Painting taboos

Making her way to Aruba for the third chapter of the Caribbean Linked Artist Residence Program, Bahamian artist Jodi Minnis has been gathering momentum in her academic and career journey. The former NAGB gallery assistant and PopopStudios Junior Prize winner was invited to participate by NAGB Chief Curator and Caribbean Linked co-Director Holly Bynoe, who was in search of female artists engaging critical thinking in their practices.

Minnis caught the director’s eye in the Seventh National Exhibition: Antillean: an Ecology with her performance piece titled, “In Order for You to Consider My Mind, You Must First Be Enticed by My Body”.

“It was clear,” Bynoe said, “that her voice was firm and drew from identity politics, themes linked to feminism, personal politics and private-public relations.”

Bynoe is one of three directors, who include Fresh Milk Art Platform Director Annalee Davis and artist and educator Elvis López. Between themselves, the directors selected 13 artists, writers and activists from across the region to participate in the program. Of them, Minnis is the second Bahamian and youngest participant at the 2015 residency, the first being Veronica Dorsett in 2013.

A fully funded project, Caribbean Linked offers emerging artists a chance to exchange ideas, network and create work in a shared and adequately equipped facility. The residency program is organized by Ateliers ’89 Foundation in collaboration with ARC Inc. and Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. It receives the majority of its support from Stichting DOEN as well as the Mondriaan Foundation and Prince Claus Fund. Each year, Caribbean Linked invites nominated artists to participate in a three-week residency involving idea exchanges and critiques to inspire creation. The 2015 program began August 11 and ends on the 31st.

During her residency, Minnis has continued her exploration of sexuality and the fetishized feminine figure in Bahamian society. She has ventured into examining ever-present polyamorous practices, known commonly as ‘sweethearting’; Minnis makes reference to the varied playful street terms for extramarital affairs – particularly those used in Bahamian music.

Through the immersion and her international peers, she’s also used the opportunity to broaden her knowledge of other islands and cultures in the region.

“I have gained a pride. I am more proud of my place in the Caribbean now more than ever,” she added. “I have also been exposed to the culture, people and art of Aruba, which has been an enriching experience that I probably wouldn’t have had if not for this program. Most importantly, I gained friendships and relationships with amazing and creative individuals whose paths I would not have crossed if not for Caribbean Linked. I learned about different ways of image making and portraying a concept. My colleagues have taught me more than a classroom could at the time.”

Affirming her selection of Minnis as a strong participant who easily holds her own among the other artists-in-residence, Bynoe said, “She is the ideal candidate in many ways. She is brave and thrives in collaborative spaces. Her engagement is generous and thoughtful.”

Minnis looks forward to returning home in September and continuing on what appears to be an upward trend in her professional progression. While she has deferred attending Goldsmiths at the University of London until January 2016, she anticipates resuming her curatorial work and artistic practices in the fall with renewed energy. Reflecting on her residency, Minnis is thankful to have been offered the chance to participate in a dedicated and multicultural center for critical artistic thought and development.

“I did not know what conversations about ‘Caribbean-ness’ would arise, and I thought that I would not have much to say, because I’m still figuring out what it means to be Bahamian. However, as soon as I met my colleagues and was greeted by Elvis López, all of my worries went out of the door. I am blessed to have this experience, and I thank God for preparing me for it. I also want to thank Annalee Davis, Holly Bynoe, and Elvis Lopez for cultivating this program. I have to also give thanks to John Cox for being awesome and always thinking of the future generations.”