As I have mentioned before in this blog, a key goal of my trip to Antigua is to complete a photodocumentary of scupltors, painters, writers, and other artists working from Antigua. Finding my way to them has been an adventure in itself. The battery in my GPS phone is failing, and in any case Antigua might be immune to such technological approaches for making directions more precise. Many of Antigua’s roads just show up as unlabeled lines on Google Maps. In addition, my island guide, is a Canadian snowbird or in other words someone who comes to Antigua to escape most of the winter months. Being transitory, she has just departed back for Canada. Today was my first day to relearn the geography a little better in order to be able to navigate my way to the artists I need to interview.
I had decided to take a long drive through the either south-east or south-west region of the island in order to familiarize myself with some of the roads. Until I learned the geography a little better all the artists I want to interview remained inaccessible. The day before in the town of St. John’s I had bumped into someone who fit the vague description of Sallie Harker, one of the artists I had been recommended to interview. The person I bumped into was not her, and I didn’t know how I would ever find her in the back country where she lived. I decided to forget about finding her for now and to instead enjoy getting familiar with whatever roads the car took me on today.
I started driving with only the general direction in mind, but as I passed a sign pointing to Fig Tree Hill Road, I recalled that this road was on the way towards one of Antigua’s more famous beaches, Curtain Bluff.
Imagine my surprise when my wanderings through the backroads took me past Sallie Harker’s studio! I recognized the “Fig Tree Gallery” immediately as belonging to the artist, who I remembered by her striking description; “living in the rain forest with a Rastafarian” I was told. I introduced myself, and was graced with an impromptu interview for my book, a gift of serendipity.
I expected to meet someone grounded, earthy and unbound by convention. I was not disappointed. Sally and her husband Dasa were immediately warm and welcoming. Dasa and I have common surnames and villages in our ancestry; we spent the first few moments of my visit trying to determine where we were related. Of course there were numerous possible ties. Sallie was equally engaging. In my preliminary conversations I was struck by how easily she made departures in her life’s direction where others would have agonized. This gift seemed to transcend her everyday life and work its way into the painting and sculpture that were her life’s work. She appeared to take on new styles and materials with the fluidity of one for whom the work of being an artist contains an earnest element of play.
I look forward to continuing my interview and photoshoot with Sallie. In the meantime, as I do with all of the artists I interview, I will study her work alongside the notes I’ve taken. The seeds of some wonderfulstories are there.