Roberts’ ‘Sacred Space’ inspires highly commended thesis
“It is almost as though the space chose me,”said Marielle Barrow of Antonius Roberts'”Sacred Space.”
The public art site at Clifton Heritage that simultaneously casts its gaze into the past while peering into the future is the subject of Barrow’s Master of Philosophy dissertation.
Barrow, a Fulbright Scholar and Cultural Studies PhD student at George Mason University, was recently awarded her M.Phil. degree with High Commendation based on the dissertation.
“It held me captivated and just wouldn’t let go,”wrote Barrow in an email of what compelled her to base her dissertation on the space.
“I wrote poetry on it numerous times because I was just compelled by it. As an artist it brought me a new depth and understanding of the possible’canvas’of art. The canvas is a bodily-visceral canvas, spatial, ephemeral, spiritual…it exists on multiple levels.”
Entitled”Evoking the Sacred in Caribbean Space: A case study of the artistry of Antonius Roberts and Sacred Space at Clifton Pier,”Barrow’s thesis examined the sacred within the Caribbean space and its potential role in regional identity.
“My argument is that the current phase of Caribbean self-hood formation is achieved through the recognition of a Caribbean sacred that is experienced through the visual in public space, and that”Sacred Space at Clifton Pier”begins to construct an ocular language that is historically and artistically rooted, and that enters us into that new stage of identity formation,”she said.
Barrow expounded on the space’s implications for the country, the region and the world, describing a site imbued with a sense of movement even as it stands still.
“I think that it is a landmark and a symbol of trajectory. I think it is a new model for development, a part of our new museology, if you will, that is not caged by walls but allows for our travel…and travel, movement is such an integral part of who we are,”she said.
The journey that led the student toward completing a more than 200-word thesis on Sacred Space, also revealed to her new things about Roberts himself.
“I think that what stood out most was not so much his physical artistic techniques but the technique of expending himself and giving to others until he is spent, worn. But then he can’t exist unless he begins that process of giving again,”she said.
“As most gifted men, he is consumed by the pull of his art, but that pull is enveloped in humanism.”
Barrow, who began her PhD studies last year, is the founding and managing editor of the Caribbean arts journal”Caribbean Intransit.”She is working with the Fulbright Board on an Arts for Social Change project and hopes to run a non-profit organization that uses the arts for social change.
She thanked those who contributed to her work through interviews, including Joan Missick and Rupert Missick, Senator Jacinta Higgs, curator of NAGB Erica James and Dr. Keva Bethel, the late Vincent D’Aguilar, John Cox, Mathew Williams, Petura Burrows and Ian Fernander, among others.
“My supervisor Dr. Paula Morgan was invaluable, but of course most of all, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with and study the artist, Antonius Roberts,”she said.
Barrow’s thesis on Sacred Space will become the basis of a coffee table art book. The D’Aguilar Art Foundation has agreed to help sponsor its publication.
“I think that’Sacred Spaces’has started me on a journey,”she said.
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