From the Crow’s Nest | THE SCENE
BERMUDA NATIONAL GALLERY celebrates 25 years in 2017. The
history of BNG, as a museum, comprises decades of local and international exhibitions, a growing collection that spans time, regions and
genres, and years of education programmes that have reached thousands
of people. The relevance of this history, however, is rooted in the human
experience, those moments of art engagement: past, present, and future.
Art is powerful. Art can evoke memories and provoke ideas. Art can be
quiet and meditative or confrontational. Art can bring people together. It
can be used in therapy; it can encourage positive change. Art can be many
things, but without an audience it lacks potency and impact.
British art critic John Berger said, “The strange power of art is sometimes it can show that what people have in common is more urgent
than what differentiates them.” Art has the power to transcend barriers.
Exploring difference within common grounds is an urgent social matter
supported at BNG.
Also with a nod to Berger, The Power of Art is an exhibition that
seeks to challenge “ways of seeing.” The artwork is curated by section,
each space having a thematic focus: activism; environmental protection; ideas of influence; humanity’s strength in diversity; representing
women artists; and, in the children’s gallery, imagination. In many
instances, juxtaposition of historical and contemporary artwork from
the permanent collection is augmented with loans of art.
In exploring the theme of activism, the exhibition presents artwork
that either can be read as political or was intended to be political. For
centuries, artists have played a role in social change. For example, Hale
Woodruff addresses race and poverty in post-Emancipation America,
Goya uses satire to address superstition and power in eighteenth-centu-
ry Spain, and contemporary artist Shepard Fairey, known for his OBEY
brand, is more direct in his appeal for peace and justice.
In The Ondaatje Wing, Bermuda’s natural beauty is celebrated in a
selection of American Impressionist paintings of the island, rendered in
the early twentieth century. These artworks recall a time that is now long
gone. In the context of today’s environmental issues, the paintings have a
new potency. They provide an opportunity for the viewer both to enjoy
the artwork and consider, too, the fragility of Bermuda’s ecosystem, itself
a microcosm of the earth. The mission to ensure the sustainability of the
natural world for generations to come is a collective one.
The theme of humanity is presented in a salon-style installation that
stretches floor to ceiling, with portraits and artwork featuring people
from diverse ethnicities, times and regions. The physical experience of
the installation intends to bring to life the impactful words of former
First Lady Michelle Obama: “The arts and humanities define who we
are as a people. That is their power—to remind us of what we each
have to offer, and what we all have in common. To help us understand
our history and imagine our future. To give us hope in the moments of
struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.”
There is much more to explore in The Power of Art exhibition at
Bermuda National Gallery. A visit is highly recommended.
The Power of Art
1995, Iconostasis of
Water, 1992, etching, aquatint, and dry
point on Fabriano
Artistico paper with
Collection of Bermuda
Bermuda National Gallery’s 25th Anniversary Exhibition