Artist Statement

I see my art practice as an investigative tool, as a way to engage in dialogue, a platform for thinking and a means to develop knowledge. My work has evolved from figurative and symbolic explorations in painting to a variety of modes that include drawing, video, performance, installation and public intervention projects. Therefore, the emphasis of my work does not lie in the medium, but in creating a space to explore social contexts and collective narratives. History, film, soap-operas, fairy-tales and mythology all inform my work in that they are both narrative modes that I use as well as sites of investigation. I look for the narratives inscribed in various objects and places and find ways to add to them and at times subvert them. Because I live in the Virgin Islands, a place that has changed colonial hands seven times, the longest being Denmark and the last being the United States, I am particularly interested in the colonial and neocolonial narrative and how it shapes identity, memory and reality. (return to website)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Media Exhibition in TnT Film Festival

I was in the exhibit a few months ago. My video work "Somebody's Been Sitting in My Chair, Somebody's Been Sleeping in My Bed" was shown. Here is an interview by the curators at ARC magazine talking about the motivations behind the show and the work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Making Connections

I have been spending a lot of time working on my documentary, "The House That Freedom Built" and looking at these historical images of hucksters and market women. Some of the women who lived in my house were hucksters and were able to purchase their freedom with the money they made as an itinerant seller. Looking at these images made me think about the relationship between these women and their surroundings, their bodies as landscape, their relationship to the buildings. It made me think a little of Carrie Mae Weems "Roaming" series where she questions the edifice of power. I saw some similarities with my video work "Somebody's Been Sitting In My Chair, Somebody's Been Sleeping in My Bed" (2011) and a work that I have never shown "I Have a Dream" (2005). I haven't shown this work because I wasn't sure of the direction to go. I knew I was interested in inserting my body in these real estate magazine "dreamscapes", but after I did the first one, I wasn't sure if I should be washing clothes in the pool or lounging at the poolside. For where I am in my life right now this would be a really interesting series to revisit and complete.



Friday, September 16, 2011

Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival




Very excited about this! It's the first time this piece, "Somebody's Been Sitting In My Chair, Somebody's Been Sleeping in My Bed", is traveling!


ARC and T+T Film Festival present "New Media", a collection of ten artists’ works. These works explore a range of themes and issues, while pushing and blurring the boundaries between film and art.

New Media will be the opening exhibition at the brand-new Medulla Gallery, 37 Fitt Street, Woodbrook. After a launch on Friday 23 September at 7pm, the exhibition takes place on Saturday 24 September and Sunday 25 September, 10am to 7pm daily.

For more info: http://www.ttfilmfestival.com/new-media

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paradise Lost



Monica Marin curated this show which originally was at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts. It travelled to Puerto Rico this summer. Check out the opening reception here. I showed for the first time a video piece, "Moving Pictures" which investigated Hollywood films shot in the Virgin Islands. The image above is from "The Island of Dr. Moreau".


"Paradise Lost", an art show that commemorates US Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day opens on May 27, 2011, in Caguas, Puerto Rico after being on view last fall at Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Curated by Monica Marin, the exhibition features artists from the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Denmark. The artists, through their art, raise issues of the 'paradoxes of paradise' and the precarious balance between preserving the natural environment and economic development.


"Paradise Lost" presents photos, installations, videos, documentary, artist's book, mixed media and multimedia art works by nine artists: Virgin Islanders LaVaughn Belle, Janet Cook-Rutnik, Monica Marin, and William Stelzer; Danish artist Nanna Debois Buhl; and Puerto Rican artists Luis Carle, Jason Mena, Carmen Mojica, Josué Pellot, and Rafael Trellis.


Johanna Bermúdez-Ruiz's short film documents the ongoing resistance movement against the U.S. Navy's bombing practices on the island of Vieques.

Luis Carle digitally creates surreal scenarios by combining different photographs from his travels to create his ominous landscapes.

Jason Mena's conceptual work also uses words to remind us that looks can be deceiving, and to reveal the complexities and contradictions of urban life.

Rafael Trelles projects the words a "Monument to Failure" over the industrial ruins of the old Peñuelas petrochemical complex (CORCO) in Puerto Rico, to show how the industrial remains serve as a symbol of the islands' present economic crisis.

