Barbadian visual artist Raquel Marshall blogs about the third week of her Fresh Milk residency, describing it as her best week yet. Studio visits from ceramicist Juliana Inniss, art historian and curator Dr. Allison Thompson and visual artist Ewan Atkinson provided Raquel with valuable feedback, and the realization of one of her concepts has also been a source of excitement and encouragement as she enters her final week. This residency is generously supported by the Central Bank of Barbados. Read more here:
This week was the most fulfilling week thus far.
Moving forward in building and developing the concepts I’ve been working with, I continue to enjoy creating, molding and shaping the clay vessels for the installation. I am reconsidering the amount to produce and how they will actually hang; whether above my head like a ceiling or at different heights where the viewer becomes more of a participant in the piece, walking in, through and around the work. I am leaning towards the latter.
After having a studio visit with Art historian, Author and Head of the Division of Fine Arts at The Barbados Community College, Dr. Allison Thompson, I was challenged to explore the fragility of the work more, which is an aspect we both find intriguing. Since then, I have been more daring and have started pressing the clay between my fingers to create paper thin sides. The vessels are very brittle now, and I am holding them like I would a premature baby as I do the finishing touches. And yet even with the desire to be gentle, I have thrown caution to the wind as I expect some may crack and some may even break and may need repairing after firing. Now, I am excited to see the results and I actually WANT some to break!
I am very grateful to Julianna Innis, an amazing ceramicist, who also came to visit me this week as I requested. I wanted to show her the ceramics and get her feedback. I had recently done a Raku Firing workshop with her and Joanne Johnson at The Barn Art Centre, and I wanted to incorporate what I learned into my ceramic installation. She has agreed to assist me.
I also made some progress on another concept. It consists of two large 3-Dimensional pieces using bean bags. One of these bean bags once sat in my living room, where the idea was first conceived. This bean bag provided a comfortable place to relax and read, watch TV e.t.c. It got me thinking that when a person is in such a comfortable spot, it becomes hard to move out. I want to reflect the Caribbean’s relaxed way of life (which is one of the reasons I love it here), but from a different perspective – one which challenges the “no worries, man” attitude which can lead to the neglect of some very important issues – like our complacency towards alcohol consumption. I think of the traditional travel posters which promote the Caribbean with a collection of images such as a beach chair, umbrella, beach and a potent drink, for example. Very inviting not only to tourists but also to locals. Nothing is wrong with this in itself, but my concern about our culture is that at most events, whether be it a dinner, a beach picnic, painting class, a sport or even a child’s birthday party, alcohol is not only available but it is expected.
The bean bag I decided to work on first is large, fluffy, wine coloured, and subliminally calls you to curl in. Extending from beneath are eight octopus-like tentacles adorned with hooks and weights and whatever else I can think to put on them. Should you stay there too long, a tentacle may just grab you, making it even more difficult to get out. Statistics have shown that people who are more susceptible to alcohol abuse as they age are those who start at young ages, those who grow up watching their parents drink or have alcoholism in their family history. I have only just attached these tentacles, and I am loving everything about the work so far; have you ever had a vision in your head, and when it comes to fruition and fulfils everything you expected it to be, you just want to dance? Well, I had to pelt a little waist in excitement.
One of the most challenging aspects of the residency for me has been writing this blog. Writing about my work in terms of context and process is something I have not done in a very long time. I have found the exercise has helped to bring focus and better prepares me to talk about the work. I realised this when I met with Dr. Thompson and Ewan Atkinson; I had requested Atkinson for a studio visit with me as I trust his aesthetic critique, and I know he isn’t going to sugar coat any of his responses. I found myself more sure of my ideas and more clear in my explanation of the works’ development. I may just start my own blog before the end of the month.
I also discovered Theaster Gates this week. I was amazed that he had done a whole series with fire hoses. It reminded me very much of the seat belts that I have been using.
Leann and I are currently trying to decide what our community involvement will be. This is a welcomed requirement of the residency. We have decided that we would do something together at a local school close by, but when and what is still to be determined.