Musings under the tree
‘Musings under the Tree’ was curated by Artists Alliance Barbados in celebration of St. Thomas for the ‘We Gatherin’ 2020 activities in March. The Covid-19 pandemic and protocols locked it away for part of March, April and May. In June, we reopened the show by appointment and its public reopening will coincide with that of Harrison’s Cave.
Musings under the tree curatorial statement
By Oneka Small
The art in ‘Musings Under the Tree’ blatantly celebrates the fertility of St. Thomas,
‘De heart of Barbados’ known for its lush gullies and natural bounty. Our focus is on trees although many elements make up this ecosystem. Trees perform a vital function as part of lungs of the nation, they help to produce the oxygen that we breathe. Pieces in the show look at their importance to many creatures in the environment and their role in the cycle of life. However, it is also explores the taken for granted, social interactions between the human creature with these beings. Trees are important in the Barbadian socio-cultural landscape also holding a place of spiritual reverence and relevance.
A drive from Warrens- Barbados’ new de facto capital- to Harrison’s Cave can feel like a trip to a different climatic zone. Jack in the Box gully seems to define the boundary of entry into this cool well vegetated area. Even in drought, Welchman Hall gully is an oasis. These respites are well reflected in Omowale Stewart’s work ‘Iration’ and ‘Arbour’. The brilliance of our tropical spaces is captured and echoed by both Tracey Williams in ‘Trees at Huntes’, ‘Beneath the Balboa’ and ‘Living Colour’ and Linda Tudor in her piece ‘Flower Forest’.
Hugh Walker explores their grand nature in his two photos aptly titled ‘Grande’ and ‘Grand tree’. We are made to see their majesty and vitality. We breathe because of these creatures. John Webster’s almost surreal landscapes shows us how they make an area grand. This is especially true in ‘Cove Bay Sunset’ and ‘Pico Tenerife Sunset 1 and 2’. They add that sculptural effect to our landscapes. Neville Legall captures this in ‘White Hill Rhythms’ and ‘Views from Dunscombe’. This can also be felt in Tracy Greenidge’s ‘Codrington’. It is impossible to imagine life without trees.
John Webster’s ‘spirt of the ancestors’ reminds us that many trees far out live us humans even though we consider ourselves the dominant species. It also speaks to the fact that we are all connected in the cycle of life. Omowale Stewart’s ‘Roots Legacy’ reminds us of the spiritual roles they play in our lives as well. Some, more sacred then others are said to house the spirits of the departed. Stories of bad luck following persons who put an axe to certain trees were famous in a certain generation and in many ways saved many a mighty tree such as the silk cotton from harm. Walter Bailey also explores the life-giving metaphor related to trees in his piece ‘Blood Lines’. Oneka Small seeks to capture essential energy within in her piece ‘Spirit tree’. Lisa Smith Fields abstractions also make us think about this unseen but felt energy. Adrian Richards draws a parallel with his anthropomorphic imagery creating that visual parallel, reminding us that ‘woman’ is nature.
We are an island, therefore surrounded by water, but Tracy would remind us that seen from offshore, by man or sea creature, trees are a dominant part of our view and the trees that thrive here are determined by the climate. For many the coconut and the palm tree or a symbol of island life. Margaret Herbert also plays with this symbology in her piece ‘Hairy Coconuts’.
Trees are important and integral part of life in the tropics. Simply put, they provide shade and shelter.
This is so prominently seen in John Webster’s ‘Midday Shadows’.
Many a time we take for granted the tree that we are waiting under by the bus stop as hinted at in Walter Bailey’s ‘The Whim’, the shadows of the tree we stopped underneath whilst driving to check our cells phones, or the place where hikers stop to cool out during a long walk.
Where do we gather to play dominoes? Where do the ‘men’ gather to reason?
Where do lovers rendezvous? Where do we set up our picnic baskets?
Rarely do we socialize in the hot sun. As a people we are always looking for shade.
Don Small captures this essence in both his pieces, ‘Chilling at Six Mens’ and ‘Five Men at Six Mens’.
They provide shelter to many animals as well. It is definitely the home to many birds. John Webster captures this in ‘Breakfast time’ and ‘Mother’s Love’. We see the mother feeding her offspring in the nest made from the branch of the tree. They provide a safe place to nourish as well as providing nourishment. Not just edible food but visual food. To stop to graze to get lost in their majesty can feel like a reconnection to spirit. Cher Anotinette’s ‘Poinciana Pride’ is her detailed interpretation of what John Webster capture in a macro scale his photograph ‘Royal Splendour’.
With the mighty responsibility of being a home, shelter, sight of beauty, giver of food and breath and so much more, are grateful to be able to celebrate St. Thomas through the art of trees. We are truly appreciative of the participating Artists- Adrian Richards, Cher Antoinette, Don Small, Hugh Walker, John Webster, Linda Tudour, Lisa Smith Fields, Margaret Herbert, Neville Legall, Oneka Small, Tracy Greenidge, Tracey Williams and Walter Bailey.