Back in June, I produced a portrait series while visiting Trinidad as an artist in residence at Alice Yard, an alternative creative space in Woodbrook.
In conversations specific to Trinidad over the years, all people seemed to talk about were the Trini women; that and the high crime rate. But the topic of women usually dominated any talk of Trinidad. It had also recently come to my attention that bird watching is a big deal in Trinidad. Over 400 species of bird call Trinidad and Tobago home. And I counted at least 7 that lived in the tree over my apartment. The country on the other hand has a very diverse ethnic background. Trini women are considered some of the most exotic women on the planet. Where else can you find someone who is part African, Portugese, Amerindian, Chinese, Indian, and French? Once I made the connection my mind was set. I had to do a project presenting Trini women as exotic birds. But how?
After a trip to the national museum paired with some “liming” (hanging out) with locals, things started to align. There is a gallery space in the Yard just across from my studio, which resembles a presentation case just like those used in museum dioramas. The space was reserved for another visiting artist, Karen McLean, so I had to wait a few days before I could shoot my first frame. That gave me enough time to cast and finalize the concept.
I came up with portraits of Trini women incased in a space similar to those of taxidermied birds in museums. And each placed in unique nests. I focused on the clichéd attention grabbing stereotypes of women from a leering male perspective e.g.The Amazon, Party Girl, Girl Next Door, and Beach Girl.
The project took an unexpected turn once arrangement of the sets got under way. I began using left behind elements of artwork from past artists in residence, Karen McLean, Ebony Patterson, and local artist Richard Mark Rawlins. And also, beer bottles, leftover scraps, dirt, furniture and light fixtures that were made available to me in the Yard. The process was new to me and a welcomed foray into installation work. Before I knew it, I was building nests for my subjects.
All in all, the residency was a challenging and rewarding experience. I hope to return to Trinidad soon and complete the project.