Seascape Poetics, curated by Bettina Pérez Martínez and assisted by Simone Cambridge, examines the complexity of Caribbean relationships to water. Originally conceived as an in-person exhibition focused on climate change and extractive tourism in Puerto Rico, the virtual exhibition grew to include works by six contemporary Caribbean artists – Lionel Cruet, Nadia Huggins, Deborah Jack, Olivia Mc Gilchrist, Jeffrey Merris, and Joiri Minaya – who engage with the intersections of built and natural environments, colonization, tourism, climate change, and Caribbean identities.
The project was inspired by Pérez Martínez's graduate research on climate change and colonization in contemporary Puerto Rican visual art, which was profoundly influenced by her experience as a Puerto Rican student living in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal during Hurricane María (2017), and by themes of shared archipelagic Caribbean identity in the groundbreaking exhibition Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago (2017). Seascape Poetics also draws on Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite's concept of tidalectics, an oceanic worldview in which the ocean and land are in continuous, rhythmic relation, and Martinician poet Édouard Glissant’s notions of poetics of relation and landscape, in which Caribbean representation in verse captures the complex connections between landscape, history, community, and the individual. Through these themes, the exhibition seeks to honor the nuance and diversity of each island nation alongside the archipelagic connections we share, through a tidalectic understanding of our histories, identities, and experiences.
In light of the global pandemic Seascape Poetics was reimagined as a hybrid virtual/outdoor exhibition and then, as the situation worsened in Canada and in the Caribbean, adapted into an online exhibition. Though freed from the constraints of curating in a physical space, this shift presented the challenge of developing a virtual world. It was the intersections of Brathwaite’s and Glissant’s work, and an interest in liminal spaces, that drew Pérez Martínez to the imagery and tensions of the ocean and its shoreline. The ocean is inextricably linked to slavery, colonization, hurricanes, and flooding; to food and livelihood; to identity, memory, and family; to home. It often evokes profound feelings of connection to the water and the tides, and a sense of loss or nostalgia when we are away. The shoreline is an ecotone, or a region of encounter between two biological communities, and a space of transition between ocean and land. It provides both symbolic and literal access that is essential for the lives and livelihoods of locals, but is controlled and restricted through colonization, resource extraction, and tourism. Today much of the coastline on Caribbean islands is owned by private interests, often European or North American multinational corporations, including hotels and cruise lines. The virtual world of the exhibition, with its wooden house, basalt rocks, shoreline, ocean, and mangrove trees, was inspired by these tensions, the artists’ preferences, and the pieces themselves.
By creating a landscape that evokes diverse Caribbean ecosystems and is populated solely by Caribbean artists, Seascape Poetics engages in a form of digital placemaking where the Caribbean and its diaspora exist temporarily in a shared archipelagic space. In this context, the pieces speak simultaneously to the diversity of the artists’ lived realities and their shared understandings, through an emerging poetics of seascape that embodies the tidalectic tensions of Caribbean experience. These archipelagic identities and colonial and linguistic histories form a submerged connectivity that draws the Caribbean islands towards each other, and apart.
Cruet was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and works in New York City and San Juan. Cruet received a Bachelor in Fine Arts from La Escuela de Artes Plásticas, a Masters in Fine Arts from The City College of New York, and a Masters in Education from the College of Saint Rose. Lionel also works with the New York City Department of Education, as well as multiple nonprofits that promote art and aesthetic education for immigrant youth.
Cruet uses multiple mediums including experimental digital printing processes, performance, and audiovisual installations to confront issues that concern ecology, geopolitics, and technology. Cruet's artworks have been included in exhibitions at the Bronx Museum of the Arts (2017); Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse (2017); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (2013); and Universidad de Sagrado Corazón, Puerto Rico (2014); and a solo exhibition at the Bronx River Art Center (2015). In 2020 Cruet had a solo exhibition titled “Lionel Cruet: Dusk/Daybreak” at Yi Gallery in New York City. In 2021 Cruet will continue his research and art projects in a residency at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Quito, Ecuador.
