3 Artists on the Role of the Caribbean in Environmental Art

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item and all related links to our attention.] Ayanna Dozier (Artsy) highlights the work of Deborah Jack, Anina Major, and Leanne Russell.

With a communal history of being “discovered” through Euro-American colonialism, the Caribbean bears the geographic memory of the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. Even after the abolition of slavery, Euro-American colonization continued through extraction of resources. The Caribbean, therefore, is in a unique position to help understand the afterlife of colonization and how it shapes the global response to climate change.

For artists from and working in the Caribbean, climate change threatens to eradicate not only the archipelagic landscape, but also the cultural memories of those communities. For example, Deborah JackAnina Major, and Leanne Russell draw on the Caribbean landscape by redressing the trauma of colonial extraction.

This ongoing extraction by multiple countries (sometimes on the same island) created schisms across identity and communities that defined what scholar ​​Édouard Glissant called an “archipelagic thinking.” For Glissant, the unpredictability and multiplicity of the Caribbean were distinctively tied to its history and geography; now, those same traits are the building blocks for thinking critically about restoration in an environment whose future feels uncertain.

For Jack, Major, and Russell, their work is an opportunity to show audiences a lived experience of the Caribbean that maintains its cultural memory. Their work challenges the images of the Caribbean as purely a tourist destination environment. These artists use photography, ceramics, and installation to create works that layer ecological trauma (both metaphorical and literal) with the impact of colonialism on climate change, while pointing to alternative, possible, futures of survival for the next generation. [. . .]

Anina Major B. 1981, Nassau, the Bahamas. Lives and works in New York.

Anina Major is an artist working in installation and sculpture, primarily through the medium of ceramics. Her work examines the memory of the land, in particular how it can trigger personal memories, creating a never-ending examination between self and place. By using craft techniques, Major hopes to reclaim and rebuild experiences by evoking displaced objects into her ceramic forms. “There is a poetic parallel between my work and lived experiences; moments of vulnerability placed under challenging circumstances evolving to a permanent, yet fragile state,” she said. “The ceramic process, as a metaphor, lends itself beautifully to these feelings of loss and gain.” [. . .]

Deborah Jack B. 1970, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Lives and works in New York.

Deborah Jack works across video, collage, and photography to evoke the haunting side of Caribbean ecology. She does this by making images of storms, coastlines, and nature to emphasize how the shore is an ongoing site of departure and arrival, and “a place of embrace and erosion,” as she put it. Jack incorporates her childhood memory of Sint Maarten (where she was raised) with the larger colonial history of the island to examine how one’s cultural experience of the land is shaped by historical factors. [. . .]

Leanne Russell B. Nassau, the Bahamas. Lives and works in Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, the Bahamas.

Russell’s practice uses photography to map out generations of memory across the Caribbean. She achieves this by superimposing archival images of her home island, Green Turtle Cay (part of the Abaco islands), with contemporary images to highlight the significant ecological changes that have occurred over the past century, while also paying attention to the folklore that still survives. [. . .]

For full article and artwork, see https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-3-artists-role-caribbean-environmental-art

Anina Major, https://www.aninamajor.comhttps://www.instagram.com/aninamajor

Deborah Jack, https://www.deborahjack.comhttps://www.instagram.com/debjack0

Leanne Russell, https://www.instagram.com/leeleerussellhttps://www.facebook.com/leanne.russellart

[Shown above: Leanne Russell’s “The Spirits of Abaco.”]

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