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Death of the Ajax

Cast Glass, Ink on Paper, Cedar, Text
H26 x W96 x D7 inches
2006. (Permanent Collection: National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.)

The Dissolution of Narrative

Blueprints, models, and appropriated text question the relationship between history and narrative.


This piece deals with a particular point in Caymanian history. In this work twin wooden panels frame two halves of a blueprint for the Ajax, a traditional Cayman Brac catboat that was actually used to hunt turtles. Below each half are 5 cast glass sculptures of turtle skulls. The technique uses to render them has given them a stone-like or petrified appearance, which is accentuated by the fact that they are solid objects (rather than hollow skulls). They provoke the feeling that they are much older relics, found objects instead of made things. Given the proximity of both skeletons—the conceptual framework of the boat and the skull of the sea turtlethe viewer is left to question the implications behind “death” in the title.

It seems to me a lamentation of both the passing of this vessel as a particularly Caymanian piece of heritage and the decline of the marine resource which it was invented to capture. The lack of any satisfying narrative in this work only underscores the sense of loss [I feel] when a culture (or environment) dwindles into the past.

The use of accompanying textwhich adopts the format of a curatorial noteprovides a window into the world of the piece while simultaneously blurring the line between curative or archival intent and artistic license. This reflects how the piece was made, more as an arrangement of appropriated components than a distinctly original creation. This apparent use of factual information belies the truth: that history is itself a construction, a narrative which in the telling makes us all co-creators.

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