Today was filled with a lot of conversation. Five more folks came into Barbuda for the museum opening tomorrow.
In the morning time, I met the local high school principal and some of his students. The students were very polite and yet sharply witty at the same time. I gave the a brief introduction to what I hoped we could do while I am here and several of them seemed genuinely enthusiastic. I brought some of my greeting card prints to give to them at some point.
I passed a group of kids hiding under a staircase on their break from lunch. One kid saw I had a camera and exclaimed “Don’t take my picture!” so I pleaded with them jokingly, “Why not?” About 4 of them scattered, leaving these two in the photo on the left. They were ready and willing to confront the camera. I think it makes for a compelling photograph. I wonder why some kids were so against it.
I did some sketching with oil pastels in the morning, trying to warm up and get the muscles going. I had no blue, so I ended up making the sky a bright purple. It felt like the heat of the day was nicely conveyed by the purple. The research center’s mascot, Max the doberman / rottweiler has a bit of a fear of kids. He was moving through the scene I was sketching, anxious and annoyed by the kids. So I colored him in red.
Had Beef Patty for lunch from a lady on the side of the road with a tupperware full of them. I think it came out to about 1 dollar. It was obviously homemade and quite tasty. I had a meatball too. We also visited a general store. On the one hand it was strange to see some familiar brands like Gatorade and the like, but the store was 60-70 percent empty. The woman behind the register was keeping a running leger of the inventory in the story in a big note pad. When I purchased a razor, she marked it down dutifully.
Barbuda is a small island. Most of the goods are imported, either officially, or in bags on the planes and ferries.
I painted in the afternoon, eager to push pigment. I set up at the lagoon with a lightweight aluminum easel. It took a little while to get comfortable, as the wind would blow the canvas down onto the palette and I forgot a rag to wipe my hands. The new easel became painterly rather quickly.
The painting is small, perhaps 9 x 12.
When painting I started to feel the gravitational pull of the practice. It pulled me in and it also brought about the errant passerby. I used this opportunity to have conversations. I found out that a large metal buoy in the lagoon that I was painting had blown there from Nova Scotia during a storm. People from Nova Scotia had verified this. I spoke with Byron, who likes art but doesn’t have time to practice because he works day and night at his snack shop. He dreams of owning a restaurant one day. He lived in the Bronx from 1979, when he was 19, to 1986. He had been to Brooklyn once, but only driving. They were looking for a party but could not find it.
I also encountered Nuff Respect, a beautiful racing horse. Her owner was taking her for a swim to prepare for a race this Sunday. The horse followed the boat well out into the lagoon and you could tell it was a bit of a workout from the breathing. It was stunning. When they were done, Nuff Respect left with her owner riding her.
I also saw some fish, skimming over the water like skipping stones.
The sky seems so large here, perhaps because of the persistant flatness of the island. I tried the impossible task of painting the rolling clouds and reflecting water, searching for the impression, or the style of the land.
I painted until the sun went down and the colors of the water and the clouds dimmed. The evening was filled with conversation. A lecture by Anders from Sweden, who showed an example of his multi-screen video projects about climate change. The discussion afterwards brought about some interesting ideas. How to you democratize the voices heard speaking on the impact of climate change? Can the field be level in terms of who speaks with authority? It is problematic if one speaks too much in the realm of academics, yet some shaping of ideas and crafting of language is needed to move the effort along. Words do matter. They shape beliefs, values ideas and ultimately action. But sometimes actions might not need shaping. Perhaps they are clear enough already.
The principal told an interesting story at dinner. He said that a fisherman was in talks with a ‘developer’ who wanted him to invest in his business, get more boats to get more fish. “And then what?” said the fisherman. Well, you need to get an accountant, hire people to work for you, buy more boats, sort out distribution, and so on and so on. “And then what?” Well! you have plenty of money. You are a millionaire and you can live in a beautiful place and go fishing whenever you want with plenty of leisure time. And the fisherman said “I can do that all now.” Of course, I am mangling the eloquence and impact of how the principal told it, but his point was very clear. Development is a diffferent idea for different people.
I was also struck by this idea from Kevel: “Climate change mimics generational change.” It’s a simple, yet insightful way of framing the issue that I had not thought of. But I am saying more and more “boy, it sure isn’t snowing like it did when I was a kid!” How in the world do you get kids to care about it if that is how we frame it? “Yeah yeah yeah grandpa…”
Finally, I had a great discussion with someone working for the World Heritage site plan in Antigua. As a life long resident there, he highlighted a lot of the tensions stemming from the differences between the two islands. He will be speaking tomorrow night and I look forward to learning more.