Exnihilo Blog
Panel Discussion DC
Written by Blair Anderson   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 00:00

I attended a lively panel discussion this Wednesday about the development of contemporary art in the Caribbean. The panel was comprised of artists currently showing at Transformer Gallery in DC. The exhibition is made up of primarily artists from Jamaica, but the discussion revolved around the current trends and limitations for Caribbean artists in general, one being the heavy tendency to cater to the tourism industry. Younger artists are finding a new voice that pushes against this trend and are struggling to get a footing.

Of great interest to me in terms of Exnihilo is the need for support in this region in the form of residencies. The number of residencies in the region is four.

Yea. Four. That's it. And all of them are tiny off-shoots from artist's personal studios.

There is this groundswell of expression in this region that has so much potential, and yet needs support. It was also very clear that another limitation is the very governments of these countries. A common thread seems to be the lack of understanding of contemporary art with the continued focus on themes of tourism that continue to serve up a misconception of these cultures while hindering the true artistic voice. "Tropicalization" was one of the defining words for this. Representational images that romanticize these regions are popularized and continue to sell either commercially or in private collections.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 May 2014 11:18
Always more than planned
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 11:02

The month of April took Bryan and I back down to the islands for a whirlwind trip with the promise of meeting a few key people in the arts of The Bahamas.

We got more than we bargained for.

Our hope was to continue to gain insight into a community that we truly desire to be a part of but are sensitive to the fact that being non-Bahamians, we will always be somewhat on the "outside".

Boy was I wrong. These are the most welcoming people on the planet.

After hearing about the Transforming Spaces show, a collection of seven galleries showing the best of Bahamian (and Caribbean) art, Bryan and I hopped on a plane two days later. Getting off the plane and checking into a hotel, we barely made it to the artists' talk and presentation at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Slipping into the back of the darkened room we began to understand why it was so important that we be there. Not only was the work of most of these artists being shown, but most of them were in the room.

The panel consisted of three contemporary Bahamian artists as well as the Director of the NAGB, Amanda Coulson, who was one of the people we hoped to meet. The other individual who presented was artist, John Cox, the newly appointed Creative Director to Baha Mar.

After the lectures Bryan and I managed our way through the crowd and introduced ourselves to both, with a promise of a future meeting later in the week. Both of these generous people took time out of their crazy busy schedules to meet with us and discuss how the Exnihilo Art Center fit into the whole of the Bahamian landscape with the most exciting promise of integrating our programs once the buildings are up.

The rest of the week followed with meeting more people, including the wonderful and gracious Pam Burnside, widow of Jackson Burnside. Each day followed in rapid succession as we interviewed and filmed 15 different artists, educators, film makers, and curators about their work, and how Exnihilo could play a part. Although I thought we might get a "day at the beach", it never happened. You know when one of the wait staff at your hotel says, "wow you people work really hard", that you have made great use of every minute. Even if I didn't get to put a toe in the water!

What does this all mean for Exnihilo? We continue to develop the mission while forging new friendships to help carve out a place where Exnihilo Art Center will make a difference. It is our hope that we can truly be part of the island family.

Pic at bottom: L-R Blair Anderson, Amanda Coulson, Director of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, John Cox, Creative Director for Baha Mar. Blair on a sculpture at Transforming Spaces.

L-R Blair Anderson, Amanda Coulson, Director of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, John Cox, Creative Director for Baha Mar.

A trip to see the best art in The Bahamas
Written by Blair Anderson   

This month we had the chance to take the plunge into the exciting things that are happening with art in The Bahamas. Bryan and I traveled to Nassau to view "Transforming Spaces", a multi-gallery tour in its 10th anniversary year of showing great Bahamian art. This year the artists followed the theme of water to give the seven galleries a cohesion that seemed to elevate the individual pieces into a collective whole.

Bryan and I were pleasantly surprised to find contemporary art alive and thriving here. No more paintings of sea shells, lion fish, and happy representational beach scenes. More provocative images and sculptures were the norm. A vibrant new emerging group as well as the artists that paved the way for them were represented.

Exnihilo Raises 30% with Indiegogo
Written by Blair Anderson   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 14:43

After much anticipation, obsessive watching of the clock as donors generously gave, being hopelessly attached to our devices (iPad, iPhone, laptop) and getting very little sleep...

we raised over $15,000!

Even though our goal with the Indiegogo campaign was to raise enough to account for the first artist bungalow, I am breathless at the generosity that got us to the 30% mark. It is very humbling to be cared for in such a way as people demonstrate via their piggy banks, their interest in our project as well as their faith in Bryan and I.

Very humbling indeed.

Needless to say we are SO grateful. The next few days and weeks will be filled with the creation of wonderful goodies (perks) like the Junk-a-New Jewelry, Island Treasures, Silver Earrings, and a boatload of thank-you cards. These will then be shipped out to all you lovely people who helped.

So we celebrate this milestone of a fairly respectable foundation for our first building. Thanks so much everybody! We will keep you posted as we continue to move forward.


Learning From Other Residencies
Friday, 03 January 2014 22:05

Isolation + Concentration = Creation

More exploration into the world of artist residencies led us to The Banff Center. Art centers and residency programs come in a huge variety of sizes from single cabins to acres and acres, and The Banff Center leans into that second category. After being at Hui No’eau which was a good size, The Banff Center seemed almost overwhelming. But there was still something to learn there.

Location can help inspiration. And the views from The Banff Center were breathtaking. Wedged in the Rocky Mountains, it was hard not to have a reflective moment looking out onto nature. Even the artist studios seemed to have a bit of a view. Because Exnihilo is so vastly different in location you might think that we would have nothing in common, but on the contrary, there seems to be common factors because of the location. Isolation is one. Even though Banff is a city center, you do get a sense of isolation and removal from the world, and therefore a different perspective.

Everyone who has gotten away from their normal day-to-day activities whether as a vacation, or just a break knows that feeling of shifting gears. This downshifting is an important component to allowing reflection, and then focus. Sometimes we do not realize, until we have to down-shift how hard it actually is to slow down. An isolated location forces you into this less than comfortable mode, which is healthy for the creative spirit, and sometimes is where the real magic happens for an artist.

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