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Bahamas Artists Respond To The Environment

Haiti Catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Chile Catastrophic magnitude 8.8 earthquake. Turkey Catastrophic magnitude 6.0 earthquake. Iceland Volcanic eruption causes floods and disrupts air travel for weeks. The Gulf of Mexico 4.9 million barrels of crude oil spilled. Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Afghanistan Catastrophic Flooding. Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh Landslides displacing people and threatening lives. Pakistan More than 20 million people injured or homeless due to flooding. Sumatra Volcano eruption relocates 12,000 people–and all of this in the first 8 months of 2010 alone.

These are just a few examples of the Earth reacting to the burdens and demands we place on it. These events are all related one way or another to various forms of global climate change. It has been obvious that the planet has been showing us that we should strive to live in harmonious rhythm with nature. Should we choose to ignore the effects of our actions, we will have to accept the potential dire penalties.

Because of these and other global events, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas resolved that for the first time in the Gallery’s existence, its Fifth National Exhibition (also known as “The NE5”) would be a themed exhibition exploring ideas and narratives on issues relating to the 21st century global question of our carbon footprint and climate change. Professional artists of The Bahamas, residing here and abroad, were invited to create work which responded to the theme “The Carbon Footprint: Bahamian Artists’ 21st Century Response to the Environment.”

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas invites the public to its Fifth National Exhibition. The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday, September 4, 2010 and closes January 31, 2011. Various Artist Talks, Walk-throughs and Public Programmes will be announced throughout the coming months that will support the dialogue created by the artists of the NE5.

“It is the intention of the NAGB to explore this area from an artist’s perspective-seeing how they use their own unique artistic tools and vision to produce works that look at areas such as urbanization, mobility(cars, planes, boats, etc.), domesticity, personal space(s), landscape, industrialization, natural earth elements, fabricated non-natural elements, etc. that relate to carbon footprint and climate change,” said David A. Bailey, Acting Director of the NAGB.

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment and, in particular, on climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases we individually produce in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, etc.

The selected artists of this National Exhibition responded with impressive insight and attentive commentary to circumstances that warrant response and reaction. The collective reaction is also one of record. Thirty-eight artists brought work to the jury that was made up of seven members. Twenty-three pieces out of a possible thirty-six were accepted(overall 63 percent). Also, there is a balance of gender that was never present in any of the previous National Exhibitions: 12 male artists and 12 female artists.

The chosen artists of the NAGB’s Fifth National Exhibition are: John Beadle, Sue Bennett-Williams, Dede Brown, Apryl Burrows, John Cox, Blue Curry, Claudette Dean, Jan Elliot, Kendra Frorup, Mick Guy, John B. Gynell, Ken Heslop, Kristaan Ingraham, Kishan Munroe, Lavar Munroe, Susan Moir-Mackay, Lynn Parotti, Dylan Rapillard, Heino Schmid, Natasha Turnquest and Eleanor Whitely. The media spanned the gamut and included found objects and mixed media, paintings, textiles, photography, graphic design, and quilt making.

The Gallery’s National Exhibition is a bi-annual event where artists of The Bahamas are invited to submit works to a published Call for Artwork. However, this year the Gallery chose to work outside of the historical parameters of the selection process that has been in place since the Inaugural National Exhibition seven years ago.

In the past, artists were invited to submit three pieces from their portfolio that had been produced in the past two years. This time they were asked to produce one piece in response to the theme with the objective of raising a social consciousness within our community.

In keeping with the idea of reducing the Gallery’s own carbon footprint, the NAGB chose to forego commercially printing and mailing Invitations to the Opening Reception but opted the paperless route and digitally e-mailed invitations to its guest list.

Further to this, in another innovative move, the Gallery also decided to not produce a printed catalogue as in years past, but instead created a “digital” catalogue in the form of a specially designed and produced Jump Drive which features images of all the artwork, video interviews of and information on the participating artists. The NE5 digital catalogue will be available for purchase in the Gallery Store, Mixed Media.

Additionally, Holly A. Parotti, Curator of the NE5, and Assistant Curator, Jackson Petit, researched films that were included in the submission process to motivate those interested in submitting work and also to support a more cohesive conversation in the community.

Attendance to these films was compulsory but in no way meant to dictate how the artist would interpret or react to the theme. The two films, Remembering Saro-Wiwa and Home, were profound and exceptionally moving. Remembering Saro-Wiwa is a monument to the activist Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed because of his campaign against the annihilation caused by the presence, depletion and rape of the Niger Delta by certain oil companies. Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Home was also presented because of its beautiful aerial cinematography that documented the threat humanity imposes on the planet.

With the NAGB’s vision to further catapult Bahamian art into the international arena, the Gallery invited two world renowned artists, Janine Antoni and Alfredo Jaar, along with Director of Gasworks, UK, Alessio Antoniolli, to be a part of the jury that judged the submissions. By doing this, the NAGB hoped to open the conversation to the international contemporary art platform.

“This was not an easy challenge but at the NAGB, we feel that with difficult and complex times, it is important that artists are given the opportunity to respond,” said Bailey.

Curator Holly Parotti notes, “Arguably, zero impact is a myth. Everything that we do in our daily lives impacts the environment and we leave a carbon footprint. We can choose to continue to ignore issues like the effects of the interconnectedness of climate change and fuel consumption or we can reduce our dependency on materials or processes that endorse and amplify the devastation of our natural resources. By understanding one’s contribution, one can begin to rectify the situation. By reacting, one acknowledges that there is a problem. By discussing, we can determine resolution.”

The artists of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas’ Fifth National Exhibition, through creative and unique vision, have begun a united exchange about the human impression that is left on the planet. The hope of this exhibition is to enlighten and open the eyes of the Bahamian community so that we question our own impact environmentally and ecologically.

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is located on West and West Hill Streets and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Exhibition tours are given but require advanced reservation. For more information, you may contact the NAGB at Telephone 328-5800/1 or at e-mail: or at their website:

Source: Nassau Guardian

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