February has been filled with studio visits with curators and experiments for new work. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching how I can scale up my practice to make large-scale work with steel balls or tires instead of beads. I tried to do some tests with styrofoam balls and the method seems promising but oh boy was it messy!
In last month’s newsletter I discussed the process and concept behind my sculpture, Unfurling. This month, I thought I’d do something similar with another sculpture in the Of Wood and Water Series.
In progress shots by Conan Stark
Spirit is a cascading sculpture made from white and clear beads and is meant to act as an encapsulation of the jubilant and enduring spirit of African diasporic traditions. Despite colonial efforts to whitewash and Christianize Jamaica, the influence of Myal, Obeah, Kumina and other traditions still shine brightly. With this work, I pay homage to the essential spark passed down through these traditions—enlivened by the Jamaican Revivalism movement in the post-abolition 1860s— and recognize the power implicit in embracing aspects of one’s identity that have long been suppressed by the colonial agenda.
African spiritual practices, often rooted in dance and music, are hugely influential in Jamaican arts and culture, however they are still regularly demonized by the Jamaican Christian majority. I am interested in this enduring creative spark and how it reflects the strength, spirit and resilience of the global African diasporic peoples.
The flow of this work is based on a Revivalist ritual dance movement that later became a common feature of contemporary Jamaican dance. As a child, I would see the women who practiced these rituals moving in tandem towards their place of worship. The colour and movement of Spirit is inspired by the beauty and mysterious power these women seemed to exude in their gleaming white dresses and turbans. The title plays with the dual meaning of the word, referencing both the ancestors with whom the Revivalists would joyfully commune and the idea of an intangible and eternal driving force.
In these pictures you can see Spirit as an unfinished work. I hope to add lights soon, which will give it a diffused glow and add dimension to the beadwork. I’m also experimenting with different materials for the base and have not yet decided if concrete or wood would work best.
Looking forward to sharing more sculpture updates with you next month!