The 2018 Anne Hill Blanchard Uncommon Artists Lecture will explore new research on self-taught art of the Caribbean. Speakers include Barbara Paca on Antiguan artist Frank Walter, Nancy Josephson on Haitian artist Myrlande Constant and Haitian Vodou flags, and Jacqueline Bishop on Jamaican artist Kemel Rankine. Following the lecture, self-taught Jamaican artist Sane Mae “Mama Laine” Dunkley will demonstrate her mat-making techniques and discuss her process with Jacqueline Bishop. Coffee and pastries to start.
The Anne Hill Blanchard Uncommon Artists Lecture Series highlights new and important contributions to the field of folk and self-taught art. The annual series honors the late Anne Hill Blanchard, an inspiring and passionate leader in the field and a devoted supporter of the American Folk Art Museum.
Barbara Paca currently serves as the cultural envoy to Antigua and Barbuda. In that capacity, she works as the curator for Antigua and Barbuda’s inaugural National Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia. Paca was educated as an art historian and landscape architect. She earned a PhD from Princeton University and has completed several postdoctoral fellowships, including a Fulbright scholarship and membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Paca is author of Frank Walter, The Last Universal Man (2017), Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World (2015), and The Frank Walter Catalogue for 2013 at Art Basel, Miami Beach. She has also been involved in the operation of a landscape architectural firm for 30 years. Paca works on a global scale, using her knowledge of horticulture and history to anchor private residences to the land in an appropriate manner. She also works on large-scale public projects to develop a new aesthetic, promoting the use of native plants, cutting-edge environmental conservation, historic preservation, accessibility, and community building.
The Gymnast & Other Positions is Jacqueline Bishop’s most recent book and has been awarded the 2016 OCM Bocas Award in Non-Fiction. She is also the author of My Mother Who Is Me: Life Stories from Jamaican Women in New York and Writers Who Paint/Painters Who Write: Three Jamaican Artists. She writes a monthly column on the visual arts for The Huffington Post. Bishop was a 2008–2009 Fulbright Fellow to Morocco; the 2009–2010 UNESCO/Fulbright Fellow; and is an associate professor at New York University. She founded Antillean, which encourages, develops, and revitalizes folk art traditions of the Caribbean with a goal to improve the livelihoods of its artists. Antillean works with and within communities to build upon and sustain local art traditions that in turn will build and support strong communities. Among those artists Bishop works with is Kemel Rankine, who transforms discarded metals from cars and appliances into folk art paintings of Jamaican proverbs, national heroes, birds, flowers, and other aspects of the Jamaican landscape. He collects metal from junkyards and uses enamel and occasionally house paint to create each piece.
Sane Mae “Mama Laine” Dunkley was born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, in 1954. When her mother died when she was four years old, Dunkley went to live with a cousin in St. Elizabeth until she was thirteen years old, and then moved in with her maternal grandmother. At eighteen years old, she moved to Kingston, where she has lived ever since. As a child, Dunkley remembers seeing a male cousin making the bright colorful mats that she now makes. Interestingly, this cousin used to make beautiful embroidery too. Dunkley’s cousin made an indelible impression upon her. Because of him, she started making mats and tapestries, which are notably colorful and full. Dunkley sees herself as part of a tradition in which people, especially women, have made beauty out of little and nothing. One of her main goals is to honor and give value to this art tradition.
As an artist and musician, Nancy Josephson became engaged in the culture of Haiti first through connection with the artwork, particularly drapo vodou, or Voodoo flags. These vibrant, sparkly narratives hit a chord that compelled her to travel to the island in the late eighties. Once there, she was introduced to the flag makers and the spiritual communities represented in the iconography of the flags. Over a period of ten years and many trips to Haiti, the connections to individual artists grew. She captured many of their stories and unique styles in her book Spirits in Sequins: Vodou Flags of Haiti (Schiffer Publishing, 2007). Her artwork, in consort with her spiritual life, continues to reflect the love bound to Vodou.
Image credits: Frank Walter, Psycho Geometrics, date unknown, oil on cardboard, 32 x 35.5 cm, photography by Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts Conservation, © courtesy Sir Selvyn and Lady Walter; Sane Mae photo by Garfield Robinson; Kemel Rankine photo by Robin Farquharson; Myrlande Constant (b. 1968), Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Vodou Banner: Milocan Tous Les Saints Tous Les Morts, c. 2000. Sequins and beads on fabric, 42 ½ x 56 ½”, Gift of Robert Brenner, 2012.3.1. American Folk Art Museum. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.