Leann Edghill’s Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Leann Edghill blogs about the final week of her Fresh Milk residency. Though the week was interrupted by Tropical Storm Matthew, Leann saw this limitation as a chance to carefully plan the rest of her residency and make the most of her remaining time, as she continued to investigate and challenge her relationship to the iconic ‘Barbie’ figure . This residency is generously supported by the Central Bank of Barbados. Read more here:

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My last week in residence had some challenges, but was also delightful. Being that I spent a lot of my time in The Colleen Lewis Reading Room, I finally painted Barbie’s and her sisters’ bright baby blue eyes that I have been longing to do for quite some time. Battling with my thoughts about how I want to destroy Barbie has been very disturbing, because I can’t seem to come to grips with destroying her image and what she stands for, even though she’s two-dimensional.

While I was here on the farm, Raquel and I saw a cow give birth to her calf in the stable, marking my last week with a very generous ‘Birthing Experience’ that I wish never to encounter before having lunch! The cow was have minor difficulties giving birth and had be given professional assistance to ensure she had a safe delivery.

Nature certainly had an impact on my last week; besides the lizards and insects paying me visits at Fresh Milk, Tropical Storm Matthew came along and caused Barbados to have an island-wide shut down that day. Even though that was a bit upsetting, it really forced and challenged me to think about how I wanted to use the rest of my time in residence. Fresh Milk has opened doors for me and sparked the inspiration that I have been missing for almost a year since I left Barbados Community College (BCC). It really made me dig deeper and question the relationship I have with Barbie, and how much of a role Mattel has played in brainwashing me and other fans into seeing her as more than a doll. The attachment I feel, almost making me regard her as a human being, makes me wonder if I am being abusive by mutilating her.

Having Ewan Atkinson and Dr. Allison Thompson visiting me on the platform has also been very influential on how I should continue to pursue my artwork. As I continue my journey post Fresh Milk, I will keep destroying Barbie and what she stands for gradually, whether it’s by bandage, melting, or vandalizing her actual body.

I want to give a huge thank you to The Central Bank of Barbados for creating this opportunity and allowing artists like myself to be able to share and interact with one another. Even though this opportunity has come to an end, I know that this won’t be my last time at Fresh Milk.

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CBB Logo White & Black TextThis residency is sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados

Raquel Marshall’s Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Barbadian visual artist Raquel Marshall writes about the final week of her Fresh Milk residency, which she describes as coming to a “bittersweet end.” Despite losing some time due to what was at the time Tropical Storm Matthew, Raquel has exceeded her expected output for the residency, and takes us through the development and realisation of a number of pieces she has worked on for the last month. This residency is generously supported by the Central Bank of Barbados. Read more below:

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The final week at Fresh Milk was filled with excitement and disappointment.

I completed the large 3 dimensional piece that I started last week. This was definitely one of my highlights. I hand stitched about 70 egg-shaped sinkers and three large hooks onto the tentacles. Although I thought the work to be finished, I was unsure and asked Annalee for her insight. Her response was, “I am thinking it could have a little more.” Having recalled Ida Applebroog’s quote ‘with art it either has to be too much or not enough’, Annalee’s response confirmed for me that I was indeed finished. That quote has not left me since I heard it, and it has shifted the way I look at art generally and at my own work, having a huge impact on my decision making during the creative process.

In my opinion, this work poetically fulfills all the expectations I had of it from its inception. It is inviting, cozy and fun, yet dangerous to play with, heavy and somewhat burdensome; large and striking, obvious yet ambiguous.

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Another highlight of the week was that Leann and I watched the birth of a calf. It was quite an ordeal because the calf was too big and had to be helped out. It took a team of people to help the cow and calf make it through without harm coming to either of them. I have found being here in the “country” and on a farm quite interesting. One night there was an amazing perfume aroma similar to that of tuberose. Apparently, it was a green flower in bloom on a tree. I believe it is a Ylang-Ylang tree. Here, I am surrounded by scenes and smells that I do not see regularly, so I feel like I am truly “away”.

This week Tropical Storm Matthew swirled by and the country was on lock down, so that meant I lost a day at the studio and an important meeting was postponed to October. I had planned to do a few more clay vessels, but I was unable to due to this, and so continued with the other plans I had for the rest of the week.