Carmen Mojica presents an array of photos that show that emptiness and silence unite at the same time that they divide.

La Vaughn Belle's video investigates Hollywood movies that have been filmed in the US Virgin Islands by re-editing them to examine and reconstruct the narrative of a virgin paradise.

Nanna Dubois Buhl's illustrations and writing document the importance of various native plants used by St. Croix's Maroons, or escaped slaves, in their acts of resistance while offering an insightful and poetic impression of colonialism in the islands.

Janet Cook Rutnik's multi-media work attempts to highlight the paradox found in paradise in a three-dimensional installation and a video, entitled, "Moments in Time".

Finally, William Stelzer's interactive piece consists of a hypothetically proposed US Virgin Islands' advertisement campaign in which the viewer is challenged to look deeper and appreciate the islands for their sublime and spiritual relevance.


Every year in October, the US Virgin Islands celebrate the VI-PR Friendship Day and the contribution of the large Puerto Rican population living on the Virgin Islands.

"Paradise Lost" opens at ÁREA in Caguas, Puerto Rico on Friday, May 27, at 7 PM, followed by an artists' talk at 8:30 PM. It will be on view until June 30, 2011.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Artist Talk

Our Artist Talk for our exhibit "The Great House: A Re-Imagining of Power, Space & History" took place on Saturday, April 16th from 3-5pm. Monica and I discussed our work, the impetus for the project and showed a video from the performance that occurred opening night.


It was an overwhelming experience. I have never been to an artist talk where people cried. It fulfilled every dream and more. A sincere, heartfelt and open discussion about art, life, history and how the pieces impacted the viewer and the community. We were asked to please continue the exhibition for longer. So it's still up, probably until the summer. Check it out if you haven't already. I am still working on posting some audio from the talk. Forthcoming. Promise.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

La Vaughn Belle & Monica Marin Reimagine the Great House




The St Croix Landmarks Society is pleased to announce an exhibition by Virgin Islands artists La Vaughn Belle and Monica Marin entitled The Great House: Reimagining Power, Space and History. The show comprises of drawings, installations, performance, video and photography that seek to create a new dialogue with the Great House of the Whim Plantation Museum. The exhibition will open with a reception on Saturday, March 5, 2011 from 3pm-6pm and close with an “artist talk” on Saturday, April 16 at 3pm. The Whim Plantation Museum is located in Frederiksted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

The Great House: Reimagining Power, Space and History seeks to interrogate the hierarchy of the plantation society and the narrative of the “Great House”. Commenting on the exhibit Belle says, “Typically ‘Great Houses’ function as a monument to power and permanence. Inside they are filled with the accoutrements of wealth-fine dishes, fine linen, fine furniture- all conveying the idea of cultural superiority. In this exhibit we want to transform that narrative by including other stories, both personal and historical, that are often invisible when you visit Whim.” Among Belle’s work in the exhibition will be a video that ties in the childhood story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” playing with ideas of intrusion and belonging. Other pieces are based on her research while in Denmark in 2008 and include a collection of hand drawn plates and an installation with a haunting portrait of a Danish West Indian woman. Marin will include several works that reflect on the nature of memory, and the construction of history. Marin recounts some of her earliest memories of Whim through a series of photos that reflect personal and public memory as the viewer is asked to contribute their own recollections. Another work will highlight the masquerade tradition and its cultural significance as an act of resistance. The exhibition The Great House is the first time that the St. Croix Landmarks Society has given such access and support to artists to critically engage the museum. The exhibit is expected to be thoughtful, provoking and exciting, as many of the pieces will actively engage the viewer as participants.

Both Belle and Marin have exhibited throughout the Caribbean, the US and Europe. This exhibition project is jointly supported by a grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC, a federal agency. For more information contact 340-772-0598.

Contact:
St. Croix Landmarks Society / Whim Plantation Museum:
Carol Wakefield or Sonia Dow 340-772-0598
Artists:
La Vaughn Belle, 340-332-6236, studio@lavaughnbelle.com, www.lavaughnbelle.com
Monica Marin, 773-354-2710, mmarin33@yahoo.com