Huggins was born in Trinidad and Tobago and grew up in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where she is currently based. A self-taught artist, she works in photography and, since 2010, has built a body of images that are characterized by her observation of an interest in the everyday. Her work merges documentary and conceptual practices, which explore belonging, identity, and memory through a contemporary approach focused on re-presenting Caribbean landscapes and the sea.
Huggins’s photographs have been exhibited in group shows in Canada, USA, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Ethiopia, Guadeloupe, France, and the Dominican Republic. In 2019, her solo show “Human stories: Circa no future” took place at Now Gallery, London UK. Her work forms part of the collection of The Wedge Collection (Toronto, Canada), The National Gallery of Jamaica (Kingston), and The Art Museum of the Americas (Washington DC, USA). Nadia was selected for the New York Times Portfolio Review (2018), and her work has been included in several publications, including A to Z of Caribbean Art. She is the co-founder of ARC Magazine and One Drop in the Ocean – an initiative that aims to raise awareness about marine debris.
Jack is an artist whose work is based in video/sound installation, photography, painting and text, intersections of cultural memory, and climate change. Her work was recently on view at TENT Rotterdam, the Perez Art Museum of Miami in the 2019-2020 exhibition “The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art”, and “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago”, which opened at the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles. Her work has been exhibited at the SITE Santa Fe Biennial, Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Jersey City Museum, The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, and Delaware Art Museum. Residencies include a Lightwork, the Big Orbit Summer Residency. Her work has been featured and reviewed in the New York Times, Frieze, Art Burst Miami, and Hyperallergic. In fall 2021, Jack will present a 15-year survey exhibition at Pen & Brush in New York City. Deborah is currently a Professor at New Jersey City University.
Mc Gilchrist is a white French-Jamaican multimedia artist and researcher exploring how colonial legacies extend their reach to Virtual Reality (VR) technology. She has exhibited in Canada, Jamaica, the USA, Brazil, Germany, Norway, Austria, France, Switzerland, and the UK. Building on her experience as a white Euro-Caribbean, and past research in the portrayal of her hybrid identity within contemporary Jamaican culture, Mc Gilchrist explores how this can be represented in VR. Her Individualized Ph.D. research-creation project borrows critical tools from Feminist studies, Black studies and Postcolonial Caribbean studies in order to offer a framework for the aesthetic experience of VR immersion figuratively and literally.
Meris is an artist born in Haiti and raised in the Bahamas. Meris earned an A.A in Arts and Crafts from the College of The Bahamas, a B.F.A in Sculpture from Temple University, and an M.F.A in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2019. Meris is a two-time Harry C. Moore Lyford Cay Foundation Scholar 2012 & 2017, Guttenberg Arts A.I.R 2016, a Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture 2019 alumnus, among other achievements. Meris has exhibited and spoken in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vienna, Leipzig, Port au Prince and Nassau. Meris is currently a 2020 NXTHVN Studio Fellow.
Minaya is a Dominican-United Statesian NY based multi-disciplinary artist. She attended the Escuela Nacional de Artes Visuales (DR), the Chavón School of Design, and Parsons the New School for Design. Minaya has exhibited across the Caribbean, the U.S. and internationally. She has recently received a NY Artadia award and the BRIC’s Colene Brown Art Prize, and has received grants from foundations like Nancy Graves, Rema Hort Mann, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Minaya has been awarded in two Dominican biennials (XXV Concurso León Jimenes; XXVII National Biennial) and has participated in residencies at Skowhegan, Smack Mellon, Bronx Museum, Red Bull House of Art, LES Printshop, Socrates Sculpture Park, Art Omi and Vermont Studio Center.
