out for me because I am also dealing with self-portraiture in my work. It’s interesting to see how Caribbean artists are examining, exploring and expressing their identity.
Thinking The Diaspora: Home Thoughts From Abroad by Stuart Hall, was suggested to me after an insightful conversation I had with Annalee about feeling disconnected from Barbados. Because I am mixed race and have a Barbadian father I thought I would feel more at home. But the truth is, I don’t. So once again I’m continuing to question my identity. I am coming to the realization that this is okay!
I was fortunate enough to visit Bathsheba with Aaron Kamugisha who is a professor of Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies. We drove along the rugged East Coast with a stop at St. John’s Parish Church, one of the oldest in Barbados. Looking out from the church was a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean. I also made a visit to Rockley Beach in Christ Church with Annalee. It was an absolutely beautiful evening walking while listing to the rolling waves, after which we headed over to Mojos for dinner, drinks and to meet with local artists Katherine Kennedy, Versia Harris, and Mark King, who I got to meet for the first time.
In addition to sightseeing I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio. I’m really enjoying just being in this wonderful space that is full of natural light and which also provides a fresh cooling breeze. I began my week with sketching various plants growing around the Fresh Milk space. On Friday I began to work with oil paints on mylar paper. I’m finding the drying time to be a bit slower than what I would like at this point. So in the coming days I will be exploring other mediums such as graphite, charcoal and oil pastels.
This residency is supported by the Ontario Arts Council.