How Monique Kidd counters stereotypical notions of Jamaican art by exploring social issues and injustices in her work.

The debate that occurs surrounding Revolutionary Artists and Gallery Artists is one that never really gets the chance to be fleshed out in Jamaica’s art scene. Our scenescape is so limited and the means of presenting and displaying art is often times limited to very gallerist spaces and opportunities. So the tug of war that exists between the capitalist mindset of creating art for the sake of sale and producing art for the sake of highlighting a topical, social issue sometimes appear to us as two separate occurrences, presenting no form of middle ground basis. I find though that in Jamaica there are few artists who move back and forth between these two realms which to me is a very powerful attribute to possess.

The separation from very gallerist institutions and explorations on art and its concepts and the resurgence of exploring topical, current issues within the work are one to make mention of. When an artist is timely with their response to something affecting their country or something distressing a specific group, there is nothing more powerful than that. My mind always goes back to what Nina Simone said. “How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artists.” While I will never knock artists that present other subtexts and expressions, I am very appreciative of artists who can explore both sides.

I think Monique Kidd is one of those few artists that trod both paths and has successfully aligned herself to counter stereotypical notions of what is expected of Jamaican art. Her works bring forth a fresh perspective on art and young talent emerging from our creative crevices. It leads you to start thinking about the evolution of our art and the driving forces that bring these new artistic developments forth. You look at how the face of contemporary art shifts daily and how heavily impacted it is by these young artists, the new generation coming into view.

Curated by Richard Nattoo, “Mi and Mi Thoughts” presented a well-rounded selection of Monique Kidd’s art work, displaying a very unique creative process. Her work displays an integration of her culture and the vulnerability that is attached to not only being Jamaican but a Jamaican woman. The solo show which opened December 28, 2018 at The Trade Center showcased 11 illustrations, many of which were created in 2018.

The woman became a prominent subject in the work of Kidd, stemming from the body as an object as well as the body as a psychological notion. The contours of the female body were highlighted in two works displayed on either side of the black and white illustration “Thoughts of a Freaky Gyal”. This deliberate positioning created a predisposition and also a very cohesive linkage between the 3 pieces thus highlighting Kidd’s unique perspective on illustrating the notions that are associated with the female form in its most innocent, unassociated to any sexual instincts juxtaposed with the psychological interpretations of erotic thoughts as it relates to a woman’s body.

There is an innocence attached to how we as women view and feel about ourselves. Something that occurs very organically and fluidly. But this often times gets skewed and/or translated into a concept rigged with misogyny and pure hatred when we analyze how we are viewed in society. How damaging this interaction and objectification of the human form is. Monique Kidd explores this occurrence in accentuating the street culture in Jamaica where the men are the predators and the women the prey. Psst …mumma, an illustration of a woman, associated with speech texts that we all know too well placed over newspaper articles of reports of domestic abuse in the household. In Jamaica, if it’s not a car accident being reported on the news, it’s the killing of a woman and her children by a psychotic boyfriend or husband. It has seriously got to stop.

Despite the piece Likkle girl’s core subject and focal point being a young girl, Kidd’s use and integration of the specific newspaper articles indicate that she is addressing the larger matter at hand — violence against children. Her work exemplifies a cause and effect notion of the state of affairs that happen in Jamaica as it relates to behavioural patterns of its people. The relationship between the household and its effects on children can easily be linked to behavioural patterns in people in the present day. Abuse in Jamaica becomes very cyclical in nature so there is this continuous cycle of abuse that is introduced to kids from a very tender age. I think Kidd’s choice in hairstyle, hair clips and newspaper headlines was a good indication of the geographic location and in a sense narrows down the place that she is addressing. It provides a relation between the viewer and the little girl. Every day we see little girls that look like this. They are our sisters, cousins, nieces, neighbours, students, church friends and the list could go on.

Likkle Girl, Monique Kidd, 2018

Kidd takes a break from the dominant theme of women for a bit to highlight a pressing issue in Jamaica at the moment. In a clever way of presenting the notion of corruption, Petro Jam Up addressed the scandals surrounding PetroJam Limited. Even though the headlines and the news and the stories are everywhere, I think some of us can admit to the fact that it flew over our heads at that moment. And I think that it’s something that is very dominant in Kidd’s work. How she analyzes social issues and injustices, it’s not an in-your-face approach. It’s one that you have to stand in front of her works for a couple of minutes and just look before you get the full picture. Her illustrations are captivating enough to reel you in from the get-go and her subtexts keep you fixed.

All in all I was really appreciative of Monique Kidd’s “Mi and Mi thoughts” solo exhibition and I look forward to seeing more from her in 2019.