Intersection of Culture and History
It symbolizes this sort of transition moment in Cayman where you move from [a] culture that took from the sea to a culture that protects the environment around Cayman. It’s not only a symbol of our culture, its a symbol of the changing times.
The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands has revealed its centrepiece that will welcome visitors to its facility in perpetuity. The culturally inspired sculpture fashioned with glass and concrete was made by Caymanian artist Davin Ebanks.
Based on a half-model, the two pillars are shaped to depict the bow and stern of our islands’ iconic Catboat. The two pillars alone weigh more than 4,000 pounds and another 600 pounds of glass has been permanently affixed to the concrete facades.
Mr. Ebanks says his inspiration comes from his boat building heritage, “[The] first boat I ever fished on was a Catboat; my great-grandfather made three catboats. To me it symbolizes this sort of transition moment in Cayman where you move from [a] culture that took from the sea to a culture that protects the environment around Cayman, so it’s not only a symbol of our culture but its a symbol of the changing times.”
The sculpture, aptly named Adjacent adorns the middle of the Gallery’s roundabout entrance. With its durability and lasting impression, Mr. Ebanks and the NGCI hope that generations to come will experience this homage to Cayman’s culture and heritage.
I understand my creative and artistic process to be steeped in ritual—beginning with the ritual of making, the cultivation of craft and the actual objects of ritual. The objects I make in varying ways speak of ritual, and this is the way I approach their making. I am reminded of fishing with my grandfather as a young boy. We would wake just before dawn and in the half-light we would prepare for our day’s fishing, and there was a way of preparing. Lines must be rigged, knives sharpened and the boat made ready. This last was the most important, for the boat was at the heart of our endeavors. Our humble fishing vessel became for us both an object of ritual and the tool with which we performed our daily ritual of labor.
Recently this notion of a boat as a ritualistic object has led to an interest in the process of traditional boat building methods, specifically the catboats of the turtlers and fishermen of the Cayman Islands. I have begun to use boatbuilder’s models—blueprints, schematics and three-dimensional maquettes—to explore themes of tradition and the handmade in the age of 3D printing and the readymade. As such this work is strongly process-oriented and derives some of its meaning from the performance of process: I have followed some of the same techniques my great-grandfather used when he made his fishing catboats when I made this concrete and glass symbol of a catboat. In a sense, I have walked in his footsteps, reenacting not only his process, but his labor of love. The end result stands as documentation, as an object that derives it’s meaning from its two-fold purpose: to stand as a sign for the object it represents—the Catboat—and as a sign for the mystery and ritual of the hand-made.
For me this form also stands as an intersection of these meanings. Adjacent is actually a stylized model of a catboat, although it is usually not recognized as such. Because of this duality it inhabits a strange ground as an object, for it is both a representation of something else—a Catboat, the cultural icon of Cayman’s seafaring heritage—and is simultaneously an autonomous object in itself. The model itself has become a metaphor for the subjective nature of a history that is caught in the same middle ground. Our history is both a representation of our past and simultaneously a driving cultural narrative. In other words, history is just a story, but it is also the very concrete picture we paint of our past… and it is our past that drives us toward our future.
For me the catboat symbolizes a transition moment in Cayman, where you move from a culture that took from the sea, that depended on the sea for it’s livelihood, to a culture that is invested in protecting its marine environment. The catboat is not only a symbol of our culture but a symbol of the changing times. And, the fact is that this permanent, non-functional, art-object has been created using the same techniques once used to make practical, necessary, temporary tools for our survival as a Caymanian people. I think that is a perfect metaphor for where Cayman is today.
Cayman Compass – National Gallery unveils public art piece
Cayman Reporter – National Gallery to unveil new public art piece
Cayman News Service – Iconic catboat reinterpreted for gallery top spot
iNews – Cayman Islands National Gallery: Davin Ebanks Unveils “Adjacent” | Special Lecture
ARC – NGCI showcases new public artwork
[excerpt taken from NGCI Facebook page]