- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Jamaican American Artist Carves Out a Space in Hartford

The Hartford Guardian, News Feature, Ann-Marie Adams Posted: Apr 13, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn.--Jayson Keeling uses art to fight.

The Brooklyn-born artist of Jamaican parents finds himself fighting for a cultural space within the larger art world and the larger society. Keeling's video "Listen without Prejudice" is his latest weapon featured in an exhibition entitled Rockstone & Bootheel: Contemporary West Indian Art at Real Art Ways in Hartford.

He knows many people are unfamiliar with Anglophone Caribbean culture. And they bring certain-mostly stereotypical-expectations to a West Indian art exhibition. Words such as "colorful" and "exotic" describe the collage of images, sound and texture of the exhibition. So with his art Keeling chooses to "fill in the gap" for those who might not understand the complexities embedded in West Indian culture and its contemporary art.

"I'm creating a moment where there is awareness," Keeling says as he survey's Hartford's contemporary art space. "It's for people to internalize and reconsider their initial impression."

On Sunday, Greater Hartford residents formulated their last impression of his video, as well as the entire collection. Keeling was one of 39 artists featured in the exhibition packed with purposeful paintings, sculptures and videos. The artists are all from the English-speaking Caribbean and its diaspora in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

The four-month show, which took its name from a Jamaican dub-metal song, ended with a closing reception that also featured performances by Trinidadian Gary Williams and Jamaican-born Lawrence Graham Brown of New Jersey. Co-curators Yona Backer and Kristen Newman-Scott also gave a talk.

Rockstone & Bootheel is a colloquial phrase that means "taking a journey." And it aptly describes the exhibition, which is composed of many journeys, sometimes conflicting, all influenced by the social, political, and economic conditions of life in the West Indies and the diaspora.

Unfortunately for some, they missed this exciting and eclectic showcase. And it's understandably because the organizers showed little interest-as noticed by this reporter-in targeting the large Caribbean populace in Hartford, some of whom would have connected with the cultural displacement theme evident in several displays.

The palpable irony here is that the exhibition about the marginalized people in the West Indies was in a city where two-thirds of its residents are from the Caribbean. The cacophony of sounds and images highlighted could have resonated with some of those people within a two-mile radius of Real Art Ways.

This is not to say other people couldn't identity with the work. The quality of the show was undeniable and would be recognized by any aficionado of art.

But there's also a need to expose this kind of quality art to nontraditional audiences, says Andrea White, 36, a Hartford resident.

Real Art Ways Executive Director Will Wilkins agrees. "There's more work to be done with the West Indian community," he said. "This marks the beginning of something."

It was indeed something. The themes were dark, comical and gay. The images were varied but monotonous as well as strange and familiar. Brightly painted photos were shockingly red, blue, yellow and green. And there was an arresting display of black braids with synthetic hair against a white wall.

On this same backdrop were mounted flat-screen televisions with images of dance hall, market scenes and seedy areas of Kingston, Jamaica. One television set had Keeling's work, a compilation of images from the 1970s Jamaican movie, Rockers.

Keeling, 43, grew up in the Bronx. As a child, he traveled to Jamaica on many summers. To some, he's not quite Jamaican. To others, he's not quite American.

It is this in between space--or cultural displacement--his art explores.

The score of his second, five minute piece -a collage of scenes from Rockers-gives a familiar spiritual refrain: "help me find my way, Lord." The video loops images of black males walking down a street, through an alley, up a mountain and jumping over a fence. The video allows the audience to "really see the people not just look at them." Overall, the film compositions are unobtrusively beautiful and thoughtful.

Another powerful piece on display was by Lawrence Graham, 40. The glass encased artwork is tied to his powerful, performance piece called "Ras-pan-afro-homo-sapien." The artwork boldly juxtaposes the Rastafarian construct with homophobia -- all resting on a chef's jacket. Other artifacts included samplings of buttons with images of twentieth century icons, including the Queen of England, Jamaican national heroes and Boy George. Graham called this eclectic mix the "mash up." All together, they're filled with varied historical significance of the black male relegated status and the legacy of slavery and capitalism.

Also of significance was a unique dance performance by 45-year old Trinidadian artist, Dave Williams. Standing naked behind a mannequin, Williams extended his long, elegant arm to embrace the curves of the inanimate object. His youthful nakedness against the mannequin was disturbingly exquisite.

Jamaican-born Newman-Scott, daughter-in-law of Hartford businessman George Scott, revels in the idea of showing off talent such as Keeling, Brown and Williams.

"In the West Indian community, many of them were saying how much [the exhibition] reminded them of home," Newman-Scott said.

It was also an educational experience for those who attended the closing reception, especially for Lavern Lindo of Enfield. Lindo migrated from Jamaica 30 years ago.

"I learned a lot," she said. "Besides, it was a really good show."

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage