As the 16th NatWest Island Games in Jersey drew to a close at the beginning of July, alongside the returning Cayman athletes was an artist who had also been participating in an event in the Channel Islands.
Horacio Esteban represented Cayman in the Inter-Island Artist’s Lock-In at Elizabeth Castle on a small islet in St. Aubin’s Bay, Jersey. The lock-in coincided with the Island Games, and 20 artists from the majority of islands participating in the games were invited to the residency project to develop shared work focusing on the theme of “islandness,” using ideas including isolation, exile and resourcefulness. The artists’ backgrounds were varied, including music, theater, paint, sculpture and film.
Born to Caymanian and Cuban parents in Havana, Esteban moved to Cayman Brac at age 4. He spends most of his time in Grand Cayman but regularly returns to his childhood home in the Brac.
Esteban became interested in art while growing up in the ‘70s. Being on the Brac, he explained, he had little more than his imagination to play with.
“I gained basic skills in Cayman Brac, mentored and inspired by Mr. Edmund (Eddie) Scott, an industrial arts teacher, with further studies in Cuba, Texas and Italy.”
Esteban’s time spent exploring Cayman’s underwater environment, including employment in the diving industry for 10 years and underwater hull inspection for Cayman Energy Ltd. for six years, has greatly impacted his artistic work: many of his creations have a nautical theme.
Esteban uses a variety of mediums, stone being his favorite. “It’s one of the most challenging materials to form with the least amount of forgiveness,” he said. He equates the challenge of working with Caymanite specifically to that of working with some marbles. He uses a variety of methods to produce his final creation, including cutting, grinding, sanding, chiseling by hand or pneumatic tools, texturing with flames or acids, and finally polishing or sealing.
Esteban hopes his work, on the whole, will “evoke any level of emotional connectivity in the viewer or potential patron through visual, physical or intuitive stimulation.” His aspirations for the future include large-scale installations, both temporary and permanent, placed around the island at strategic land and underwater sites if he can garner the necessary support.
The Inter-Island Lock-In
The Jersey Arts Trusts’ Inter-Island Lock-In was created in association with WildWorks and Jersey Heritage and is so named because participating artists remain on the small islet for the entirety of the project.
The Jersey Arts Trust Committee selected Esteban from a pool of Caymanian artists, all of whom had submitted portfolios to the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.
“I submitted my portfolio not believing there was any chance in this lifetime that I would be selected, given the caliber of artists that reside on these islands,” he said. “I decided to take part only after being informed in writing by the Jersey Arts Trust and The Cayman National Cultural Foundation that I was selected and realizing how lucky I had been.”
The lock-in aimed to encourage artistic cooperation and resulted in a showcase of shared pieces created by the group, which included artists from Bermuda, Greenland, Saint Helena, Rhodes, Faroe Islands and Gibraltar among other locations.
Esteban particularly enjoyed the Elizabeth Castle venue. “The history attached to this site is priceless and to actually live on the premises for 10 days, unforgettable.”
The days began with breakfast, followed by constructive bonding time between the artists and instructors, activities which Esteban said seemed like playtime and games. The artists then participated in an average of three projects per day, working from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., with group presentations at the end.
“Materials were basic and often incorporated the various sites within the castle, either by way of performance, visual presentations, storytelling and often times all of the above combined,” said Esteban. “The end result was a few performances with a focus on creative dance, storytelling improvisations with minimal costumes, a performance using life-sized puppetry requiring three people to operate, and a few installations that were themed.”
The 10-day residency culminated in two final showcase evenings of performances and installations created during the lock-in, with the public invited to the Castle to enjoy what the artists had created.
Esteban said he learned a lot from the unique event.
“What I gained most is the realization and confirmation that collaboration between people, regardless of race or ethnicity, is the only way to build a future we can all tolerate and continue to build from,” he said.
“Even more important is that once this phase can be accomplished, we are no longer strangers or acquaintances, but family.”