The Bahamas National Trust Wine and Art Festival: Shining a light on artisans

By Holly Bynoe

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has in its possession many treasures, from The Retreat Gardens on Village Road to the extensive system of terrestrial and marine national parks that  preserve and protect beauty of The Bahamas. For the second consecutive year, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) has been invited to partner with the BNT on their dynamic annual Wine and  Art  Festival.  To celebrate this long-standing cultural event, the 27th year of the festival esteemed to grow its network and fortify itself as the premier arts festival sustaining local creatives: the artisans, musicians, culinary artists, and craftspeople of The Bahamas.

Group shot of Wine and Art 2017 winners. L-R: Robin Hardy, June Collie, Holly Bynoe, Candis Marshall, Jonathan Bethel, Maydi Williams, BNT’s Eric Carey and Dominique Martin. All images courtesy of Elijah Sands

Over the past years, thousands of visitors have come to look forward to the Wine and Art Festival, which focuses on exposing the diversity in local cuisine, celebrating arts and providing a platform for entertainment. The festival was held this past weekend on October 27th through 29th, with the Members’ preview on Friday and full days on Saturday and Sunday. As adjudicators, the NAGB’s curatorial committee, headed by myself, had the mammoth task of working year-long on crafting the open call with Urmie Braynen and Dominique Martin, BNT’s Events Coordinator and Interim Director of Development respectively, to secure the outreach and implement a strategy to solidify entries.

This year, four categories were identified : Surrealism and Fantasy, Tropicalism, Scenes from the Islands and The Everyday.  After reviewing submissions, we chose a diverse range of artists, which included long-standing participants like the ever-vibrant Judith Papillion and the abstract master Toby Lunn, and stalwarts of the craft community like Robin Hardy and Trevor Tucker. Topping it all was a smattering emerging artists like Lyndera Hall, Shashla Bethune and Kirk Deal, who added to the dynamism of the festival and its positioning as one of the major points of sale for Bahamian artists.

On Friday evening, just before the doors opened at The Retreat for the preview event, the NAGB’s curatorial team—consisting of Richardo Barrett, Natalie Willis and myself—and Education Officer Katrina Cartwright, reviewed the work submitted and chose winners in each category along with an Emerging Artist prize.

The first prize was awarded to Candis Marshall in the “Surrealism + Fantasy” category for her recycled works that look otherworldly, stark and very industrial. Marshall recycles parts of bicycles—brakes and wheels—to make these ornamental objects that are likened to dreamcatchers, chandeliers and other sculptural objects that move into a futuristic space. The starkness of silver, white and black, with isolated coloured feathers, really spoke about how elements of design and functionality merge.

An avid woodworker and woodturner extraordinaire, Robin Hardy received the prize in the  “Tropicalism” category. His woodturning skills are unparalleled here in The Bahamas and he continues to make objects for the household including meticulously crafted bowls and lamps. The piece he submitted for the best-in-show referenced a boat with a dugout that was wide and womb-like. This piece evoked several feelings of the artist’s practice and observation of materials.

In the “Scenes from the Islands” category, Jonathan Bethel, who also won in the same category last year, showed exemplary skill with his figurative painting, giving us a beautiful look at old traditions that are fast dying in The Bahamas. Bethel produced a modestly sized acrylic portrait of an elderly woman straw plaiting that was at once nostalgic but telling of the deep rituals and practices that are being lost in our country.

Marco Mullings in his booth at the 27th Annual BNT Wine and Art Festival.

Emerging artist June Collie took home the prize in “The Everyday” category for her colourful and funky rendition of a group of young people hanging out and chilling. Collie’s use of colour and form to portray and represent black bodies has been eye-catching since her emergence as one of the leading female mural artists in the country. The painting, filled with a sense of vibrancy, fun and joy, encapsulates the kind of social energies we want to foster.

Finally, this year BNT introduced a special mention category for an emerging award which went to Cuban artist Maydi Williams for her painting and relief work with newspaper. The painting was tantalising in its form and very surprising as the subject, a conch harvester emerging out of the water, came to life with unexpected dimensionality.

Despite the dreary weather on Saturday caused by  Tropical Storm Phillipe, the mood of the festival couldn’t be dampened. The BNT proudly awarded these five artists with round-trip tickets sponsored by JetBlue. These trips will allow the winners to travel to any JetBlue destination and we hope that they will fill these trips with art!

Look out, New York! Guard thyself!