Shanna archives Bermuda’s heritage
Shanna Hollis creates art that celebrates her home.
It’s evident in 441, a collaborative exhibit at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
Her work on display there is a continuation of The People’s Collection, a series that “focuses on preserving Bermudian heritage by highlighting people, athletes, politicians, celebrities, animals, places, products, and cuisine”.
“I want my work to be something that the community can engage with,” said Ms Hollis, a contemporary graphic designer and multidisciplinary artist. “I highlight different people in the Bermuda community that sometimes don’t get light but they play such a huge role.”
It’s a conversation she’s held frequently with her friend Gherdai Hassell, whose well-received show, I Am Because You Are, is on display at the Bermuda National Gallery until September.
“When we talk to each other we agree on a lot of the same stuff: about empowerment – black empowerment specifically – and just showing off our island. Some artwork it only shows one lens of Bermuda versus showing the whole lens, or the other side of the lens.
“What I like to do is show off the whole lens. And I think that’s really important to Bermuda and important to my identity, just getting this whole big point. My show highlights people like that; people that we overlook but they play a huge role in our community.”
In her art you’ll see Gombeys and football players; she’s addressed female empowerment and showcased national heroes as well as the familiar faces of Scientist, Gina Swainson and the late Johnny Barnes.
“Literally, this man was a dream to me because I lived in Devonshire and went to school at Elliot I never got to see him,” she said of Mr Barnes, who spent decades waving to commuters as they passed Crow Lane roundabout. “I only saw him probably once or twice. I was really excited – he just emanates love and joy and positivity and peace. And that’s all what I’m about.”
It’s an attitude she thinks she learnt from her mother, Shawn Hollis, that has served her well, especially over the past year.
“My mummy is a huge influence – of keeping positivity alive and keeping your head in a positive mindset. So amid the pandemic I’ve been trying my best to keep a positive outlook through all of this.”
Art was a skill Ms Hollis came by naturally. Her father O’Neil is a painter while her mother is “really creative”. However it was her brother, Nahshon, an oil painter, who inspired her to pick up a brush even before she entered Elliot Primary School.
“When he was painting he was encouraging me to do my own painting. We started with simple things and then, because I was mega into graphics and cartoon illustrations when I was younger, he began teaching me how to turn the brush strokes in different ways, about colours and things like that.
“So my brother began it all.”
At Elliot she found “a second father” in her art teacher, Trevor Smith.
“He extended an arm to my family, taking on Nahshon as well. He saw that I had art in me before I knew I had art in me.”
At the time she was doing it mainly for fun but at Saltus Grammar School Fiona Murdoch encouraged her to take it more seriously. As Ms Hollis pondered whether or not to pursue accounting in university, the art teacher insisted she have a rethink.
“She’s really that one that gave me the push and helped me rein in, to see that I was really interested in graphic design. And she encouraged me to apply to a few schools overseas. She also helped me to see how to use photography and basically all of those things that I was interested in, in my work.”
After college she took a full-time job as a teacher at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation. On the side she runs a business, Shanna Hollis Designs.
“I’ve done a huge range of identity work in Bermuda. I also had the opportunity to rebrand Kaleidoscope, which was really cool,” she said.
“My work is inspired by vibrant landscapes and familiar faces. I learnt to see organic and geometric shapes, lines, and colours while navigating Bermuda streets. Pastel houses shaded by beaming white roofs lined with coloured glass bottles have guided my journey.”
Having exhibited as part of group shows at various galleries on a number of occasions, Ms Hollis was thrilled to be invited to be a part of 441.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback,” she said. “My work that features people in it, I know I get a lot of interaction in the younger community [from that], but the pieces in this show highlight Bermuda, our environment, different parishes …. I was excited to see a lot of younger community engaging with it as well.
“And then I’ve noticed a growth in people interested in my work. I really didn’t know that my work was out there like that. It’s kind of just cool to see people engage with my type of work, recognising graphics as an actual media platform, as an art platform not just something for branding and service. It can actually be art as well.”
441 runs until May 25 at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. For information: rickfariesgallery.com; www.shannahollis.com. Follow @shannahollisdesigns on Instagram