Bodden Town’s Simon Tatum recently had the opportunity to attend the fourth Caribbean Linked artist residency program in Aruba.
Mr. Tatum, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Drawing at the University of Missouri, was the first Caymanian artist to participate in the regional residency project for young and emerging Caribbean artists, which took place from Aug. 1 to Aug. 23.
Mr. Tatum’s work focuses primarily on Caymanian history and uses appropriated photographs from the Cayman Islands National Archives. His work also draws upon themes of colonial history, migration, and the exploration of personal identity within the context of a Caribbean cultural background.
“My intention is to communicate to the Caymanian people the condition of our history and how easily it can be manipulated by outside sources,” he said.
“My work promotes information literacy to further stimulate a creative society.”
Since beginning his studies, Mr. Tatum has had his work shown in local galleries in Missouri, and has taken part in several group exhibitions since 2014. In 2014 he was one of 23 artists featured in the exhibition “tIDal shift – Explorations of Identity” in Contemporary Caymanian Art at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. It was during this exhibition that gallery director Natalie Urquhart introduced Simon’s work to Caribbean Linked executives.
Caribbean Linked is organized by Ateliers ’89 Foundation in collaboration with ARC Inc. and the Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. It is aimed at building awareness across disparate creative communities by bringing together emerging artists from Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanic and Dutch Antillean Caribbean islands. This year 10 artists and one master artist took part.
The residency acts as the foundation of a community of artists from all over the Caribbean and provides a space for artists, creative activists, writers and critics to build relationships and connections across the creative industries, while developing a stronger portfolio and participating in global conversations.
“It is wonderful to see a young Caymanian artist chosen for such an exciting opportunity,” said Ms. Urquhart.
“Residencies, like Caribbean Linked, not only offer artists time to work, but place artists in new communal contexts with new peers and mentors from all over the world. These factors create an environment where artists can make substantial jumps in their work in a short amount of time. The National Gallery is very proud to support Simon and watch him continue to achieve great things.”
Speaking a week into the program, Mr. Tatum commented that during his time there he hoped to be challenged and engaged by the other participants.
“I feel very energized working around here amongst these other artists and I feel like my work is starting to grow due to the continuous contact I have with them,” he said.
“I was surprised to learn that many of these artists have experience in dealing with issues that I address within my own artwork, colonial history, migration, and the exploration of personal identity within the context of a Caribbean cultural background. It has made me realize that although all of our islands are unique, we still have many similarities and relations within our cultures that are worth sharing with one another.”
He encouraged all Caymanian artists to start seeking ways in which they can become more involved in the region.
“The local arts within Cayman have been blossoming in the last several years,” he said.
“Now it is time for us to go beyond our own borders and reach out to our neighboring islands.”