A new book titled A to Z of Caribbean Art is currently being written by co-editors Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown, which will contain information on 200 artists from the English, Dutch, French and Spanish speaking parts of the Caribbean—a book these women believe is a needed addition for those wanting to know who our Caribbean artists are. A report from Trinidad’s Guardian.
This work follows their previous collaborative publications titled See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbean (2014) and Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography (2012) for Robert & Christopher Publishers. (Both books are available at Paper Based at the Normandie Hotel and at bookshops and art institutions through the islands, as well as on Amazon.com.)
For this new project the duo have turned to online crowd funding to assist with costs, a move that saw them quickly rising to the top of Indiegogo’s Featured Projects list, which helped give them wonderful visibility and pushed their project to the top of “new and hot” and “trending” lists under the art category. Right now (as of May 12) they are about 37 per cent funded. However, the hope is that people will rally before the campaign ends on May 23.
“One of the things that we’ve done with the campaign is offer advance copies of A to Z of Caribbean Art as a perk at various levels, starting at US$50. What this basically means is that if someone contributes to the campaign at a certain level and above, they will receive a book in the mail when it’s completed, an absolute no-brainer! Several people have jumped at the opportunity to secure their copy early, and we’re hoping a lot more people will do the same, and be among the first people to get a copy of the new book in their hands!” said Archer.
In case you’re wondering, working together is familiar territory for Archer and Brown, as both women are co-editors of Robert & Christopher Publishers, and Archer has worked in illustrated book publishing for more than a decade. She is also a design manager and curator who writes on art, design and culture. Brown’s work as a documentary film-maker and director of the companies Savant and Savant films is well known and she has written features for various magazines on writers and artists. She was also managing editor of the art books Meiling: Fashion Designer and Barbara Jardine: Goldsmith.
“Actually, Mariel started working with Robert & Christopher Publishers before I did,” said Archer.
“When she was making R&C’s first two books (Barbara Jardine: Goldsmith,2006, and Meiling: Fashion Designer, 2007), I was still working in art book publishing in New York. After I moved back home in 2006, I had the opportunity to work on a book that caught Mariel’s eye (Manikin), and she rang me up and asked if I would be interested in working with her to edit and produce titles for Robert & Christopher. Making art books is such a passion of mine that I said yes immediately and with a great deal of enthusiasm! We brainstormed a few different ideas for possible topics, but then one night we were at Alice Yard for Shot In Kingston—an exhibition of contemporary Jamaican photography curated by Christopher Cozier—and we both left that exhibition thinking about doing a book of contemporary Caribbean photography. Pictures from Paradise came out of that, and we were on our way!”
A to Z of Caribbean Art is essentially a 400-page-plus art book that will offer a comprehensive, visual overview of the development of Caribbean art from the beginning of the 20th century to now. When it came to choosing artists, they didn’t single out specific islands for recognition, but instead selected artists on the strength of their work based on critical discourse around it, inclusion in significant publications, work written about in regional or international trade magazines, and participation in curated exhibitions at major institutions or at regional or international biennials. With artists listed alphabetically instead of being grouped by traditional methods, A to Z will move seamlessly through artists and genres of drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and performance. In terms of imagery, the necessary permissions will come either directly from the artists themselves or from their galleries or other organisations or institutions that represent them.
“Melanie and I are the editors of the book, but we’ve engaged a number of advisors up the islands,” said Brown.
“These people are art experts in their respective countries and they’re helping us to build and round out our artist lists, and will be sounding boards when it comes to making tough final decisions about our final list of artists and works to include.
The A to Z will feature a short introduction by Melanie and me, followed by their works. Each artist will be represented by a spread that will show a definitive work and will also provide biographical details on each artist: year of birth, year of death (if applicable), country of birth and residence, a 300-word statement about their oeuvre, and the name of the work that represents them, along with dimensions, medium and genres.”
“That being said, we would like to have all Caribbean islands represented in A to Z, so we are paying close attention to our balances,” said Archer.
“Because there have been/are so many artists in the region, we have had to develop pretty strict criteria for inclusion, otherwise this book would be absolutely massive. In terms of whether or not we’re including emerging artists, the answer is yes, we have a few younger artists featured, but they’re fairly well known. Basically, if an artist meets the criteria, she or he is eligible for inclusion. But yes, we are including many ‘familiar’ names.”
Another familiar name in this collaborative publication is Richard Mark Rawlins, who has been part of Robert & Christopher Publishers since 2011. He handled the graphic design for A to Z of Caribbean Art and the duo’s previous publications Pictures from Paradise and See Me Here.
“We believe that his bold, strong and beautiful style has helped our books receive the visibility they’ve enjoyed—they’re so eye-catching that people want to pick them up and engage with them! Richard is very much a part of the R&C team, and he will design A to Z as well—he’s already started to shape the visual identity around the book, and it’s looking like it will be a sexy gem!” Archer said, excitedly.
It is expected that all research and writing will be completed by year’s end and that the book will be published within the first few months of 2018. The duo launched their last two books at Bocas Lit Fest, which takes place at the end of April every year, and they haven’t ruled out that option for 2018. So for those who wish to contribute to the crowd funding efforts and get some wonderful perks before the May 23 deadline approaches, the project link is www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-to-z-of-caribbean-art, or you can go to www.indiegogo.com and search for A to Z of Caribbean Art.
A to Z of Caribbean Art is essentially a 400-page-plus art book that will offer a comprehensive, visual overview of the development of Caribbean art from the beginning of the 20th century to now. When it came to choosing artists, they didn’t single out specific islands for recognition, but instead selected artists on the strength of their work based on critical discourse around it, inclusion in significant publications, work written about in regional or international trade magazines, and participation in curated exhibitions at major institutions or at regional or international biennials.