National Gallery launches ‘Art Under Lockdown’ exhibit

Creativity thrived under extraordinary circumstances

Carlos V Garcia, 'Smiling After All', April 2020

Sometimes, creativity can really blossom when artists are faced with adversity, which certainly seems to be the case when one views the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands’ latest exhibition, ‘Art Under Lockdown’.

This online collection of works shines a spotlight on the imaginations of artists and members of the public who have turned to making art as a means of expression during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Using the digital sphere as a way to share art at a time of sheltering-in-place and social distancing, the NGCI has sought to provide a platform for this outpouring of creativity to further inspire the community.

Bridget Lott McPartland, ‘Be Safe’, June 2020

In the spirit of inclusivity, all submitted entries were accepted, resulting in an eclecticism of theme and subject matter. The featured artworks consequently reflect the many different ways people have responded to these turbulent times: from moments of quiet introspection and feelings of isolation and fear, to a yearning for nature and the outdoors, through to expressions of gratitude, solidarity and social justice.

‘Art Under Lockdown’ showcases the fruits of these artistic labours, with technology connecting art and people during the most trying circumstances.

Living spoke to the director of the NGCI, Natalie Urquhart, about the concept for the exhibition and the enthusiastic response from the artists who participated.

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Why this particular exhibition?
NGCI has been working throughout lockdown to adapt and upload daily resources from our existing exhibitions and programmes, as well as launch new digital initiatives like Artist Talks. The new online exhibition series grew out of this.

The concept is partly inspired by the exhibition ‘Emergence’, which took place at the NGCI in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in late 2004. It showcased the ways in which artists responded creatively in the face of a traumatic crisis in our recent history. We felt it was important to provide a platform for reflection and a space for people to come together and share a more uplifting record of our present circumstances. It is the first in an online exhibition series that will run in tandem with our onsite exhibitions upon reopening.

Kay Smith, ‘The Cure’, March 2020

What has the response been like from artists?
Our team at the gallery has been really inspired by the number of artists who submitted work and the personal stories of the lockdown experience that their work reflects. It has been a really positive experience from both sides. I think artists have appreciated the opportunity to come together and share their work online.

What were the criteria you used when choosing submissions?
It was important for us from the start to create a project that promoted a sense of community spirit – a reflection of the Caymankind mentality that we have been witnessing throughout lockdown. As a result, we removed the juried process that is normally used in our Open Calls and chose to accept every work that was submitted. This means we have an exhibition that features students (the youngest featured artist is 12 years old) alongside first-time artists and hobbyists, as well as professional artists. It can be a challenge to curate such a wide range of artwork but we feel that it has really worked well in this instance – that it is the unique combination that enables the true sense of community we were hoping to reflect.

Tessa Hansen, ‘Words of Covid’, June 2020

Why is creating art so important at challenging times like these?
As we collectively grapple with the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic, creating art can be a cathartic experience – a way of channelling emotion and trying to make sense of things in difficult times. Despite the often-isolating experience of life under lockdown, many people have used creativity to express themselves, and the art featured in the exhibition is but a small sample of what is happening across Cayman.

As both a portrait of an extraordinary moment in time and a snapshot of life in Cayman in 2020, this exhibition offers an opportunity to celebrate the immense talent and ingenuity that exists in Cayman, while also providing a space for people to give a more positive record of our present-day reality, as well as a more hopeful and life-affirming vision of our islands’ future.

Marc Laurenson, ‘Marc Laurenson Self Portrait Covid19’, March 2020

When is the gallery expecting to be able to reopen?
Our team is gearing up for Phase One of our reopening plan which will see staff back onsite and preparing the exhibition spaces for visitors. This includes redeveloping a new National Collection exhibition which explores our maritime heritage and ongoing reliance on the ocean today. We hope to be open for timed visits – which people will be able to book in advance to ensure safety and social distancing – in July.

Glory Nicholson, ‘Crushed’, April 2020

What has been the feedback from those taking advantage of the NGCI’s virtual tours/galleries?
Feedback on our virtual programme has been very positive. We have seen significant uptick in interest, with about 11,000 page visits in April, approximately 70% of which are new users. There are so many resources online but I think our projects play an important role in that they are all developed with our community in mind, and feature local art and culture.

We have also loved working with artists on the new Artist Talks series and are excited about launching the NGCI Online Collection Project, which was initially designed to provide the Sister Islands community with access to our National Gallery Art Collection. Now everyone can view the 200+ artworks online and learn about the artists who created them.

The digital programme has really helped us ensure access to the arts under lockdown, and we will continue to run it simultaneously when we resume onsite programmes and exhibitions.

Ren Seffer, ‘Standing Still’, April 2020

Art Under Lockdown’ featured artists:
Abigail Ebanks, Alta and Gordon Solomon, Amy Brown, Amy Jones, Arianna Wheeler, Asha Burton, Avril Ward, Barbie Bodden, Basil Humphries, Brian Tomlinson, Bridget Lott McPartland, Cameron Bridgeman, Carlos V. Garcia, Carol Love, Caroline Neale-Allenger, C.E. Whitney, Charles Long, Chris Humphries, Chris Mann, David Bridgeman, Debbie Chase van der Bol, Dory VanDonzel-Magnan, Erica Birch, Francesca Lindsay, Gabrielle Best, Gale Tibbetts, Giedrius ‘Joe’ Ploplys, Glory Nicholson, Gretchen B. Wendel, Heather Holt, Hermes H. Solomon-Hydes,
J. Teresa Bodden, Jade Wilkinson, Janice Brown, Joanna Humphries, John Broad, John Reno Jackson, Joseph Betty, Juanique Mclean, June South-Robinson, Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Kathryn Elphinstone, Kay Smith, Kaydia Gouldbourne, Kerry-Ann Brown, Kerwin G. Ebanks, Lala (Maria Perla G. Datingaling), Lara Humphries, Larisa Sved, Linda W. Saparoff, Lori Peterson, Lucas Anglin, M.C. Rose-Smyth, Maggie Jackson, Marc Laurenson/STOAK’D, Marcia Codner, Mark Alexander Frazer, Martha Flores, Maureen Lazarus, Megan Ehman, Micky Ackley-Webster, Miralda Dzaghgouni, Morgan Olley, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Paige Jordison, Pam Kelly-Laurenson, Pascal Pernix, Randy Chollette, Raphael Leigh Powery, Ren Seffer, Rhonda Edie, Rufus Lovett, Sally Prior, Samantha Twiss, Sarah McDougall, Sarah Monro, Shane ‘Dready’ Aquârt, Simon Tatum, Simone Scott, Suvi Hayden, Suzette Hislop, Teresa Grimes, Tessa Hansen, Tom Girling, Wil Bignal, Wray Banker and Shaye Pairadeau.

| Art Under Lockdown can be viewed online from 15 June to 31 Aug. 2020, via the National Gallery’s website at Additional online events and lectures will continue through August. For more information, email [email protected]

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