Since our “rebranding” of the nation from West Indies purgatory to edenic paradise in the late 1700s to mid 1800s, The Bahamas has seen visitors flocking to our spattering of islands in the Atlantic for quite some time now. Sometimes, those visitors repeat their journey. Sometimes, those visitors never leave and make this place their home.
Sue Katz has been living and working in The Bahamas for 28 years. Her roots may have originated in the U.S., but they now find themselves firmly planted here in The Bahamas. This duality of holding onto migrant and diaspora identities is, to many, part and parcel of living here. Her practice of collaging, layering and reworking images from advertising and family archives speaks to the experience of living and carving out a sense of self when displaced and re-rooted (and indeed re-routed) elsewhere. We currently see this particularly personal sense of placement in her Project Space (PS) exhibition entitled “Home”.
“Home” examines Katz’s Jewish heritage, her American background, and the peculiar feeling of existing with one foot in this past, and the other in her present and very Bahamian contemporary. How do we renegotiate ourselves in the current moment, in a different country, and still retain a sense of who we were and where we came from? Are these things at odds with each other, or do they merge and mesh? The nostalgia in the retro imagery she utilizes compounds our idea of the fleeting and fickle nature of memory: the edge of a photo peels away, a layer of paint goes atop an image from the past. And it is in this sedimentation that memory gets its narrative function in our lives, as we weave together and layer different moments, feelings and flickering images to make sense of this ever-changing set of experiences we call life.
The way we cling to our past as an anchor for identity is exemplified in her assemblages — an exercise in physical collage in some ways. We collect bits and pieces of the fabric of our material lives — coins, photographs, key rings, necklaces, ticket stubs — and in their collective presence, they are steeped in the magic of remembering, giving us an image of a place and a feeling, emotive of the sense of home she invites us into.
Much of Katz’s work functions in this act of layering and placement — some may argue that even her paintings and drawings are collage. Her method of working material is perhaps indicative of her method of working what her identity means as an immigrant to The Bahamas, who is very much transplanted into the soil of this place as a new home. The house we grow up in will always be home, but so, too, are the spaces we return to every day at the end of a long day to find sanctuary. Home is not just places, but it is a feeling stirred by food, photographs and chats with those who remember as we do.
Katz’s exhibition has been extended for viewing until March 8, 2020.