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July 6, 2003 – Artists in the Virgin Islands wishing to be considered for participation in the 5th Biennial of the Caribbean at Santo Domingo's Museo de Arte Moderno in the Dominican Republic need to initiate the application process now.
St. John artist and gallery owner Janet Cook-Rutnik has been asked by the Bienal del Caribe committee to serve as the V.I. adviser for this year's show, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 7 and continue through Feb. 7, 2004. She said in a release that she must submit slides from local artists by the end of July. The jury's selections are to be announced by Sept. 1.
The deadline for V.I. artists to submit slides to Cook-Rutnik is July 21. She asks that each artist provide "five to 10 slides, of one or two consecutive bodies of work." And she says they should be duplicates, as they will not be returned by the jury in Santo Domingo.
According to Cook-Rutnik, the theme of the 5th Caribbean Biennial is "perception" — from the perspective of the artist: "how we perceive ourselves, and how and why others perceive us as Caribbean."
The first three biennials at Santo Domingo's Modern Art Museum were exhibitions of paintings only. The fourth was opened up to include drawing, prints, tapestry, photography, three-dimensional works (found objects, interventions, sculpture, etc.) and objects in space (installations, sculptural groups, etc.). That exhibition brought together more than a hundred works by artists from some 30 nations in the region.
"This year's fifth bienal promises to be the most exciting yet, as the committee has opened the exhibition up to all visual media, including the most innovative visual expression in video, installation, etc.," Cook-Rutnik said.
Bulletin No. 1 for the biennial, issued in June, put it this way (in a translation from Spanish provided by the biennial committee): "Categories have been abolished … so all expressions of visual art can go to concourse under the same conditions, including the most innovating and amazing creation those artists can imagine." The bulletin also says that invitations to participate have been extended to 42 Caribbean countries and territories.
Cook-Rutnik said she hopes to have a good response from Virgin Islands artists. "Regionally, this is an important art event," she said, and it's even more so this year "because it has been incorporated by the CARIFORO Cultural Center of the Dominican Republic, which produces a quarterly art forum and sponsors many regional and international exhibitions." Also this year, at the same time as the bienal, CARIFORO will host the annual pre-congress of the International Association of Art Critics.
Known by its Spanish-language acronym, AICA, the association "is the unifying organization for curators and critics from the Caribbean, the mainland, Europe, Asia and Africa," Cook-Rutnik said. "From these ranks come curators and artist recommendations for the Venice Biennale, Bienal de São Paulo, Bienal de Habana — the major art shows of the world."
During the three months of the exhibition, there will be a series of lectures, panel discussions and dialogues about art and aesthetics and the "perception" theme.
In another change from the previous Santo Domingo biennials, the top prizes this year will include the publication of a book on the winning artist's work, a mounted solo show at the Museo de Arte Moderno including catalog and artist's travel costs, an artist's residency in the Dominican Republic, and three awards for the best overall representations of a country or territory.
To be considered, works must have been created in the years 2000 through 2003. According to Cook-Rutnik, exhibiting artists will be responsible for their own shipping and related expenses, but she is hopeful that funding may be available to help with these costs.
Slides for consideration should be mailed to her at PO Box 348 Cruz Bay, St. John VI 00831. For more information, contact her by e-mailing to cookrutnik@islands.vior calling her Sólo Arte gallery in Cruz Bay at 715-2150.

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