A report by Robin Caudell for the Press Republican.
Guest curator Donna Mason douses cabin-fever blues with “Here Comes The Sun: Peering Over the Fence into the Caribbean Culture” at the Strand Center Gallery in Plattsburgh.
The show opens Friday evening and features the works of Darius Earl Etienne, Gharan Burton, Shadrach Burton, Carla Armour, Petros Meaza Z, Oneka Small and Glen Martin.
Mason manages these artists, who are part of her Caribbean cadre she wanted to introduce to the North Country.
She connected to many of the artists in a 2014 trip to the Commonwealth of Dominica to meet Etienne.
“I visited Dominica with a friend of mine that I went to school with,” said Mason of Sunshine Media and Communications.
“He lived there. I was already involved with artists working for the Caribbean Fine Arts Fair in Barbados. Since I was the outreach person, while I was in Dominica I researched the artists to increase their body of Caribbean artists. I reached out to Darius.”
Etienne has the most celebrity and influence among the Dominican artists.
He hails from Roseau as does Plattsburgh snowbird Gharan Burton, and his brother Schadrach, whose work will be seen for the first time in Plattsburgh.
Etienne’s formal training was at the Jamaica School of Art.
He is known for his flambeau, smoke technique and usage of traditional dance and dancers.
His environment imbues his paintings on many levels: ancestral, cultural, spiritual, social, physical and economical.
Etienne’s heart-oriented process eschews trends, fashion or aesthetes.
He employs coconut gauze and Pre-Columbian rock carvings in recent works.
“My main goal when creating or executing a piece is pleasing myself and am extremely satisfied when the finished piece talks,” he said in the exhibition brochure.
SOCIAL MEDIA MEET
Mason scoured Etienne’s Facebook page for other artists and located the Burton brothers.
She cannot remember which one she communicated with first but the one told her to check out the other’s work.
The show’s brochure features Schadrach’s “Hummingbird” on the cover.
The Burtons live in an elemental environment on a hill, where they tap senses rarely accessed by a majority of the population.
Gharan is a light seeker as evidenced in his atmospheric “Sunny Day Seaside,” a monster oil on board, which gallery director David Monette suspended from the ceiling.
Gharan studied painting and sculpture in the United States, but his lens is forever turned toward his homeland whose motto is “After God is earth.”
His hands toil as a landscaper and farmer here and his native place, but his palette knife often layers the fauna and flora of Dominica.
“Everything is art,” Gharan says.
Shadrach went to the other side of the world to pursue his MFA at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.
The pop artist, skateboarder and mountain biker is fluent in Mandarin, English and color.
He makes chi visible.
“Because there is no light where they come from, they can see in the dark,” said Mason of the brothers.
“Their eyes are more attuned than most people’s. So, they can see vibrations and energy. For an artist that becomes very valuable.”
Hurricane Maria leveled Dominica, and like the other artists who live there, Carla Armour resurrects her life and art.
She studied at Parsons School of Design in New York City and made her home and art in Brighton and Hove, a British seaside city.
Armour’s creative output includes mixed-media paintings, fashion, conceptual and installation art, poetry and spoken word.
The show features “Throw Me A Lifeline,” which is from Armour’s series inspired in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
“Many things happened to her during the hurricane,” Mason said.
“She’s rebuilding. It’s been hard for her. Having lived through the hurricane, she is basically asking everybody to throw them a lifeline because every house in Dominica was affected by this hurricane. The country was completely decimated. The whole country is engaged in rebuilding.”
RIFT VALLEY RIFFS
Petros Meaza Zewdie is an Ethiopian native who lived a decade in Dominica, where he and Mason crossed paths.
There, he was a teaching artist under the Ministry of Education.
“He has become a significant part of the Dominican community,” Mason said.
He studied at Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design.
He’s at work on his MFA in Canada.
If Schadrach conjures the unseen, Zewdie freeze-frames life as in “Quadrille Dance,” takes “1” through “7.”
Hear the swish of the dancers’ garments, which he animates in his impressionistic style.
“I attempt to evoke the spirit of Africa in my paintings,” he says.
“I use traditional African symbolism, vivid colors, irregular splotches and spontaneous knife and brush strokes to bring those imagery to life.”
Oneka Small’s art upends the sacred in works such as “Crucification-Black Family Resurrection.”
The Barbados-based contemporary artist explores life, death, rebirth, divine feminine, family, Africa and love via pen-and-ink, acrylic and mixed-media constructions.
She studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, but her significant other/sculptor Kenneth “Black” Blackman’s influence marks her works with a sculptor’s hand.
“Oneka is also a Rasta,” Mason said.
“She’s religious and works from the heart. She is completely African-centered. She’s love.”
Trinidadian Glen Martin was born in the Port of Spain and resides in NYC.
“Girls Afternoon Out” and “Wash Day,” both acrylics on board, are his figurative works on exhibit.
They offer a muted, voyeuristic view of women about their affairs.
In Trinidad, he studied commercial art and received a full ride to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he concentrated on illustration and painting.
He is the recipient of many awards, and his expertise encompasses landscapes, ceramics, printmaking, etchings and linocut.
“His art seems to come from a romantic perspective,” Mason said.
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Here Comes the Sun: Peering over the Fence into Caribbean Culture,” a themed exhibit featuring artwork by a diverse selection of Caribbean artists.
WHEN: Opening reception Friday, March 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Show runs through March 30.
WHERE: The Strand Center Main Gallery, 23 Brinkerhoff St., Platsburgh.
WEB SITE: www.strandcenter.org