Jordan Clarke is a Toronto-based artist. Working in oil paints, Jordan uses the female form to explore themes of self and identity, as well as notions of inner beauty. A central focus of her work is empowerment through self-representation.
In addition to appearing in solo and group exhibitions in Ontario and abroad, Jordan’s art has been published in the anthology Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out, edited by Adebe DeRango-Adem and Andrea Thompson. Jordan is a recipient of funding from the Ontario Arts Council.
In 2008, Jordan studied at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, completing the Drawing curriculum. In 2007, she graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design, receiving a BFA. While attending OCAD, she participated in the off-campus studies program in Florence, Italy, 2005-2006.
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.
Two weeks into the residency and it feels like I just arrived.
I’ve been spending the majority of my time in the studio creating, reflecting and taking everything in. I’m sensing this as a time for gathering images, ideas and information that will find expression in my future creations.
It seems that I have gravitated towards self-portraiture as a way to access how I am feeling and thinking about myself in relation to this new place, Barbados. In addition to working from images, I have taken on the challenge of drawing myself from life each day. To assist me, Annalee set up a large mirror in the studio space. What I’ve found interesting is that none of the portraits drawn from life look completely like me.
Over the past week, I have been thinking about identity and how it is shaped. I realize now that my sense of identity is not linked directly to Barbados, despite my father’s Bajan roots. This is the perfect opportunity for me to think about how I would like to identify, how I see myself, as well as how my life experiences have shaped me.
Towards the end of the week I began to think about the landscape, and how I could paint myself into one. The figure and landscape have always been separate for me. In my work the background suggests a sense of space rather than a specific place or location. I’m not sure where this will go, but it is something I am working on.
It was Easter weekend, and on Good Friday Annalee made a delicious gluten free quiche for our lunch. I am definitely being spoiled here!
An exciting event for me was finding out that early Saturday morning a horse was born on the family farm.
I ended the week traveling part of the West Coast with Alon and Daniel of Cooking Sections, who are also doing a residency here at Fresh Milk. We started at a lively market in Bridgetown. It was a completely different experience from the quiet and serene studio in St. George. I enjoyed the liveliness and dancehall music on the mini buses. We also took some time to enjoy ourselves on the beach. The West Coast is ideal for swimming, in contrast to the rugged picturesque East Coast. Our day ended with food and music at the Oistins Fish Fry on the South Coast.
Looking forward to the week ahead.
While at Fresh Milk, I have been working through self-portraiture, landscapes, photography and journaling as a means to document my first visit to Barbados. Born in Canada, I am the daughter of a Canadian mother with Scottish and English roots and a Barbadian father who has now spent 75% of his life in Canada. As a result, I possess multiple identities. I see myself as mixed-race, Black and Canadian.
In Barbados, where I have no family members, I feel disconnected and exposed. I am an outsider in my father’s homeland where I had hoped to feel a sense of homecoming and belonging. Not surprisingly, the work I have been producing here is introspective, exploring the theme of self-perception. My double self-portrait in graphite really expresses the sense of vulnerability and sadness I felt soon after my arrival in Barbados.
I have also been looking outwards, exploring landscapes in my work, specifically sky and cloudscapes. I’m attracted to clouds because they are always in movement and constantly changing, creating new formations that never repeat. I also find them to be majestic and beautiful. For me, clouds represent a universal space rather than a specific place, a space that is similar in both Toronto and Barbados.
At the moment, I see landscapes and portraits as two different practices. I had originally intended to insert myself into the landscape to create a connection with the land and Barbados. Interestingly enough, this joining of my body and a still unfamiliar landscape isn’t happening.
This residency is a special opportunity for self-discovery and evolution. I am realizing that change is not always comfortable, but is an essential part of my growth as a woman and as an artist. What is most painful is the feeling that I am missing a large part of my cultural roots and identity.
“As is common to most transnational communities, the extended family – as network and site of memory – is the critical conduit between the two locations.” (Stuart Hall, ‘Thinking the Diaspora: Home – Thoughts from Abroad’, Caribbean Political Thought)
It is typically through family that Caribbean migrants are able to maintain a sense of connection to their Caribbean culture. What happens, however, when there isn’t a sense of cultural sharing through family? How does this affect one’s sense of cultural identity?
In my fourth week at Fresh Milk, I confronted the fact that my father has never been solidly present to share his cultural identity and family with me. I drew a self-portrait in response, with the intention of representing a conversation I would have with my father. A more confident me stares out, confronting.
I realize that the work I have created here during my residency represents a starting point for further investigation of the theme of self-perception, as well as self-discovery. It will act as a guide for future work once I’m home.
In thinking about the four weeks I’ve been here, I couldn’t be more grateful for this rewarding experience. Having such a wonderful studio to work in, without the usual daily distractions, has been refreshing and inspirational. Fresh Milk’s extensive library, full of contemporary Caribbean literature and art publications, has been an invaluable tool for informing my work here. I can’t thank both Annalee Davis and Katherine Kennedy enough for all their help and support. Annalee is full of knowledge and has been able to point me in directions I showed interest in, while leaving me space to navigate my art practice. I would also like to thank Aaron Kamugisha for his help and good company.
It has been so stimulating to connect with all the artists who have visited Fresh Milk during my residency. I see my time here as a starting point, a spark that will encourage further exploration and dialogue in my art practice.
This residency is supported by the Ontario Arts Council.