From as far back as she can recall, art has been a part of Janeen Walker’s life. In her early primary school years she engaged in lots of doodling, sketching, drawing horses and making black and white mandalas. As the years progressed, her art evolved, but she still doodled and drew zealously. Her doodling eventually produced pieces that were good enough to be entered in exhibitions. She pursued art studies at the then College of The Bahamas (now University of The Bahamas), but life caught up with her, and she moved away from pursuing her passion. Bills had to be paid.
Walker recalls becoming all too familiar with a popular phrase — ‘the starving artist’.
“It was heartbreaking, so I moved away from it, but always had it in the background and did other forms of art… I had a clothing line where I did handmade, handpainted resort wear, so I was always still in art in some way or form, but not so much in fine art.”
And now Walker is among a group of three, along with Sue Katz and Kerry China, who are in the first crop of resident artists coming out of The Current Gallery at Baha Mar since its official opening.
The Current opens RE: 1 (Residency Exhibition 1) with a two-hour show tonight at The Current Gallery, 1 Baha Mar Blvd. at 6 p.m., featuring the works of Walker, Katz and China.
Walker uses the expressive and gestural technique of acrylic pouring to create both large-scale and intimate paintings that exude the vibrancy of the painting language. She explores the way in which marks are spontaneously created through a collaboration between artist and art material. Walker draws emphasis on each layered pour, exposing them through the transparency of epoxy.
China is a contemporary dancer and artist. Her paintings reflect an inherent curiosity for rhythm and movement, using her body to express a type of painterly dance. China creates textures and patterns using everyday objects, reconsidering the use and importance of the mundane. Her works are process-based, focusing heavily on the physical outlet of mark-making.
Katz is an assemblage and collage artist. Through dynamic layering of paper, paint and other found objects, Katz creates stimulating surfaces that capture the viewer, presenting new ways of interpreting and perceiving traditional landscape and portraiture. Often times, the imagery in her work reflects past experiences, highlighting a fleeting era of simplicity, humor and irony.
The trio has been at The Current for a little over three months and, due to construction in the space, got to stay a little longer, which Walker is grateful for.
At this first showing, she said, people will be able to see that the idea of Bahamian artists has expanded, and that The Current is at the pulse of where Bahamian art is going to go and can go.
She said people can expect a dynamic show at the least.
“A very powerful show — something that’s very interesting,” said Walker.
“We have three very different and diverse artists who created very cohesive works in the same space, but all coming from a completely different place and background and discipline. Sue is a collagist who does amazing work; Kerry China works in just a really unique and unusual form of all kinds of mediums — crayons and acrylics and potato mashers – all kinds of things to create her work. It’s very powerful and different. And then I use acrylic and epoxy, which most people here don’t use as part of their practice.”
Artist-in-residence programs exist to invite artists and creative people for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations.
The Current is billed as more than a vast collection of contemporary art, but a hub for compelling Bahamian artistic experiences. It is a center for recognizing and supporting a strong, creative community through captivating exhibitions, workshops and lectures, artist residencies and partnerships with local collectors; it is led by Creative Art Director John Cox.
At the heart of The Current’s programming is its residency program. Local and international artists have the opportunity to follow their artistic pursuits in the studio space, culminating in exhibitions, lectures and workshops designed to captivate and inform.
At The Current, they have three types of art residencies: the Fine Art Residency; the Commission Residency, where The Current brings in an internationally based artist to make works for an exhibition or an installation, while in the space; and a retail residency, where artists and artisans come in to create specifically for retail, such as jewelry, bags and clothing, which goes from the studio to the shelf. With the third residency, guests can walk in, see a bag that has been created onsite and then see it on the shelf.
Last year Walker saw that The Current was taking in resident artists, so she contacted the department and was admitted into the program.
Prior to joining the resident artist program, Walker was painting on her kitchen floor, but space constraints did not allow her to expand her techniques and size. She said moving to The Current was amazing, as it allowed her to have more resources at her fingertips and take in advice and support from other artists.
“While I was there, they had a job opening, and I took that. (Walker is now in charge of the Retail Residency program). So now that my residency is finished, I’m still onboard with Baha Mar and The Current, which is a really amazing, dynamic space. It’s life-changing. The level of work and the vision of the director, John Cox, is beyond what most of us have been accustomed to.”
As she prepares for tonight’s opening, Walker said it’s like a dream come true. Some of her works have already been purchased by Baha Mar and are displayed throughout the resort.
“It’s something I never really thought was possible,” she said.
Her advice to artists who may find themselves in the position she was a few years back — starving — is to continue to work on their crafts and send in their portfolios, because they never know where it could lead.
“It just has opened up every door for me. I have people who walk down to The Current every day just because they saw a piece of work of mine upstairs and want to know who the artist is. It feels celebrity status almost,” she said. “I feel so grateful to everyone who helped me — John Cox, Natasha Vasquez, the whole team at The Current. I’m just so grateful to them for the opportunity I’ve been given and the hard work that the whole team has put in. Everyone there is just phenomenal.”
RE: 1 will be on view for six weeks.
The Current is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with occasional extended hours to 8 p.m. The department is adding more classes to its programming schedule. A figure drawing class with Stephon Grant is currently underway every Thursday.