Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellow 2018

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Bahamian Natalie Willis has been chosen as the 2018 Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellow.  Ian Bethell Bennett (The Nassau Guardian) describes the artist and the program:

As people who view art from outside, we are usually blind to all the moving parts that make art and bring it to us. We tend to think when we hear the term “public art”, for example, that this springs organically from the artist who is simply in his or her studio being creative. As Bahamians and members of an incredibly conservative mindset, we see art as something that will always leave our children poor and disadvantaged, so we discourage them from becoming artists; we discourage them from becoming writers. Yet, at the helm of much public art are leaders who make public art happen. They put things in place. Art does not usually simply spring up out of nothing and nowhere, though it can still be organic.

We need people to facilitate the art, bring it to the public, frame it in productive ways, and produce spaces that allow art and artists to flourish. Some of these people are curators. Curators organize, manage, understand the nuances, intricacies, needs, challenges and possibilities of art and collections. We do not usually see this side of art.

In the Caribbean, art has bloomed over decades, especially in countries like Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, as well as the Dominican Republic. Haiti is famous for its art; yet we, as Bahamians tend to diminish Caribbean art and its value. When curators gets a hold of a body of work or a group of ideas the job they do to birth an experience is amazing. Especially when it comes to telling a story through and with the art.

Curating a space is as important as the art that goes in it. Creating a narrative through spacing, organizing, timing, physically hanging works, color scheme and mood, all accentuate how the art is allowed to speak and how the public sees the art or receives it. The process is not passive. As a part of this science, artists or art enthusiasts study for many years to learn how to tell stories with art and how to manage art collections. [. . .]

Tilting Axis is a roving meeting, pivoting on a Caribbean axis from which all other coordinates are viewed, understood and measured, facilitating more and more alliances. It was co-founded in 2014 by Annalee Davis and NAGB Chief Curator, Holly Bynoe. As the website notes, “Tilting Axis has grounded its concerns in the Caribbean as a part of a wider creative ecology, and the health, evolution and advancement, a primary objective of its annual meetings held inside and outside of the region.”[. . .]

[. . .] Grand Bahamian artist and assistant curator at the NAGB, Natalie Willis, whose talents, obviously, speak loudly, won this opportunity, announced on Friday, June 1 during the meeting held at Centro León in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

The Fellow was selected on the basis of a letter of interest stating how this opportunity and access to collections and archives would inform and develop their curatorial practice, and why they think they would be a good candidate. This is the second fellowship awarded by Tilting Axis, the first going to Jamaican curator, Nicole Smythe-Johnson, whose project afforded research and travel across the region and to Scotland in a process of documenting alternative curatorial forms.

[. . .] Willis will produce an exhibition at the Warfield Center in 2019 that demonstrates her curatorial skills that the Fellowship is designed to hone and widen.

Willis’ research will push her view beyond the discussion of nationalism as foundation of identity into a more complex, syncretic, polymorphous understanding that Joseph Roach examines in Cities of the Dead (1996) and Antonio Benítez-Rojo argues as the repeating island; though similar and repeating, the syncopation is also unique. Willis will use these concepts to draw out the uniqueness and overlappings of art and in art of the Black Diaspora. [. . .]

[Photo above: Natalie Willis, 2018 Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellow.]

For full article, see https://thenassauguardian.com/2018/06/16/tilting-axis-curatorial-fellow-2018/

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