Revealing her artistic side
Je-Shae Pace will probably remember 2020 as the year she stepped out of her comfort zone. She had kept her art private since she moved back to the island after university but, inspired by creative friends, decided to share it.
The 29-year-old's work is now on display as part of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art's 441 exhibit.
It has been a long time coming. Ms Pace began seriously studying art in high school, shortly after she left Bermuda for Virginia.
“I faced all the challenges that come with relocating,” she said. “I wasn't an outgoing young girl and so I immersed myself in the school's art studio to avoid making new friends.
“That was the turning point. I started doing advanced studies in art and entered a few regional shows in Virginia and won.”
She was accepted into fine art programmes in the United States for her undergraduate degree, but ultimately made the decision to return to Bermuda for a period. Concerned that an art career might not pay the bills, she decided to continue her education in Brighton in the UK and switched her focus to architecture.
“But, my school was heavily based on hand drawing and drafting and still allowed me to be pretty creative,” she said.
After she graduated, Ms Pace returned to Bermuda only to find “there wasn't a lot of building going on”.
She was working at Joshua Bate Trading Bermuda Ltd when she had a chance conversation with a customer, an architect with OBMI.
“We got to talking and he linked me with the airport project and recommended me to the Aecon internship programme,” Ms Pace said.
In 2017, she was one of six Bermudians who went to Toronto for six months, courtesy of a partnership between Skyport, Aecon Group and the Bermuda Government. While there, Ms Pace worked with Scott Associates Architects and was hired as a project co-ordinator with Skyport on her return.
“I was going through some things and last year I decided to just put myself out there. I was helping Alshante Foggo with her sip and paints and [photographer] Jayde Gibbons of Queendom Heights was a good friend.
“So many of my friends were doing things with their art, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and allow people to share my art with me.”
Ms Pace decided to enter Masterworks' Charman Prize, but between her work and being mom to three-year-old Keanu, she “couldn't find the time to do the piece”.
“The show was my way of jumping in, but it was really nerve-racking. I'd never showed any of my work [in Bermuda] and it became very personal to me,” she said.
Curious about her absence, Flora Goodall, the gallery's special exhibitions and events co-ordinator, reached out. She then followed up with a request for samples of Ms Pace's work.
“I forwarded a few pictures of recent works I'd done and then my stepmom, Lisa Pace, had a show at Masterworks with her dad, and at the opening I met Flora in person.
“Having me take my artwork to Flora and her being positive about it — as a young artist you always have friends and family tell you something is really nice — but it was nice to have someone who doesn't know me from Adam say, ‘Wow, you've got a gift.'”
Then came the opportunity for 441. The exhibition opened on January 9 and features Jahbarri Wilson, Toni Tonae, De'Javon Paynter and Ms Pace.
“I had a baby and did an internship and was trying to get my career on path; this exhibit and this year has been a rebirth of my painting. It was really positive for me,” she said.
“Even on opening night, to have people who'd never heard of me before be so positive and so encouraging ... one of my pieces sold in the first 30 minutes. For me that was really awesome.”
The paintings were a year in the making, mainly because of her work process.
“It's not uncommon for me to start a piece and change it a few times,” Ms Pace said. “I started all the pieces in March or April last year.
“The triptych I finished within a week, the rest I had to set aside and come back to them.”
The experience has given her the confidence to enter an anti-violence exhibition that opens on February 28. A collaboration between Masterworks and the Ministry of National Security, it is offering cash prizes in the categories of painting, mixed media, digital media, animation and photography.
“Entering the show was encouragement for me to say I've made a decision and let it be,” Ms Pace said.
“[The experience is] really encouraging me to keep painting. Before the show, I was making a lot of excuses: I had no space to paint in, I had no time. But I find time for a lot of other things. I had to let go of my reservations and restrictions.”
• 441: 4 Artists, 4 Styles, 1 Show runs at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art through February 10