The Blank Canvas, December 28: Steven Schmid, Gio Swaby and Tamika Galanis

Continuing our series of shows highlighting Bahamian artists living abroad that are participating in the Eighth National Exhibition (NE8), on this week’s “Blank Canvas” show Amanda gets to listen to the stories of Steven Schmid (far left) and Giovanna Swaby (second from right), who both recently graduated with a BFA in Film, Video and Integrated Media from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Tamika Galanis, who recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary and Experimental Arts from Duke University.

Tamika is a visual artist and native of Nassau, who is represented in the NE8 by two bodies of work, “Human Coral Hybrids” a group of 4 3-D printed sculptures, and “The Constituency” a documentary photographic series based on residents of Grants Town. Her work addresses the diasporic-disconnect by examining issues of home, culture, identity, and performance.

Emphasizing the importance of Afro-Bahamian identity for cultural preservation, Tamika’s work documents aspects of Bahamian life, which are not catered for tourist consumption, creating pieces that counter the widely-held paradisiacal view of the Caribbean. As we learn in this week’s show, Tamika is one of the many Bahamians unable to secure a passport due to due outdated and patriarchal rules of inheritance, and this question of identity and belonging recurs throughout the NE8 and also in the works of our other studio guests, Steven and Giovanna.

Steven’s installations, incorporate elements of drawing, digital printing, collage, sound and video, utilizing aesthetic and conceptual juxtapositions to morph personal narratives into allegories that encompass themes of nostalgia, hyper-masculinity, religion, science, the abject and in turn, their oppositions. His large paper mural for NE8 contains anthropomorphic figures with animal heads, which speak to issues of hybridity and the feelings, both positive and negative, that come from it.

Giovanna’s mixed-media piece “I Learned In Passing,” directly addresses her changing identity, moving from The Bahamas to Canada and her experience as being so strongly identified as a black woman and all the strange exchanges and moments that came with that, ranging from simple curiosity to outright offensiveness.

All three artist grapple with feelings of belonging, whether as a Bahamian who is not entitled to citizenship, a Bahamian who is not perceived as a “true” Bahamian, or a Bahamian abroad, identified as “the Other.”