By Natascha Vazquez
Many contemporary art works today involve the use of both text and imagery within one composition. The combination of both provides two means for communication: offering a more unified surface for interpretation and, perhaps, raising more questions regarding the content of the work. The use of both text and imagery demonstrates the artist’s ability to blend the boundary between commercial and fine art, creating parallels and adding another layer of complexity to potential interpretations. The text responds to the doctrines of traditional fine ar, and questions the way in which it can exist.
“Nassau From Above” (2004), Blue Curry, alternative photography, 24 x 30. Part of the National Collection, acquired from the 2nd National Exhibition.
A sense of gloom surrounds Nassau from Above through Blue Curry’s use of black-and-white collage-styled imagery, paired with the words “Doesn’t it all look so peaceful… from up here.” We are slapped with sarcasm as these words overlay an image of Nassau seen from above through an airplane window. The aesthetic of this work is reminiscent of Barbara Kruger, an American artist best known for laying aggressively directive slogans over black-and-white photographs. Her work critiques consumerism and desire, as well as challenges viewers conceptions of power and control. Here, Curry deliberately critiques the way in which we distribute power, and how we navigate around reality to portray a mislead sense of utopia.
Stylized and flat imagery of highlighted “Bahamian icons” permeate the work, including The Atlantis Hotel. It is awkwardly placed within the setting, as if cut out and stuck clumsily on the surface without consideration of unifying the composition. The distortion of this “cut-out” is suggestive of propaganda – a vehicle for spreading biased or misleading information, usually to promote a political cause or point of view. It’s almost as if the artist has found advertisements, cut around them to salvage the imagery, and pasted them inelegantly into this bird’s-eye-view of Nassau. It suggests that the artist intentionally covering segments of reality with symbols that promote a paradise – something that we strive to present to visitors of this country. The alteration of the Atlantis structure is also suggestive of a Roman Cathedral, an architectural icon that serves as a spiritual center– a place where God dwells. This poses a fascinating indication of tourism and its role in The Bahamas.
“Nassau From Above” installed in the NAGB’s permanent exhibition “Revisiting An Eye For The Tropics” on view through 2018.
Do we identify the tourism industry in The Bahamas in similar ways to the act of worship? If we place so much importance and dependence on foreign support, how can we define ourselves? So: what is real Nassau? It may appear to have pure, white beaches and a crystal-clear ocean; it may shine under a vibrant sun; it may present underwater dreamlands of a hidden Atlantis or a smooth sailing on a boat due to our gentle breezes, but what about the close-up details? What about the people and the crime and the struggles and the pollution and the corruption? Things that cannot be seen from an ascending airplane but rather by a truly Bahamian individual, who lives, breathes and dies a citizen, who drives the streets and eats the food and knows the people – who can feel the chaos and who struggles when the country does.
This work seems to be a friendly reminder of who we must prioritize and conserve – our culture over any – our beliefs and stories and art, and our people. Our visitors will inevitably flourish from a prideful nation, but only when we discover ourselves will we be able to share a deeply Bahamian culture.