Un|Fixed Homeland, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, 2016 Catalog: Un|Fixed Homeland - Page 56

Donald Locke b. British Guiana 1930–2010 As a young student in British Guiana, Donald Locke trained under artist of note E.R. Burrowes. After receiving a scholarship to Bath Academy of Art at Corsham, Locke left British Guiana for England in 1954. He arrived on the heels of the “Windrush Generation”—a period that marked the beginning of a post-World War II mass migration from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom. As his artistic career evolved and flourished, Locke would embark on multiple migrations, steeping his practice in and across three lands—Guyana, United Kingdom, and United States—whose colonial histories and contemporary socio-political landscapes deeply informed his work. As an accomplished visual art critic, educator, sculptor, and painter, Locke’s engagement with the photographs in his canvasses was often ignited by the personal and political. In the mixed media collage, Songs for the Mighty Sparrow: The Ballad of Monkey Mountain, 1998, Locke layers the canvas with an array of photographic imagery: cutouts of magazine advertising, snapshots of his bronze female nude figurative sculptures, and a doubled insertion of a monkey in its natural habitat, alluding to the work’s title “Monkey Mountain,” a remote terrain located in Guyana’s Potaro Siparuni region. Locke also places onto the canvas the visual imagery of Guyana’s past: Xeroxed black and white photographs of mostly men in passport-style portraits that appear to be culled from the obituary pages and images of the country’s quintessential wooden houses with its Demerara shutters, also sourced from clippings of Guyana’s print newspapers. A weave of meandering gestural black forms rests on the grid of images. While black is the dominant color, the canvas is punctuated by red, green, yellow, gold, and two blue upward facing arrow shapes. Locke’s layering and juxtaposing of historical photographs from print publications of his homeland suggests the need to examine, or rather, question, the nature of established historical records. By 1998, when The Ballad of Monkey Mountain was completed, Locke had settled in Atlanta, Georgia. It was his encounters there with a canon of African-American artists working in the American South that catalyzed for him a breaking away from a European colonial legacy of artmaking, what he called “an alien inheritance.” In a 2003 interview with The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Locke remarked, “You can’t escape from what is imprinted in you…I had to leave to do this work.” Donald Locke Songs for the Mighty Sparrow: The Ballad of Monkey Mountain, 1998 Mixed media on canvas 18 x 24 in. Courtesy of the estate of Donald Locke 56 57