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)

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Big Art Small Place" written by David Knight, Jr

If you happen to be traveling on Caribbean Airlines or Air Jamaica this month look out for an article I have in the inflight magazine, Caribbean Beat, which is also the region's most widely distributed magazine. Written by St. John writer David Knight and portrait photos taken by Quiana Adams (of Q Studios), it is a nice profile of my work. Here is an excerpt:

Her work makes a strong argument that “small island” art should be as much about deconstruction as it is about decoration. She is fascinated by the things we often take for granted: the cultural artifacts, practices, and locations that make our homes distinct. In this way, Belle’s investigations remain grounded in everyday life in St Croix. But despite a self-professed interest in the provincial, her work fixes its gaze outwards. Informed by a Pan-Caribbean heritage (her parents moved to the Virgin Islands from Barbados and Tobago), an international education in New York City and Cuba, and the multi-layered history of St Croix (the island has changed colonial hands seven times), Belle is very much in dialogue with the world.
A tension between the cosmopolitan and the local is a key feature of our times, and one might be forgiven for pointing out that, in small communities, critical discourse does not always flourish. In such an environment, contemporary artists can easily become frustrated by censorship, a lack of an audience, or both.

But La Vaughn Belle’s work contains nothing of this sort of cynicism: her environment is an abundance, not a lack. “The Virgin Islands is an amazing place to make art,” she recently wrote on her personal blog. “We are this small place in the [Jamaica] Kincaid sense of a small place, like many islands in the region. We are full of contradictions, insularities, and strange obsessions. We are still navigating our ‘coloniality’ in a post-colonial world.”

NB: this text is copyrighted, and only limited excerpting with full attribution is permitted. For licensing and reproduction permissions, please contact Caribbean Beat directly.