Before leaving the residency I wanted to make one more pattern in another seat belt. Ironically, the first seat belt I found was grey, which I painted a significant blood red, but the recent ones I found were already red. I still had to paint them though, as I discovered while creating the first one that the paint helped to stiffen the fabric to stay in folded positions. I cut the belt into a pattern of people holding hands; it’s a common pattern kids use when creating these in paper. I decided to paint each person a colour – white, light brown, dark brown, black and red. The colour was a reference to the many races that make up our culture and that all are affected by the overuse of alcohol; however I did not like the aesthetic, and decided it was unnecessary to have all the colours as the monochrome red referred to all people without making it obvious. So I started again from scratch, and am way more satisfied with the outcome. I honestly love when the fabric shears and comes apart. I don’t wish for that to happen too often, but treasure when it does and I try as best I can to preserve it.

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While here, I also worked on a few other concepts which I have not yet mentioned: a work using bottle caps, a video and sound compilation and another with found objects. Only one of those is fully realised and completed, and that is the video and sound compilation. Knowing that I would be doing this residency, I had decided to record a sound to bring with me in case I wanted to use it. At the time, I was totally unaware of what would become of it. The sound is a memory, a classical conditioning. After I left home, and for many years since, when I heard an ice tray crack and the ice hit the glass, my whole body would tense. My body was automatically responding to a sound that brought unease and signalled it was time to tread carefully. It’s been seventeen years, and the residue is still there. I have always been aware and amazed by it, and for some strange reason I wanted to record the sound and do something with it in an art piece one day.

I had never done anything like this before so I asked a dear friend of mine, Simon Pipe, who is an accomplished musician and song writer and who has his own recording studio, if he would do the recording. It was quite a different experience being in his studio, and I realised quite suddenly that sound was becoming my medium the same way I use objects or paint. We cracked ice (this we had to do over and over again, as it had to sound exactly right), dropped ice into the glass (also a specific pitch and a special glass had to be bought), we broke the tin seal, twisted the cap and poured the liquid. Now listening more intently, each sound had a beauty I didn’t notice before. And through its creation I found my reaction to what I heard changing.

Around the same time, I had a totally separate thought picturing a video I wanted to produce, but similarly wanted to bring the video with me to the residency in case I should want to develop the idea. I called on another creative friend, Adam Taylor, who is a photographer, graphic designer, and now music video producer. I needed him to record my feet crushing eggs; if anyone knows my work, walking on eggshells has been a revisited theme. I knew exactly where it had to be shot and how it had to look. So with a dozen eggs and some black velvet, we met at the parquet floor for the shoot. I crushed egg by egg with my feet, the yolk and the thick clear albumen oozing between my toes, slimy and gooey and quite therapeutic. It was gross and exhilarating at the same time. At some points in life, we just need to stop tip toeing and just let the eggs break. It’s messy but it’s authentic and it’s necessary. The video came out perfectly with only a little editing needed.

With no clear way forward individually for the two pieces, I decided to put them together. It was absolutely riveting. The sound of the egg crunching mirrored the sound of the ice cracking and the liquid pouring into the glass juxtaposed with the splashing of the liquescent egg was intense. I had unintentionally – and yet intentionally – made something very sensuous.

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And so I come to a bittersweet end to my residency.

What’s next? I am not ready to leave. Here, I have found my “voice” again as I set out to do, accomplished the development of various ideas, and managed to complete more than one piece which is more than I anticipated. My new challenge is how do I maintain this momentum when I return to my “normal” life?

Thank you to the Barbados Central Bank for making this residency possible. I am truly grateful for the opportunity. Thank you for recognising the potential that the Fresh Milk platform can bring to the national development of our island.

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CBB Logo White & Black TextThis residency is sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados

Leann Edghill’s Residency – Week 2 & 3 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Leann Edghill blogs about the second and third weeks of her Fresh Milk residency. These two weeks have seen an increase in Leann’s studio hours and level of productivity, with studio visits from art historian and curator Dr. Allison Thompson and visual artist Ewan Atkinson helping her to think more about her concepts, and encouraging her to consider pushing her boundaries to move out of her comfort zone. This residency is generously supported by the Central Bank of Barbados. Read more here:

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My second and third weeks on the farm were very productive. I managed to start creating my first piece of artwork, and getting into the process of painting has been delightful. At first, I was off to a rough start, trying to figure out the composition of the piece, but I had a little help from Katherine Kennedy, Fresh Milk’s Communications & Operations Manager, and also my friend Shomari Harrison, who visited me on the platform for a week.

