Review Of Home In Norman Centre, Bridgetown, Barbados

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This post was first published by Gyal In A Gallery and reposted with kind permission on Bajan Art.

Featuring 55 artists and 206 pieces of artwork, “Home” is a show packed to the brim. It has a lot going for it: a very convenient location, a wide variety of work, and an ability to show how art would fit into the average household. Despite some flaws here and there, it’s overall a solid pop-up show from the Artists Alliance Barbados.

Location, Location, Location

Like Revoclectic before it, “Home” takes art out of the gallery spaces and museums and brings it right in the heart of busy Bridgetown. It’s somewhere that anyone can go to while heading for delicious cheesecake or searching for cheap shoes. And not only that—Norman Centre will certainly benefit from the increased traffic to the area.

A Home Is Where

To be honest, I don’t usually head into Norman Centre. The few times I go there, it seems empty and a bit dull. But when I walked into “Home”, I had to stop and stare for a minute just to take in the sight.

Curator Oneka Small transformed an empty storefront into a show-home. Using furniture provided by Standard in Norman Centre, Small successfully created the illusion of a “home”. The first room in was the living room, filled with couches, coffee tables, and sculptures. Walking to the left put you through to the kitchen with its mini-fridges, sink, and tables. Next was the bedroom, with bedside tables and large fluffy bed. The bathroom held a sink and bathtub. On both sides there was a bit of empty space—hallways, if you will.

And this show-home wasn’t sterile at all. Almost every square inch of it boasted some kind of artwork. Some art hung on the walls and hid in the cabinets. Paintings and sculptures spilled out the drawers and stood proudly on stands. Textiles hung from clotheslines and rested on the bed. This was a vibrant, art-filled home.

The House Has Many Rooms

A leisurely look around revealed that each ‘room’ contained a different style or theme of artwork. This helped prevent complete anarchy and proves a useful way to write up the show. It’s almost impossible to give a detailed analysis of everything. So I’ll give a brief highlight point of the show.

The Living Room

The friendly and inviting living room housed some lovely coffee tables and beautiful sculptures. , Kenneth “Black” Blackman’s pieces dominated the space—his twisting, arching mahogany creations “Fountain of Life” and “What Goes Up Must Come Down” acted as the focal points for this room.

The Hallway

The ‘hallway’ next to the living room mostly held portraits of various shapes and sizes. It could be a family gallery. But the most striking piece here was a textile called “Betsy Lemon-Sitting Together Knitting” by Ann Rudder. According to the explanation on the wall, it’s intended to link together “Barbados” culture and the culture of the Sea Islands of South Carolina (Gullah/Geechee culture). It’s a fascinating mix of handicrafts of the areas that make up these regions, and brings light to an often-overviewed form.

The Dining Room and Kitchen

The dining room table features lots of pots and the like, but the kitchen held some charming still lives of fruits and vegetables by , Cher-Antoinette Corbin and N. Maria Stanford. These smaller images captured familiar kitchen items—like sweet peppers and bags of Indian Girl Flour—and turned them into something celebrating all the delicious food made in kitchen.

The Bedroom

Between the ‘dining room’ and the ‘bedroom’ hung several figures, including the almost glowing paintings of dancers by Darius Etienne. In the bedroom, one of Stella Hackett’s intricate textiles created a frothy, boudoir effect.

The Bathroom

The little bathroom in the corner contained only a tub and a sink. Images here featured water and water imagery. Of particular note was a piece by Oneka Small, which propped itself up in a wash bucket. An unusual place for art!

The Last Hallway/The Veranda

The last side of the space seemed dedicated to landscapes and outdoor scenes, hence the idea of a veranda. Oddly, one of my favourites on this wall was a black, white, and grey abstract by Doreen Edwards called “White Top”. This little gem was not quite the most sophisticated, but to me it showed lots of promise.

Circling around through the hallway led back to the living room, where one large piece
“A Day at Harrismith” by Arthur Atkinson proved his skill as one of Barbados’ foremost painters. This piece, which depicted a table filled with objects on a rocky surface, hung on the back of the kitchen cupboard, facing through the living room.

 

The Windows

Notably, several traditional Barbadian windows hung around the space. Each of them contained a different sort of art, from seascapes to ominous photographs of blackbirds. They provided tiny windows to the outside world and added an extra touch to the room.

The Art That Fills the Walls

At first glance, making the gallery space into a home seems like a pleasant conceit and nothing more. But there’s more to it than that. Home makes the viewer imagine what this artwork could look like in their home. It’s easy to look at a sculpture in a gallery and think “Oh, how nice.” But in “Home”, that same sculpture sits on a coffee table and shows you that, “Why, that might look lovely in my living room too!” This exhibition shows that art could easily become a part of someone’s everyday life.

A Search for Organisation (A Bit of Decluttering)

“Home” does many things right. But with over 200 pieces of work, this show could easily become overwhelming. Every time I looked around, there was some piece that I’d missed, and then there was another tempting me out of the corner of my eye. There was almost too much!

 

Some clearer room divisions might have solved this problem.  A few neutral room dividers, like screens or curtains, might segment the space and make it easier to concentrate on one area at a time. These might also give the eye somewhere soothing to rest after a bit.

In addition, I would also have liked to see a clearer breakdown of work by theme. Right now, there’s a certain rhythm to it, but that general plan breaks down sometimes—especially around room boundaries. In the scheme of things, it’s quite minor, but with this much artwork in a small space, any tiny bit of organisation helps.

Lastly, I want to make my usual quibble: some of the pieces did not have clear labels. With a show this large, labels are no longer a luxury. They are a necessity. Otherwise, this show could get confusing very quickly. Further, I would love to see an artist list with appropriate contact information hanging somewhere in the space. To carry on the “Home” theme, why not make it into a little address book? It’s great to see all this wonderful art, but I would love if the artists’ contact info was prominently displayed. With a show this large, it goes from being a nice add-on to being a near- necessity.

Verdict

Despite a few minor quibbles, “Home” proves itself to be a fine collection of art created in Barbados. Its wide variety of artists, themes, subjects, and styles has something for just about everyone. Some stronger organisation might help the show to make an even greater impact, but as it stands, “Home” is a place worth visiting.

“Home” will be at Norman Centre from August 2 to September 2, Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Artists: Ras Akyem-I, Heshimu Akin-yemiCathy Alkins, Natalie Atkins-Hinds, Arthur Atkinson, Heidi Berger, Jared Burton, Gharan Burton, Allison Callender, Black Market Ceramics, Alison Chapman-Andreaws, Adrian Compton, Cher-Antoinette Corbin, Lois Crawford, Ancel DanielCourtney Devonish, Selena Dodson, Doreen Edwards, Darius Etienne, Reginald Gill, Dwayne Gittens, Jenny Gonsalves, Bill Grace, Tracy Deolivere GreenidgeStella Hackett, Margaret Herbert, Wayne Hinds, Jason HopeCy Hutchinson, Ras Ilix, Julianna Inniss, Kenneth “Black” BlackmanJill McIntyreReginald MedfordFred OdleSian PampelloneRosemary ParkinsonSade PayneMartina Pilé Zahles, Gail Pounder-Speede, Adrian Richards, Ann Rudder, Quo Sanura, Corrie ScottHeather Dawn Scott, Oneka Small, David Spieler, N. Maria Stanford, Leslie Taylor, Amanda TroughtCaribbean Wax MuseumLorna B. Wilson, Keyonne Yarde, Kraig Yearwood