Pérez Martínez is a Puerto Rican curator, art historian, and researcher based in Montréal, Canada. Her research interests focus on Caribbean identity, decolonial studies, and the politics of ecology and climate change in the region. She is the curator of Seascape Poetics, an exhibition examining complex relationships with water and ecology in the Caribbean through the work of contemporary artists in the region. Her recent written work addresses Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States as the pivotal agent for the country’s growing economic and social crisis and how this relationship pertains to the representation and exploitation of nature. She holds an MA in art history from Concordia University in Montréal, Québec and a BFA in Printmaking and a BA in Art History from the State University of New York, in Purchase, New York.
Cambridge is a researcher and curator born in Nassau, Bahamas. Her research examines transatlantic slavery, Caribbean identity, postcolonialism, and race in visual culture and curatorial theory. She holds a BA from McGill University in Art History and International Development with a minor in Urban Systems Geography. She has received the 2016 All Bahamas Merit Award (The Bahamas Ministry of Education), the 2018 Archie Malloch Award for Public Learning (McGill University), and the 2019 Arts Undergraduate Research Award (McGill University). Her research has been published by the McGill University Department of Art History and Communications and the Journal of Black Canadian Studies. Simone is an Advisory Board member for the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at NSCAD University, Research Assistant and Communications Coordinator at Concordia University's Curating and Public Scholarship Lab, and the Curatorial Assistant of Seascape Poetics.
Friday, February 12th at 12 - 1:30pm EST
Hosted by Bettina Pérez Martínez and Simone Cambridge
Friday, February 19th at 12 - 2pm EST
Featuring: Lionel Cruet, Jeffrey Meris, Joiri Minaya, and Natalia Viera-Salgado
Saturday, February 26th at 7 - 8:30pm EST
Featuring: Deborah Jack, Olivia Mc Gilchrist, Joiri Minaya, and Bettina Pérez Martínez
This event will take place on Zoom and will be streamed live on 4th Space Concordia’s Facebook. To participate in the Zoom event please RSVP here:
Bettina Pérez Martínez
Olivia Mc Gilchrist
Olivia Mc Gilchrist
Bettina Pérez Martínez
Natalia Viera Salgado
Bettina Pérez Martínez
Marina Reyes Franco
María Juliana Angarita Bohórquez (Consultant/Copy Editor)
Simone Cambridge (Curatorial Assistant/Communications Coordinator)
SJ Kerr-Lapsley (Consultant/Copy Editor)
Alexandra Nordstrom (Consultant)
Alex Robichaud (Exhibition Coordinator/Copy Editor)
Daphnée Yiannaki (Consultant/Copy Editor)
Jayá – Macha Colón y los Okapi
María Juliana Angarita Bohórquez
Bettina Pérez Martínez
Marina Reyes Franco
Dr. Shelley Butler
Dr. Jennifer Carter
Dr. Heather Igloliorte
Dr. Alice Jim
Dr. Erica Lehrer
“Seascape Poetics” was developed through the Beyond Museum Walls Curatorial Residency program at the Curating and Public Scholarship Lab (CaPSL).
This project is generously supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant, the Sustainability Action Fund at Concordia University, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et culture.
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Digital photographs printed on Chromaluxe
In her Transformation diptych series Huggins juxtaposes two images that form a single underwater portrait. On the left, Transformations No 1 shows a submerged human figure, the artist, illuminated by refracted light in a cerulean seascape. The figure’s obscured facial features seem to extend to the image on the right, which depicts a shadowed sea urchin surrounded by a deteriorating coral reef. Interplay between the seascape, the body, and its limitations are documented using juxtaposition and self-portraiture. As Huggins delves below the horizon and into transient moments of self in the marine ecosystem, refracted light obscures the artist’s body, displacing it from identifiers of gender, race, and class. Huggins uses this absence of social and political constructs under the ocean to reconsider both identity as well as the imagined boundary between humans and the natural world, bearing witness to something that cannot be fully captured.