Art reference

Nadine Hall: From dropsy to great art – Reusing her great-grandmother’s recipe

Nadine Hall, Heirlooms Unchained, 2020. Crochet yarn, starch, handbag, wooden chair, fabric, starch, steel chains, shackles, 15.5′ x 5′ x 10′.

Nadine Hall is one of Jamaica’s emerging conceptual artists. She just finished her MFA at the University of Miami with an impressive edible show, titled Reclamation and Remembering: Ode to the Building Blocks of My Narrative.

Hall is presented at this year’s Biennale with a piece entitled Unleashed Legacy, which she says “explores tales of perseverance, resistance and survival against adversity, and illustrates an ominous era frozen in time”. This frozen time in time to which she refers is the buried memory of having been raped by her father; she’s a survivor, like so many women everywhere. Many artists explore art as a way to move through childhood trauma and emerge into a place of healing, but Hall’s work isn’t just therapy. Such work elevates to the level of fine art when it transcends that initial impulse and becomes an installation that effectively weaves the personal with the history, memory and naming of abuse, and frees itself in the creation of ‘a transformative object that offers a different entry point for many dealing with childhood and adult trauma.

room Unleashed Legacy achieves this transcendence thanks to the various spaces it crosses, and to the various signifiers, which shake the memory. The shackles with handcuffs attached to the ends, the pristine white sheet and the crocheted malformed balls hanging from the ceiling suggest a protective enclosure as well as a torture chamber; he invites and repels. Exploring the concept, Hall traces the genesis of this piece: “In 2019, as I went through a period of reflection on my journey to becoming an artist, it emerged that there was an urgency to break my silence on rape and sexual assault. that I had experienced during my childhood. This installation celebrates my victory over these traumatic encounters. My father was an alcoholic and a pedophile. My mother was aware of her sexual deviance but chose to ignore it. Unleashed Legacy …reflects a story of hope and triumph… We are now outside this space of trauma and desolation looking within!”

Hall’s ambitious installation reminds us of our common pain and how revealing vulnerability can heal. I had the pleasure of seeing her Recovery and remembrance: an ode to the constituent elements of my story in May 2022, and upon entering the gallery, I was hit with puffs of sugar, coconut, and water, the main ingredients in coconut drops. The sweetness wafting through the gallery is an experience in itself, especially given Jamaica’s history with sugar, its sweetness, bitterness and overuse is killing us. Hall’s mother died in 2013 of complications from diabetes. Hall begins this journey with her matrilineal great-grandmother Abihail Bogle, a farmer and one of the first people in her community to own a concrete house. To be the first in a rural community to own such a dwelling confers honor, so these confectionery masonry blocks recall a successful past and usher in a prosperous future through the granddaughter’s ability to create art for which the blocks represent possibilities.

Matrilineal lineage is a theme woven through the work of many artists, and Hall expands the landscape to include specific aspects of Jamaican culture. Viewers will be struck by the “fusion of culinary arts, installation and sculpture”. This approach integrates the creation processes of the installation. What may not be obvious are the labor-intensive skills required. “The works are mostly sculptures constructed with reclaimed wood, tchotchkes and keepsakes, work tools, sprouting coconuts, reclaimed pallets, concrete blocks covered in dinge, a food basket, and leaves of banana tree, photographs and videos,” Hall said.

Hall is to be commended and encouraged to continue referring to the environment. She painstakingly collected the abundance of coconuts used in the exhibit from friends and neighbors. She remembers making peanut cake and coconut drops in high school for lunch money because her market vendor mother taught her how to make them so she could be financially solvent. It alludes to generations of Jamaican women passing down the culinary arts for economic sovereignty.

As slaves, we sometimes don’t pay enough attention to the alternative economic structures that allowed our ancestors to survive. It is this aspect of Hall’s work that must be underlined.

Recovery and remembrance: an ode to the constituent elements of my storyis a fitting homage to matrilineal heritage and is a tribute to our grandmothers who left us a roadmap from slavery to mending.

— Opal Palmer Adisa, cultural activist

Heirlooms Unchained, 2020 (detail).

Heirlooms Unchained, 2020 (detail).

Nadine Hall, Reclamation and Remembering: Ode to the Building Blocks of My Narrative, 2022. Panoramic view of exhibit featuring: sugar blocks, concrete blocks, sugar bricks and cobblestones, coconut shells, coconut drops coco, peanut cake, reclaimed wood, found objects, video, photographs, kerosene lamps, machete, coconut shellers, hook pole, golden mirror with text, banana leaves, basket.

Nadine Hall, Arc of the Covenant, 2022 (detail). Concrete blocks, coconut drops on silver shelf, water, sugar.

Nadine Hall, Queen Abi #1, 2022. Coconut, water, sugar, concrete blocks.

Nadine Hall, Legacy and Redemption, 2022. Archival inkjet print, 40″ x 53″ (Photo: Claudio Nolasco)

Nadine Hall, Coconut Drops on 2-Tier Etagere, 2022. Archival inkjet print, 40″ x 53″ (Photo: Claudio Nolasco)

Concept artist Nadine Hall.