Bromeliad penguin (Abba), 2011
hand-coloured lithograph on frosted mylar
OshaWhat Magazine - Art Review: Not for the Faint Hearted
Written by Margaret Rodgers
Margaret Rodgers reviews art exhibitions around Durham Region. Here she explores an exhibit at Whitby's Station Gallery, but be warned: this show is not for the faint of heart.
London, Ontario-based artist Joscelyn Gardner hits right between the eyes with Bleeding & Breeding, an exhibition of lithographs and video installation that centers on the persecution of Caribbean female slaves through rape, their consequent use of herbal methods of abortion, and the resulting draconian punishments. Gardner, as a Barbadian expat, speaks of her white heritage and her need to address her country’s violent and repressive history through her art. She points out that she is a visible minority in her homeland, but here in Canada she is seemingly part of a cultural majority. However this implication sits uncomfortably on her shoulders and has led inevitably to the subject matter which distinguishes her powerful work.
The main gallery (Coppa Gallery) showcases Creole Portraits III, thirteen impeccably installed lithographs printed from original engraved drawings on stone. These depict finely detailed drawings of the backs of the heads of black women, heads ornamented with elaborate braidwork. Each is enclosed at the neck by a spiked or otherwise constricting brace, an historically correct version unearthed in the artist’s research into methods of cruel restraint. Interwoven through these items of torture are botanical drawings of abortifacients, abortion inducing plants, most notably the Pride of Barbados or Peacock Flower, one that also appears as a pattern on one gallery wall.
The middle gallery space holds a video projection titled behind closed doors..., wherein a basin fills up with blood as projected hands administer over it, accompanied by screams and four audio accounts from individual women. Beyond the middle gallery is “Plantation Poker: the Merkin Stories,” a series that includes a map depicting where the meticulous diarist Thomas Thistlewood marked off his conquests when he was the Overseer from 1750–1786 at Egypt Estate in Jamaica. His own quotes are used to accompany a series of lithographs on frosted Mylar that commemorates the women whose names appear in his writings. As in the head drawings, it is the women’s hair, in this case pubic hair, that is shown braided and ornamented with metal appendages.
Gardner’s work falls well within the theoretical realm of feminist, post-colonial discourse, a detailed and factual exposé that, through art, can make museum-quality research accessible, in fact, totally riveting.
See Review here