By Malika N. Pryor.
‘They’ say that art imitates life. However, sometimes, art does more. It reflects, as a full and truly inspired representation of its surroundings, both pulling from and aspiring to the beauty that nature—flora, fauna and even human beings—bring to our world.
For millennia, artists and artisans have established their creative utility through their expressed variations of the natural environment. In fact, Caribbean art generally and Bahamian art specifically, is often seen as pastoral and picturesque, albeit this perception is largely the invention of non-Caribbean people.
In other cases, makers seek to use plants, flowers and trees for the purpose of reshaping them, forming a new expression. Here, these environmental elements are the canvas. The Gardens of Versaille; the Japanese tradition of bonsai; The Retreat, Bahamas National Trust Garden; or the modern sculpture garden.
Alternatively, nature can be the backdrop for human expression rather than the tool. The Great Theatre of Ephesus, Turkey; Shakespeare In The Park; your community summer outdoor concert. As the adjacent property to the Villa Doyle comes into proverbial bloom, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is working to merge both nature as background, foreground and subject. With the continued work in the Sculpture Garden and the construction of the Gallery’s amphitheatre, the framing of the roof intact and the bowl nearing its completion, we see the merger and simultaneous emergence of nature as art and as inspiration.
Primarily focused on Bahamian plant life, the Sculpture Garden is a true partnership between the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the NAGB. To Mark Daniels, the BNT’s Retreat Curator and the project’s primary liaison, the Garden is a much needed and quite valuable addition, not only to the Downtown area but the city of Nassau. When asked why Bahamians should value a space that embraces native flora Daniels responded, “They should recognise that there is inherent beauty in our flora and take the time to appreciate it for what it is… It simmers down to being proud of what is ours and understanding the story of how these plants came to be a part of our natural landscape.”
However, the Garden is more than just a space for lovely, indigenous plants. According to Daniels, the development of the NAGB Gardens is an act of creativity. This comes as no surprise when one discovers that he is not only a “plant guy” but also a performing artist, most strongly affiliated with ‘Da Spot’ a sketch comedy show that airs nationally. “Whenever I work on a project, I like to see the difference, immediately. Working on the Sculpture Garden allows me to watch the space transform bit by bit. The history of the garden space is also very intriguing and will tell an important part of our Bahamian story not known by many once it is completed.”
Staring out from the privileged view of the second floor verandahs of the Villa Doyle, admiring the trees and community farm plants that are ever growing - deepening their roots in centuries-old land, the birds feeding from the underbrush, and butterflies fluttering about, nature is indeed divine art and we have much to be inspired by.