Feature from the National Collection: Emancipation Day Boat Cruise

By Ashley Knowles

The sight of colorful faces, the rock of the music, and the sway of the boat with a boisterous, energetic crowd are all felt in John Beadle’s Emancipation Day Boat Cruise. Viewing this piece is an experience in and of itself. The analogous colors of reds, oranges and yellows are aptly applied across the canvas. The painting also includes elements of drawing, collage and quilting.

The grids, where sectioned off with the taping method, allow for separate compositions intensifying the expressions on the faces shown. In the spaces where the tape was removed, Beadle super-imposes images, allowing them to flow into one cohesive piece. The slashes of black across the piece, simulating a sail blowing in the wind, helps one to feel the movement of the boat and carries the viewer’s eyes to the gyrating couple in the center. The added texture of layered canvas also implies the use of a sail. The geometric shapes and patterns remind the viewer of the Junkanoo culture of the Bahamas and a feeling of celebration.

In naming the piece emancipation day, which is a holiday, the sentiment of being free from work/school is synonymous with freedom from slavery and is reiterated in this piece. Though the faces are colored with exciting colors and mask-like designs, some faces are lined with anxiety, apprehension and sadness, which remind us of that exact day that slaves were emancipated.

John Beadle’s appreciation of from whence he came, his Afro-Caribbean heritage is recognized in his style and Emancipation Day Boat Cruise reflects this precisely.

Visit the NAGB today and see Beadle’s “Emancipation Day Boat Cruise” for yourself. Feel free to send us a comment or email, we look forward to hearing from you!

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