Cacique’s Artist in the Spotlight series is “a journey into a thriving Bahamian art scene and a deeper look at some of our most celebrated talents.” This month, Cacique interviewed to Tessa Whitehead, who “opened a studio known as Nine whilst simultaneously creating a masterful body of work now on display at NAGB.” Her exhibition, entitled “…there are always two deaths,” opened in May and is currently on view at the NAGB. Here are excerpts from Cacique:
With a distinctive taste for landscapes, particularly those of the islands, Tessa’s latest work powerfully captures her empirical conception of the complexities of Caribbean life. Tessa’s distinguished collection tellingly titled, “…there are always two deaths”, a line borrowed from ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, is an expressive portrayal of loss and lamenting. Tessa’s work touches on many bold themes including matriarchal identification, alienation and marriage. Her artistic exploration of an intrinsic relationship existing between women and nature is felt deeply. The lush, tropical island backdrop seems like an idyllic landscape for healing; however, with hints of agonizing irony, these tropical inlets are entrenched in a turbulent history which proves a difficult place to search for the warmth of understanding.
CACIQUE. WHAT DOES THE TITLE OF THE COLLECTION MEAN AND HOW DOES THIS SPEAK TO ALL THE WORKS?
Tessa. “There are always two deaths”, is a quote from Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. The sentence continues: “There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.” The story is set in Jamaica, during the time of emancipation. It is told through the voice of a creole woman and meanders through the complexities of life. We can see emotional layers built upon one another through her description of landscape. The title ‘…there are always two deaths’ is a clear reference to loss and this body of work is a kind of conjuring of loss. The reference touches on a history, which is as complex as mine is, in Jamaica. My matriarchal lineage weaves throughout Jamaican landscape, both in countryside and city. There are protestant preachers on one side and there are subsistence farmers on the other. There is a whiteness and a blackness and all that comes along with that. And all of these stories were told to me, very much through the description of landscape. [. . .]
[. . .] C. STUDIO NINE – TELL ME ABOUT THIS PLACE?
- It used to double as a bar and Junkanoo shack, so it’s got some creative history to it. After the purchase I did simple renovations to make the space suitable for art studios. Five lovely artists have moved in, all of which have strong practices here. It’s not a social space, it’s definitely a working, quiet place – hermetic almost. Studio NINE was born almost out of necessity. POPOP Studios, next door, was badly damaged in a hurricane and my studio was the most severely affected. I couldn’t figure out where to move to – I couldn’t find anywhere suitable. This was a good way to do it. We kept the building very simple in its structure so that it was manageable. In an attempt to make the studio as organic as possible I didn’t advertise the space, I let the ‘right’ artists find NINE. And so they have… Delton Barret, Drew Weech, Heino Schmid, Margo Bethel and Alex Timchula all share the space with me. [. . .]
For full article, see https://www.caciqueinternational.com/blog/2019/5/tessawhitehead