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A second look at Cow Pass, Warwick

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Edwin Smith, centre, and his sons, Micrae and Stefan, will host an exhibit at the Bermuda Society of Arts with work featured by their Warwick neighbourhood (Photograph supplied)

Cowpass2 is a mixed-media exhibit inspired by a part of Bermuda that’s dear to Edwin Smith and his sons, Stefan and Micrae.

Khyber Pass, Warwick has been their home for decades; the families that live there are their friends.

“Cow Pass is sleepy, but busy. It is mundane, but dynamic. It is an intersection of convenience. Importantly for us, it is an intersection of place and art – a focus on environment, perspective and identity, a focus on home,” the family says in its artist statement.

As artsmithsbda, the trio explored the same theme in an exhibition 21 years ago under the title Cow Pass, so named because it is what Khyber Pass was once called.

Forefront by Stefan Smith (Photograph supplied)

“This is a revisitation. How has the location changed? How have we changed? Certainly, our aesthetics have not, as we have maintained an interest in social environments and, in particular, our neighbours and immediate space.

“Is Cow Pass a microcosm of Bermuda? Is it fair for it to be seen as such? Is it a metaphor, a reference to working-class Bermuda and the values, interests, joys, and traditions that accompany this segment of society? Where will the evolution from a rural space to a unique stop on an early tourist tour, and then to a neighbourhood of mixed-use development, lead?”

Edwin was planning a solo exhibit with “trust” as the theme until he decided to invite his sons.

“The idea of revisiting Cow Pass was one of the options on the table and [trust] was outvoted, so it became cowpass2,” he said.

“But as with other exhibitions where there is a selected theme, you as the artist kind of tailor how your work actually fits into that theme. For me, trust fits very nicely with a home environment, a home neighbourhood – that’s where you live, you know the people, there's an element of trust that’s there. You see the comings and goings, you see individuals growing up, you see the children, you see people going to work and coming home, you see the activity. So my leaning towards trust fit very nicely into cowpass.”

There are roughly 47 pieces – photography, paper art, paintings and a tape installation – in the show which, until the arrival of Hurricane Lee was expected to open today.

They are all new works. The Smiths last exhibited together in 2019. Once the idea for this show was floated by their father, Micrae and Stefan agreed “it was time to work on another family project”.

Intersection by Edwin Smith (Photograph supplied)

“Our last show that we did together, Pawpaw, did really well and we enjoyed working together,” said Stefan. “Reflecting on our previous times working together, having done a Khyber Pass-themed show before, Cow Pass seemed to be just a natural topic to revisit.”

Edwin believes the show is unique for many reasons but mainly because it is unusual in Bermuda for an artist to exhibit with his sons.

Night Wall 2 by Stefan Smith (Photograph supplied)

“I don't know of any other local artists who've done it individually or as a collective – taken a theme and then still be working together as a group that amount of years later and revisit that theme. So I think that's very interesting,” he said.

“And the fact that we're a family doing this … I don't know of many parents exhibiting [with their children]. We know that [Catherine and Peter Lapsley] did earlier this year and if we go back in history then there were siblings, such as the Tucker sisters, and there may be other family members such as cousins but I think we're unique with the father and sons. And so that has a lot of meaning too.”

The three agreed that it wasn’t at all difficult for them to create new art under the banner of an old theme, especially as Stefan and Micrae were 14 and 12 when the first show was held.

Khyber Pass by Edwin Smith (Photograph supplied)

“You would think [it might be difficult] but I didn't feel that at all,” said Edwin. “Taking the time to look at the people, the architecture, the space – it has changed. And so while much of what you've seen has been there all along, it’s really part of the bigger picture, part of the past and the present. And it's still easy to see and appreciate and enjoy the imagery.”

Rubber Tree 1 by Micrae Smith (Photograph supplied)

He has contributed “acrylic on canvas, collage and tape art” to the show. The highlight will likely be a tape art installation similar to one he created for the Bermuda National Gallery’s 2020 Biennial, measuring roughly 20ft by 20ft.

Stefan’s 13 pieces are “large format photographs”, one of which is printed on canvas.

Meanwhile Micrae has created art using “aged metal, rusted metal and material found on Khyber Pass as well as in the surrounding area”.

Rainy Day by Micrae Smith (Photograph supplied)

“The plantlife, the nature and the things around Khyber Pass have changed quite drastically since [our show 21 years ago] so when it comes to gathering new material and things from the area it would kind of be easier to get new ideas and new themes for different pieces,” he said.

“Twenty-something years is quite some time for things to change. And also, the pieces are all one-offs because they are handmade paper and metal. You can't really replicate that same image more than once so I think that made it a lot easier to find new things,” he said.

Cowpass2 is expected to open at the Bermuda Society of Arts next Friday.

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Published September 15, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated September 16, 2023 at 8:07 am)

A second look at Cow Pass, Warwick

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