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)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Storm (and other violent distrubances of the pintoresco)

Storm (and other violent disturbances of the pintoresco), charcoal drawing, 2015, La Vaughn Belle 
I have been working on a new series of drawings on charcoal. Over the past few months I have returned to 2-dimenional works after years of working in video, installation and performance. It has been a very interesting process for me predicated by the time constraints that I have to be in the studio. A lot of the work I have been making is work that I can get immersed into quickly (and leave quickly as well) and that contain repetitive marks or actions.  I am also really examining this idea of returning to this kind of image-making and what that means to me, from this region and space and time, and what I would like to interrogate. It's almost become taboo to work with beach scenes and palm trees and I wanted to challenge myself to do that while at the same time questioning the same archetypes and stereotypes, looking for what could I add to that narrative.


What I most enjoyed and that came as a surprise while making these works was the tension between the fragility of charcoal on paper and the resilience of the image. I often work with a ceiling fan on and that in addition to the pieces getting blown about while hanging on the walls created a literal windswept effect. I was almost tempted to see what would happen to them if I left them out in the rain and wind. Another day.  There is a tension between the pristine, the elegant and the sublime in the midst of the violent chaos of the storm. 

So far the series is 16 of these drawings. I will be showing them for the first time on Thursday, November 19 as a part of Art Thursday event (5-9pm) in Christiansted at my studio located at 18B East St. Come through.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Found this shirt and it reminded me of my painting

chaney "ware"/"wear", La Vaughn Belle, October 2015


I found this shirt and it remind me of my painting, the Chaney series I've been working on for about a year now. Up until now I have been focusing on the blue chaney but would like to explore other colors too. I also have been curious about what these patterns would like like on the skin. This shirt gives me a little bit of an idea. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

New work, new space

"Trading Post", coral cut from the ocean by enslaved Africans used for foundations and walls encased in plexiglass, 2015, La Vaughn Belle
This is a prototype. I may go bigger and/or multiple. I love it. I love the straight cuts on the coral that show the craftsmanship of the enslaved. It's like a "readymade".  These came from the crumbled foundation of the outhouse on the East St. property. I am happy to have found a way to use them.

Fire.Burn.Victoria series, cuts and burns on paper, 2015, La Vaughn Belle
 This is the beginning of a series of work based on the images from fretwork in the town of Frederiksted that was rebuilt after the 1878  Labor Revolt, aka "Fireburn". The cuts and burns in the papers use the two main tools of resistance used at the time.

Chaney Series_003 (we live in the fragments), 2015, La Vaughn Belle
The third in this series. I like working in this size, 48x60, but I think I want to go bigger!






Interview (video)


I was interviewed by one of my students, Denise S. Canton earlier this year for a photography class she was taking in Maryland, USA. If you have 30 minutes and want to more about my work and background check it out. I talk about earliest influences, my transition to becoming an artist and what's it's like to be an artist in the Caribbean. I also discuss some regrets and some challenges in sustaining a creative life.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chaney, Chinoiserie

What I find most interesting about this Chaney Project is that re-imagining of cultures through the flow of material objects during colonialism. On some of the fragments you find "Chinoiserie", which is European re-imagining of Chinese porcelain. However the Chinese also started imitating the European re-imagining of their culture.Some of the plates had stories attached to them like this one, a kind of Romeo and Juliet type of story. I hope to do 10-15 of these large scale paintings. They are fun and exhausting, tedious and exhilarating. They come together like a jigsaw puzzle as I study the images and see which pieces make sense. I am not too concerned with exact re-presentations. Although keeping pretty close to the image, I also at times edit them, extend them, I enjoying the process of seeing how the tangle into one another and form something new. I'll be showing the third one of the series at the Open Studio, this Friday, July 3, 2015 from 4-7pm. You are invited!!



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

OPEN STUDIO

Finally, I am happy to announce that I am finally, FINALLY having an open studio at my space on East St. otherwise known as The House That FREEDOM Built. I am also super excited about the new work and the activation of this cultural space transformed from an abandoned derelict.  Please join me!


Friday, April 10, 2015

New Studio, New Projects

Soooo I have moved into my new studio. I need to clarify that it is not as if I had a previous studio before so that it's not new in this way. I had to surrender my studio space at home as the family expanded. It is neither new in the sense of a new building because if you have been following my documentary project  "The House That FREEDOM Built" this building is over 250 years old. It's new in the sense that it's new beginning for me and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. It's my art lab. And currently internet free on purpose (except for my cell phone). And also at the moment without a computer, so far, so that I can focus on the production of art and keep distractions to a minimum.

I have begun working on two new projects: one, not so new and the other pretty fresh.

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“CHANEY: stories from migrant fragments”



During the 250 years of Danish colonization of the US Virgin Islands, people, products, memories, stories, cultures and languages were transferred and transformed. There are countless reminders of this process and that history in these islands. From the names of our towns after Danish royalty, the sugar mills in various stages of ruin that populate the hillsides to the “chaney” that continues to be found on many properties, often surfacing after a hard rainfall. A morphed version of both "china" and "money", “chaney” serves as a reminder of our colonial past and fragmented Caribbean identities.  

These shards tell the visual stories of power and projection and how cultures saw each other and themselves in this vast transAtlantic narrative.

This work seeks to examine this past in a series of large scale paintings (4’x6’ +) works of oil on board that piece together images of collected chaney into one image. Similar to how we have reconstructed our histories, these paintings will be a symbolic gesture of restoration, a type of map that charts both the real and the imagined. I say this work is not so new because I have worked with images of these plates before in a previous work, "Collectible".




 
In researching the patterns in chaney I have become fascinated with the "Willow Pattern"  and this idea of these designs coming out of China and then being imitated by Europeans and Americans and then the Chinese later imitating the European and American imitation of themselves, and then how these images travel here to the Caribbean and represent a weird fragmented memory-fantasy and how when pieced together they can tell a new story of who we are as Caribbean people. 




I have also begun a new series of work that again deal with transforming a narrative.  Starting off as drawings and hoping to evolve into a larger installation. 
 
“Fortress: fire.burn.victoria”

One of the distinctive aspects of Crucian architecture is the fretwork, or “gingerbread” details found on the buildings. In Frederiksted after the 1878 Labor Riot or “Fireburn” much of the town was burnt and then rebuilt in the “Victorian” Era.  The shapes and patterns of the “gingerbread” are reconfigured to form vernacular houses. These houses, also African and European influenced, form a distinctive “Danish West Indian” style. I see the imitation, translation and transformation of these patterns and designs as a part of a larger “reconstruction” narrative. Looking forward to seeing how it progresses.


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La Vaughn Belle
PO Box 8513
St. Croix, Virgin Islands  00823
340-332-6236
www.lavaughnbelle.com