I spent a lot of my time painting in the spacious Colleen Lewis Reading Room, as well as having interesting discussions regarding the different activities that go on here at Fresh Milk and gaining some insight into how the space operates. I also extended my studio hours this week, giving myself time to dig deeper into the development of my work; more ideas keep coming to mind, and I can’t seem to get all of them on paper!

After being at Fresh Milk these past few weeks, and having studio visits with art historian and curator Dr. Allison Thompson and visual artist Ewan Atkinson, both of whom I knew from their roles at Barbados Community College, I am realizing the importance of taking several different approaches to my work and process. Being here has really made me challenge my thoughts and relationship with Barbie, which has been somewhat love-hate for many years. In a way, she is one of my best friends; we have been through a lot together (feminist backlash, issues around careers, family, friends etc.). We did everything together – or was that what Mattel wanted me to believe? Being here has allowed me to consider the doll’s status as an icon, and to reevaluate my connection to Barbie and the corporate powerhouse behind her.

Even though this icon has had major backlash for over fifty years, she still remains an idol to many young girls. I started to illustrate Barbie through simplistic line paintings. Using a minimal colour scheme, I created a different side of her, shifting the focus from just her beauty. I have an obsession with Barbie’s blue eyes and the way that her artificial stare captivates many, including me. I am playing with the contradictory ways her eyes can be read, ranging from innocent to sinister.

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By creating melting patterns and distortion on Barbie, I want to question her classic features, and why it is that Mattel has kept this reoccurring imagery to the present day. Although Mattel has shifted with the times to some extent while keeping up with Barbie’s appearance, they have managed to always maintain those baby blue eyes. As I dig deeper into her construction, I realize that my fondness for her compels me to keep her signature look intact, even when attempting to distort her to reveal a different side to her image. It is this nostalgia that prevents me from disfiguring the actual doll; even destroying her as a painting is hard. Perhaps this is an area in which I need to challenge myself personally and artistically, considering the depth of this connection and what might happen if I sever it.

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CBB Logo White & Black TextThis residency is sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados

Raquel Marshall’s Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

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:

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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.

Dr. Allison Thompson having a studio visit with Raquel Marshall

Dr. Allison Thompson having a studio visit with Raquel Marshall

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!

Raquel Marshall in conversation with Juliana Inniss

Raquel Marshall in conversation with Juliana Inniss

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.

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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.

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CBB Logo White & Black TextThis residency is sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados

Leann Edghill’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Leann Edghill writes about the first week of her Fresh Milk residency, where she has been adjusting to the space alongside her fellow residents Raquel Marshall and Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell. Despite coming to Fresh Milk with a particular plan in mind, Leann hopes to be open to what the space and its resources can offer, while experimenting with different mediums in her work. This residency is generously supported by the Central Bank of Barbados. Read more here:

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My first week here at Fresh Milk has been very welcoming. The space, the environment and the landscape has quite a refreshing feeling, but I also feel nostalgic about being in the country – except for the smell of nature, which hasn’t been my friend! I am currently sharing my experience with another local artist, Raquel C. Marshall, who is very excited about this journey we are on together. Raquel is very energetic and active, which I find helps me to keep just as active and driven as she is. Even though Raquel has more ideas than I do, we are both touching on similar issues and challenging ourselves in our work. I also met another resident on the farm, theatre artist Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell. He is completing an Emerging Director Residency. Matthew is more tranquil than Raquel and I, but also a very interesting individual, and I am keen to understand the ways in which he views his art.

I came to Fresh Milk with a plan, knowing the types of mediums I wanted to explore. My idea is to continue conducting research on the iconic Barbie figure and historical events that occurred in Barbados, as well as how Barbie is deteriorating today due to modern technology.

Typically, I prefer to paint with a very bold and monochromatic colour scheme in the style of Pop Art. I am considering exploring watercolours, but I have mixed feelings about this approach although I am familiar with the medium. I think I need to allow the medium itself to dictate the artwork, rather than exercising full control over the process.

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CBB Logo White & Black TextThis residency is sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados