Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jackie Hinkson's Studio, Alice Yard and Old Mas Competition

If you click the title you'll be taken to the blog for Alice Yard, a creative collaborative space in Woodbrook. Last night 12, a band, were rehearsing in the recording studio while there was an opening for Wendell Mc Shine, a Trinidadian artist who has been living in Mexico for a while. I met Chris Cozier there, another Trinidadian artist, to catch up on what we've both been doing. My friend Melanie came as well. I have to get a photo of her as very often we're together.

Earlier in the day I visited the studio of Jackie Hinkson, an artist of formidable talent, born in Trinidad and Tobago. Many of the works in his studio I had never seen before. He is well known in Trinidad and perhaps the Caribbean for his paintings in oil and watercolor, many of them depicting the old Trinidad and Tobago, but he has a large body of work dealing with other things that interest him. Curiously enough, this is not the first work to sell. People here seem to want the easily digestible, the familiar, the pretty, the nostalgic. Jackie has much more to offer a discerning collector than this. His Christ in Trinidad series featuring 14 paintings inspired by passages in the Bible as well as art historical references such as Theodore Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, exemplify this type of investigation and depth in his work.

After Alice Yard Melanie took me to the Old Mas Competition in Victoria Square. It's easier to wear those "real" costumes at night as they are heavier and would be hot in the sun. Traditional costumes like The Midnight Robber and Poor Abandoned Mother vied with Indians and Jammets for attention. I met an interesting American couple, friends of Melanie, who lived and worked in Trinidad. The man, Nicholas, was born in Trinidad and having lived all over the world, and when he sought some place to settle down said he had a feeling to return to Trinidad. I think this is true for many people who lived here as children and would perhaps explain people like Peter Doig moving back. The island has this unexplainable allure for those who have experienced it through the eyes of a child. With all its social problems right now it is still a beautiful place.

I went to Corner Bar after Alice Yard and hung out with Chris Leacock again. My cousin and her husband joined us. I took a photo of a policeman in uniform there. He had a huge gun and when I said it looked scary he said it would look scarier in the hands of criminals. I guess he's right!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

First Fete

So last night I met up with Chris to go to an art opening at a gallery in St. Ann's. It turned out to be a long night as afterwards he met up with some friends of his who had just landed from the US and wanted to go straight to a fete in Chaguaramas. I was reminded, quite vividly, why people like Carnival. It should perhaps be called Carnalval. It is such a physical and physically liberating time, with dancing and wining and bacchanal. I'll let the pics tell the story. The first fete was called AWOL. At a second fete called Eyes Wide Shut, Machel Montano performed. He is truly an artist, an entertainer, and though I've heard he can be quite a pain, well, so was Picasso. Chris got us backstage passes to the second fete so it was cool to see the fete and perfomance from that angle.

The gallery opening was quite fun. I met some major Trinidadian artists, like Jackie Hinkson who I've known for years. He was in a class I took as a teenager at the Venezuelan Institute. I also know his son, Sean. I made plans to visit his studio soon. Eddie Bowen was there. He's an artist that I hear on the lips of many young artists. Sundiata and John Stollmeyer were there. I was happy to meet all these artists though I must say I started feeling a little overwhelmed. It is such a tight knit art world I don't want anyone to feel left out if I don't see or use their work some time in the future.

Earlier in the day I did a studio visit with Dean Arlen at his home in St. Augustine. He had a painting of the Prime Minister and his absurd proposal of using public funds to buy a private jet! Dean is a prolific artist. He's working on so many things, from painting, to sculpture, to public art projects, and more. I liked his work immensely and have some pictures here.

A meeting at UWI's Dept of Fine Arts seemed promising. Steve Ouditt set up the meeting for me. He is quite handsome, Steve. We discussed a project which I'm devising to get Trinidadian artists international exposure. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in the coming year things will work out.

There are also pics from the mas camp of Masquerade who are bringing out a band called Let the Music Play. My uncle organizes the section "Jazz" as well as brings out the queen for that band.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A hive of activity at Studio 7

Yesterday Melanie took me to studio 7, Fernandez Complex, on the Eastern Main Road, Laventille. She was interviewing Jasmine who has a wonderful line of jewelry for an article.
While she worked I met with Che first as he was the one I made plans with, and then made my way to Alex Smailes at Above Group and then Sabrina, who is visiting from NYC for several months. We saw Peter Doig in the cafeteria but didn't visit his studio.

Che's work is evolving in wonderful ways. After hanging out with him and the paintings for awhile I could feel a dialog with the work building up inside of me, and more than through my eyes, that is when I know that the work has engaged me, and that I'd like to promote it, perhaps buy it, have a relationship with it that is more than passing. Che may be in NYC soon to do an exhibition with a gallery on the Lower East Side.

Alex Smailes works with a camera. I saw the evolution of his work from a project he did for a Macmillan book a few years ago in Trinidad, to current projects he's working on. Hit the title above to see his creative company, lodged in a beautiful space in Studio 7. I like Alex's soft and gentle English accent though I can hardly understand him at times.

Sabrina was just setting up her work, so I can't say much, but this sort of exchange, between NYC and Trinidad, between Europe and Trinidad, is what I'm trying to get at with my exhibition Gulf Stream.

Later I met with Christopher Leacock and had a good long talk about everything art related and not. I imagine I'll be friends with him here. I support all his work and ideas. Ideas and work is what the country needs I think. We sat in Jacqueline's Patisserie for a long time and I took a pic of that little kid as he was dressed so cute!

This morning I went to Karen Stollmeyer's yoga class just down the block from me. It was everything I needed and more; the asanas, the philosophy and spirituality teachings, the references to the effects of the practice on the body and its functioning, as well as on the psychic cleansing and compassionate joyful blissful awareness that comes out of that. An all round experience of yoga.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Corner Bar

Friday night I went to see some calypsonians "Under The Trees" in the Normandy Hotel. It was a tribute to Kitchener, one of the most famous calypsonians, who died a few years ago. The following day, Saturday, I went to Corner Bar.

Corner Bar is a sophisticated bar on the corner of Gatacre Street and Ariapita Avenue in Trinidad. Che had a launch lime (party) for his band Lilibud Jouvert there on Saturday. It was loads of fun meeting some local Trinidadians in the art scene, as well as some foreigners visiting for the season and for work.

Christopher Leacock is the owner, with another Chris who I didn't meet. Indeed, he is the only person who I've spoken to about my plans to do an exhibition who has responded immediately with enthusiasm and followed up almost right away to start discussions. I like this. The Trinidadian way is to get started on an idea sometime, but I like to work on leads right away. I think living in North America does that to you too. You're not so slow to respond to opportunities. Anyway, hopefully we'll meet today and discuss.

Soon after arriving at Corner Bar I started looking around at the space with an eye for an exhibition. There is not that much wall space as the doors/walls, that lead out onto the sidewalk pull back to make the bar almost al fresco. I think this is a big part of its charm and wouldn't change this. The music, like I like, is a mix of reggae, dub, calypso, electronic and popular hits; exactly my idea for music during an opening night event for my exhibition. We'll see how things go.

Melanie, the writer was there. So was Che's dad, Earl Lovelace. I went over to him to introduce myself. Wyatt Gallery, the photographer who I know from NYC was there as well, with some Columbians he met on the flight back from Panama the previous day.

Earlier in the day I had laid by the pool at the Hilton and tried to darken up a bit. I don't want to play mas with a pale complexion for fear of burning in the now unfamiliar hot sun. Yesterday, Sunday, I went to Maqueripe and tho stunning and filled with wildlife in the bay (fish beating up the water, pelicans catching them, and little fish in schools all around in the shallow waters) there was construction being done to "improve" the beach facilities. There is much suspicion among the locals about this project. I have to join in their sceptiscm as in fact the billboard near the entrance to the beach, looks nothing like the construction being done, nor the "artist's rendition" of the beach that appeared as a full page ad in a local newspaper on the same day.

The ruling PNM party is blamed for massive corruption though people can't seem to find an alternative to them. People suggest a racial divide, with PNM for black people and the UNC for Indians. With Indians supposedly the majority in the country, who knows how the PNM stays in power. I jokingly suggested grooming my nephew Seth (half Indian) to be Prime Minister so he could bridge the divide between Indians and blacks and bring together a true unity party.

Among the social plagues in the country crime is perhaps #1. Everyday I read about a murder or a kidnapping; an average of 2 murders per day since the year began. This is sad. And the government seems to do nothing about it. As a matter of fact everyone sees the problem with crime as a reflection of the government's corruption. I'm reminded of Mexico or Brazil or some African countries. Barbarism gone wild with no holds or checks on society.

Christopher, the owner of Corner Bar that I met Saturday, had this signature at the bottom of his email.
"The bedrock attribute of a successful city district is that a person must feel personally safe and secure on the street among all these strangers. He must not feel automatically menaced by them."

- Jane Jacobs

I like it.

Instead of fixing the root of the problem the government bandages everything, e.g. a proposed wall to be built along the highway to "enhance" the slums of the Beetham Estate i.e. to disguise the eyesore from the global dignitaries (perhaps including Obama) who will visit Trinidad for the upcoming Summit of the Americas in April. When the bandage falls off the wound is still there, festering.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bizzy Beez in TandT

Well, like Che Lovelace said last night, I hit the ground running. That is, in TandT. I'm so happy I met him in NYC. For years when I lived here we moved in the same circles but never formally met. As a child I read his father's books. Earl Lovelace's "The Wine Of Astonishment" was a requisite on the reading list. Che brings out, besides other productions in art, this studiofilmclub, in collaboration with Peter Doig. You can see Che in one of the pics with Peter on the side. Again I'd heard lots about this in the past, had in fact seen Doig's posters first at the Art Gallery of Ontario some years ago, but only yesterday finally had the chance to see and participate in the studiofilmclub. It was a divine experience.

Not just the warehouse environment that could have been found in any artistic enclave in the world (Berlin, London, New York) but also the warm friendly people (definitely Trinis) but also the wonderful films. It's free to the public and showed two films; first a vintage film about Carnival in the 70s and then a documentary about Bob Marley entitled Exodus 77. For about half the movie I had the burning desire to pee but I didn't move for fear of missing a moment of the film, and an opportunity to hear Bob Marley speak. There can be no doubt that he is one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the 20th C.

Before this I was backstage at the Kings and Queens preliminaries at the Queens Park Savannah. My uncles, both immediate and once removed i.e my grandmother's brother, are building a costume. Lynn, I forget her last name, who lives in Toronto but was born in Trinidad, designed the queen for the band Masquerade. They've won several times and last year there was a big confusion I heard because they said the judges cheated. It went to court but I'm not sure what the outcome was. Bacchanal!

I'm meeting a lot of cool people and hopefully soon I'll have some friends to hang out with. I spend a lot of time with my friend Eugene because he lives down the block from me, but he's usually in bed by 8 and that doesn't work for a party girl like me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beach Picnic Bon Voyage

My friend Maike and her friend Samina hosted a Beach Picnic last Sunday, the day before I left for Trinidad. I thought it was an appropriate Bon Voyage Party. My grandmother and I left next day for Trinidad and it was a good flight, though long, and I was happy to land here, though it was raining all the next day. Still settling in now, trying to connect with people to advance the agenda.