Annual art fair VOLTANY is fast approaching, and this year Bahamian artist Tessa Whitehead will be representing Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts. Following in the foodsteps of Heino Schmid, John Cox and Kendal Hanna – all of whom have upheld Popop’s name at VOLTANY – Whitehead will be one of the 100 exhibitors from 43 countries at the fair that is now in its ninth year.
Known for her conceptual works that incorporate themes of balance with everyday shapes from the landscape, Whitehead will transport several sculptures and a series of paintings to the show in New York’s Meat Packing District. One of her featured works will be her “Rainbow of Stars” – a string of 354 individual stars cut from wood, which is hoisted up and extended from the ceiling, creating a rainbow shape. The first iteration of the sculpture came out of a 2014 residency that Whitehead undertook at Chisenhale Studios, in London.
“It needs to be hoisted up like a sail, but I don’t make it quite so stable,” explained Whitehead. “It’s almost like a failed romantic sculpture because it doesn’t quite hold itself up. It’s kind of collapsing at the same time as being quite regal and large and ambitious.”
Her “Pentagon”, another sculpture she will be exhibiting at the fair, is inspired by common architectural shapes.
“I look at landscape a lot, and symbols in landscape and repetitive shapes in landscape are important to me… My pentagon work has all these connotations to do with the home and the house. It’s a shape we see a lot in most landscapes and I think about how to work with it in a sculptural way,” explained Whitehead.
Nominated by the Popopstudios board, Whitehead’s commitment to her practice made her stand out as a potential nominee. More recently, her work has involved everyday materials that are both found and constructed, like pieces of lumber, concrete and nails. Visionary ideas come through the most delicate and vulnerable of balances that are created with her sculptures. In her painting practice Whitehead layers oil paints to offer her viewers complex perspectives on light, shadow, newness and visible ageing and decay. In more recent times, she has been experimenting with size, creating works that are considerably large.
Wanting to select someone from the Popop community to represent the studios this year and believing that Whitehead’s newer movements would fit in with VOLTANY’s mission, the board chose her. From March 2-6, her works will be on display at Pier 90 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, the location of this year’s festival.
“I love Popop. I think it’s an important and special space. I feel like I have a lot on my shoulders representing them,” said Whitehead. “I really respect the practices of the people who went before me – and I’m not someone who puts people on pedestals, especially with art, but their practices are strong, so it’s important for me to do a good job for Popop.”
VOLTANY is an invitational visual arts fair held during Armory Arts Week in New York City. It is the American incarnation of the original Basel VOLTA show, which was co-founded in 2005 by National Art Gallery of The Bahamas Director Amanda Coulson. Since its debut in New York in 2008, VOLTANY Artistic Director Amanda Coulson reconceived the format to a boutique event, spotlighting artists through solo projects. For more information, visit