Feature from the Exhibition: “Rootsy”

By Ashley Knowles

“Rootsy” is currently on display at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, as part of the Permanent Exhibition: The Bahamian Domestic. Originally on display as part of his solo exhibition, The Surface Beneath, Petit produced this piece after winning the 2012 Central Bank competition.

In this piece Petit explores the notion of masking oneself, be it personally or for a wider audience, as the individual in the painting stares at the audience with vacant eyes. Crowned in local foliage, Petite purposely chooses to integrate the Bahamian landscape into his work. This creates connections between artist, artwork and viewer, as the natural motifs provide a familiar point of reference. This common ground culturally integrates the work within a wider dialogue of ‘Bahamian art’. Further, it situates the individual in the painting within a natural and cultural landscape, and poses the question: who is he masking himself from? As a Haitian-Bahamian artist, Petit actively integrates his personality and history into his work. “Rootsy” is thus, a form of self-portraiture, exploring the artist’s own identity as it relates to his person, but also his history and culture.

As a central piece in The Bahamian Domestic, “Rootsy” is a particularly strong choice as it directly relates to the exhibition’s exploration of Bahamian social and cultural identity. Remaining masked, the piece explores notions of ‘Bahamianess’ and what, as a nation, we choose to show and choose to hide. This focus on depth, on seeing beyond simple everyday existence, encourages viewers to look below the surface, deeper even. Coupled with the other pieces in The Bahamian Domestic, “Rootsy” is part of a larger call to notice one’s physical, social and cultural landscape and one’s place in it.

The Bahamian Domestic is on display on the bottom floor at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. The Gallery is open from 10AM to 4PM, Tuesday to Saturday and 12PM to 4PM, Sunday.

Biography of the Artist:
Jackson Petit (born 1983, Nassau, The Bahamas) was educated at The College of The Bahamas and Toronto Film College, Toronto Canada. From 1998 to 2004 he was a participant in the FINCO Summer Art Workshops and has taken part in numerous group exhibitions. He won The Central Bank of The Bahamas Art competition six times in various categories and received top honors in the CLiCO Caribbean Art Competition in 2003.

Further Reading:
The Bahamian Artwork Collection: Jackson Petit
Jackson Petit ‘Removing The Mask’