Bermuda is not ‘another world’ after all, says artist
When it comes to art, Jordan Carey has a lot to talk about.
He will be sharing it all tomorrow night at Masterworks, where he is the artist-in-residence and his exhibit, Same World, is on display.
Digitally and naturally printed textiles are on show along with screen prints, block prints and Carey’s take on the Bermuda kite.
“In my fine-art practice, I make traditional Bermuda kites but I do them through canvas and collage, tissue paper on top, to make all kinds of imagery,” he said.
“My last group of kites were portraitures of family members. This round will be more landscape and using landscape to deal with social issues around our island.”
Bermuda’s “high rate of death”, its history and labour — “historically and in the contemporary” — are among the issues that have fallen under his artistic microscope.
“The show's name, Same World, was inspired by that song [by Hubert Smith], Bermuda is Another World, and this relationship that the island has to objectification. People come and decide to experience this place as two-dimensional, a place that doesn't have issues, when in fact we have all kinds of issues.”
The show is the 27-year-old’s first. His time here is borrowed from Loquat Shop, the store he opened in Portland, Maine in 2020 that has “marginalisation and mundanity through textiles, fashion and lifestyle objects” as its central focus.
It sells men’s and women’s clothing, waxed canvas bags, leather accessories, incense, journals and other items created by the “artist, designer and entrepreneur” who draws on Bermuda for “inspiration and aesthetics”.
According to Masterworks, the fashion brand “was initially inspired by the quiet and omnipresent Eurocentrism many immigrants face when initially moving to the United States from communities where they are not considered to be a minority”.
Said Carey: “Loquat’s mission is to empower marginalised people through fashion and lifestyle objects. And so we do that in all kinds of ways, through collaborations and donations, etc, but storytelling is a big part of that. It's like taking stories of marginalised people and creating affirming objects for them in everyday life.
“I want people to look at the objects that they engage with without thinking about on an everyday — whether it's your mug, your favourite [T-shirt] — and be able to really appreciate the craftsmanship of it, the history; what it means historically, but also what it means to be an actual object in your hand today.”
Carey’s mother was born here, but his father hails from Boston, Massachusetts.
It’s partly through his relationship with New England that he found his way to Maine.
“I didn't want to go to college at the last minute. My mom said if I applied to one college we both agreed on and I got in, that I had to go. Otherwise, she would let me go off and do something else.”
Once he was accepted into Maine College of Art & Design, he had no choice.
“And it worked out, which was great,” said Carey, who graduated with a degree in fashion and textile design in 2019. “She always seems to trick me into my best interests.”
On graduating, he was hired as assistant designer by Jill McGowan, a fashion line in Maine.
As he pondered starting a business of his own, he never gave any serious thought about returning here to open it.
“It's just not feasible for me financially,” he said. “From the cost of labour to the cost of materials, it just never made sense in a practical sense to base the company here.
“The only way I was able to make Loquat work was by doing the cut and sew in-house, and for a long time it was just me and my buddy doing all of the sewing so even by US standards, I was doing it very [much like an] at-home DIY. So definitely it would have been even harder to do that here.”
He opened the store “right before we got locked down”. He believes success has come partly because of all he absorbed in the 15 years he lived here. He now returns once or twice a year to see friends and family.
“I think I pull so much from Bermuda just because I am of Bermuda,” Carey said. “To me, that's where all of the depth in a relationship [comes from], by questioning and exploring.
“Loquat is slowly becoming more stable in the US and so that is providing me with the opportunity to bring myself back to the island and bring the brand back to the island as well.”
The three-month residency at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art has allowed Carey to showcase Loquat items at Harbour Nights, teach classes and get involved in “other projects with Masterworks”.
“I'm just here trying to engage with the Bermuda art world that I sort of missed by being away,” he said.
Carey joined the board of trustees of his alma mater this year.
“I'm definitely the youngest person on the board by a decade or two,” he said. “Back when I was a high school student, I was always involved in student groups, social justice groups and stuff like that. And when I got to college, it seemed to just go up to a much bigger level.
“Institutionalising initiatives around diversity was my big-ticket item as a student. They had a vacancy on the board and the president and the dean already knew me so well, because I was always in their office causing problems so I guess it just made sense for them.”
Despite that strong interest, a career in art was always his focus.
“Always art. Even from young young, as long as I can remember, I was very intentionally trying to be an artist.
“I think around 16, 17 I discovered conceptual art and it was just so obviously what I wanted to be doing and [it was great that] all kinds of social issues just sort of fit into that.”
• Same World runs in the Rick Faries Gallery at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art until June 27. Jordan Carey will give a talk at the museum tomorrow from 5.30pm until 7pm. Admission is free for members; $10 for non-members. The artist is also offering a free upcycling workshop with Bermuda is Love on Saturday. For more information, visit masterworksbermuda.org. For information on Loquat Shop, visit www.loquatshop.com