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Caribbean Museum Center Opens New Doors

Feb. 5, 2008 — The Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in Frederiksted is opening new doors in its home in Frederiksted, and Candia Atwater, president of the museum board, thinks it is opening new doors in the world of art in the Virgin Islands.
"This is something completely new for St. Croix," she said Tuesday night after a lecture at the museum by Luis Camnitzer. The lecture accompanied the opening of a show called "Luis Camnitzer and Selby Hickey: An Exhibition of Contemporary Photography." It features a series of 20 digital photos by each artist.
Camnitzer dovetailed his lecture into the expansion going on at the museum. In his detailed theory of art, he said that art necessarily is the expansion of what is thought to be rational.
Camnitzer and his wife, Selby Hickey, are the first occupants of the one-bedroom apartment the museum recently completed to house artists in residence. The museum opened its first studio apartment last year. With two apartments done, the museum is halfway toward the goal of four apartments for resident artists that it has planned. The group came into possession of the building and courtyard in November 2003.
Tuesday night also saw the opening of the upstairs exhibit hall for this show. Project Safe Night used the upstairs exhibit hall last month for a poster contest, Draw Against Violence. However, at that time the six rooms did not have exhibit lights or rugs on the chocolate-brown floor. The art now stands out on eggshell-colored walls with track lighting brightly shining on the featured works.
Camnitzer gave his lecture to more than 24 people in the center room. His half-hour talk focused on why he thinks artists need to adhere to critical thinking when creating a work of art. Maintaining critical distance can be "very difficult," he added.
He has this perspective on creating a work of art because it makes an artist "accountable" and it also does not allow the artist to except herself from the "necessary rigors" of creating true art. Camnitzer also offered opinions concerning the difference between mural painting and easel painting and ethical work versus ideological work.
He recommended that a couple of words be banished from art discussions — intuition and taste.
Words like harmony and composition are just euphemisms for tools the artist uses to manipulate the viewer of his work, he said. Camnitzer also discussed what communication should mean to the artist, arguing that with all communication there is responsibility.
Camnitzer is a conceptual artist, award-winning curator and author. He does not shy away from politics.
According to the museum center's website, "Camnitzer's digital prints — mostly taken from his series entitled 'Serie de los papelitos' (Series of the little papers) — are comprised of several photos of what looks like paper torn out from a classroom notebook — some crumbled up, others folded origami-style — featuring such words as 'Paisaje' and 'Proyecto' scribbled in Spanish. In these simple yet stunning images, he plays with our perceived notions of a given word and its meaning. Beguilingly simple, his works encompass multiple layers of interpretation."
Hickey's photographs were taken between 2004 and 2007. They record "anonymous events" from her travels spanning from Spain and Italy to Argentina, Costa Rica and New York. These found images are meant to "focus attention on the unexpected and then to offer that to the viewer as a suggestion," Hickey says, according to the website.
Hickey is a former professor of political science and academic administrator at the State University of New York's Old Westbury campus. Atwater attended that same school, but knew the couple only slightly before they came for the residency on St. Croix.
"It is nice to have this type of art brought here," said Jean Picou, graphic artist. "It is great to have them share something different."
This exhibition project is supported by a grant from the V.I. Council for the Arts and V.I. Humanities Council for the Arts. For more information, contact CMCArts at 772-2622 or Monica Marin at St. Croix Country Day School at 778-1974.
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