A couple of days in to our stay, Deb told me she thought I would find much in common with her Jamestown Community College colleague and friend Shannon Bessette, (Debra is art professor there). Shannon is anthropologist and Director of Social Sciences at JCC. (
Deb invited Shannon for breakfast one morning and hit it off straight away and had the opportunity for lots more conversations over the two weeks. As well as being an academic Shannon also practices archaeology and is extremely active in her community, being involved in running a community growing scheme and also in animal welfare charities. I suspect that this is only scratching the surface and I am sure that She is involved in a ton more stuff – she seems like that sort of person, who does stuff. Like talking to Deb, it was a gift having the opportunity to develop a connection with Shannon too and to talk about our experiences of art, activism, community and politics. I am particularly drawn to Shannon’s anthropology practice and to discovering more about the interstices of art and anthropology particularly in terms of the ethics involved in working with people.
One lunchtime, at the excellent veggie cafe Labyrinth, Shannon myself and fellow COLONIZE artist Kimbal Bumstead were getting stuck in to these ideas (Kim also works with people in his journeying and performance work: and it struck us that here we have the basis for a potential future collaboration, to examine the nature of exchange and what it means in our respective practices. Deb is also very interested in developing this idea, so already we have started tentative discussions to talk through the possibilities for our next joint Jamestown/UK collaboration… I am very, very excited.


Taking some time to see what rises to the surface since returning from Jamestown NY a couple of weeks ago, and through reflecting talking with family friends and fellow artists, I’ve realised that its the conversation and relationships which are the lasting thing of value, and what I’ll be taking forward from the experience of being involved with the COLONIZE project. This seems as it should be, a good reminder that conversation is essentially what my practice is. Lately I keep coming back to this quote from Stephen Duncombe in his book “Notes From The Underground: Zines And the Politics of Underground Culture”

“People don’t contract their identity in a vacuum; they create who they are in conversation with others”

This gets close to why I’m trying to connect with people – to find meaning, to find out who ‘I’ am, to find out who ‘we’ are.The physical work I took out to Jamestown for the exhibition, ‘Recipe for Reciprocity’ (which was presented as a poster work and also an A5 giveaway) was intended to used as an opportunity to kickstart conversation about ideas of exchange, gift, generosity, and I was really happy that I was able to talk to lots f different people about their experiences of these ideas. Taking part in, and listening to formal and incidental conversations about community in Jamestown, It seems to me to be a town with a very open and supportive arts community. People there have an easy grace and generosity, which we experienced time and time again throughout our stay from everyone we met.

They key connections which felt the most important were with Debra Eck and Shannon Bessette.

As well as organising the project, and hosting, feeding, ferrying us about while we were out there, Debra was very generous with her time and conversation and we had many opportunities to for talking over the 14 day period… a gift to have this chance for extended, meandering recursive chats, about art and life. Although formally Debra works in some different ways from me (often sculpturally, with stitching, fabric and paper) I discovered that there are many areas of commonality between our practices.
Deb is also very interested in community – she founded Women Create, a collective of women artists in the Chatauqua area . She set up the group because she felt a gap, and felt a need to be part of a ‘continuum of a long tradition of women artists’ . Coming from a family of 4 sisters being part of a supportive female network was important. Ideas of support, democracy and equality are key to the group, which comprises of traditional makers and crafters, non professional and professional contemporary artists. We were lucky to catch the final day of the Women Create exhibition at the Reg Lenna Center in ( Jamestown and be part of the closing event, a convivial catered dinner within the gallery after which all the artists took down their work (a most excellent model for de-installing, one I would dearly like to use back here in the UK). Talking with some of the artists, I was struck and inspired by the lack of hierarchy, elitism and art snobbery within this diverse group of artists – something which in my experience tends to creep in even with the most avowedly ‘grassroots’ or ‘democratic’ of groups. I was also very happy to discover that Debra’s practice is also very informed by feminist and activist politics and histories – I was fascinated to talk to her about her post grad thesis on theand links between spiritualism and feminism in 19th Century America) and also to find out about some of her more political interventionist actions/work (more on this another time..)



Back from Jamestown, NY a week, and am still processing.. hopefully over the next few days I will be able to begin to articulate some of the experiences, encounters and conversations which made my time there, and being part of the COLONIZE project so valuable.
Fellow artist and SCI organiser Wendy Williams has been much better at me than documenting our time in Jamestown while we were out there – her excellent blog can be found here
As I try to marshall my thoughts into some kind of coherent form of words as to what the Jamestown experience meant for me and my art practice, in the meantime I wanted to publish a response to the project from a fellow Bradford based artist, Edward Mortimer. Edward and I had a brief conversation on Facebook yesterday with Edward commenting positively on the project: “Congratulations on the America thing working out with the other artists. That’s some achievement and statement in a recession.” Edward said he had some other thoughts on the project and I was interested to hear these and asked him if he would like to write a response, which he kindly did:

Dear Jean,

It was good news that the artists and their work got to Jamestown New York. In an era where many liberties or the institutions that support them appear to have a shadow over them financially and morally there was enough support to go ahead.
Just to take some schools for example, sport is under threat from being axed along with the arts. So mental and physical health and creativity for current or future generations cannot be taken for granted. Its almost as if they may be considered a “supplement or luxury” in a time of austerity and lacking in apparent purpose or justification.
Knowledge in its many forms be it visual and conceptual art, reading, and connected experiences are valuable and not everyone has access to them. They cannot be taken for granted and it is a use it or lose it situation.
I doubt I could argue this with a politician or economist, but my head is buzzing and alive with thoughts when I go to an Art show or read an intriguing book, and I feel centred and more genuinely alive. In some quarters these experiences may be frowned upon ultimately.
I was glad to see crowd funding support because this reflected that areas of “the public” (as tabloids would have it)who were serious enough about the value of the project to put forward whatever limited funds they were able.
Again I was glad to see a cosmopolitan reflection of the Yorkshire scene with artists being supported and welcomed wholeheartedly in New York. Yorkshire can all too often seem to limit itself into falling into “patronisingly dubbed” “Home grown scene” and “Internationally Seperated Scene.” So that was that taboo broken. Possibly the idea of a fiefdom that might be kept in the dark was challenged. And creativity and communication between places flourished.
Many interesting strands appeared in “Colonise” but the Art justification squad never arrived. Transporting ephemeral paper works in suitcases helped, but no one screamed “you’d better be carrying a good sales product that you can market in America and to hell with the concept or creativity.”
So altogether hard work but an assertion of “freedom” and “choice” if we may call it that.


Edward Mortimer.

Edward Mortimer and
“I would say I am a versatile quirk sculptor, I am influenced by Jan Svankmajer and Edward Kienholz. I dabble in live art, puppetry and projections. I regard myself more as a thinking artist as”conceptual” has connotations. I find the process of making as much an adventure as a finished show, and often people do enjoy watching me work as I pull faces, come into a piece from funny angles and poses. My relationship with theatre and lense based media is strong.”

Many thanks to Edward for taking the time to share the thoughts and reflections which following the COLONIZE project have generated. It is easy to get tunnel- visioned and focussed on your own experiences, and so responses from others on their perceptions of the worth they see in a project like this are really valuable.


Yesterday we went to Dykeman Young Gallery and Vintage Emporium,… one of the two spaces we’ll be exhibiting Colonize along with the public 3rd on 3rd gallery.
On my word. A large, airy and floor space, so much light, wooden floors. We are spoilt. Not only this, but as well as running this beautiful space as a commercial gallery, programming diverse and innovative contemporary art shows each month, owner Michael Dykeman also runs a vintage emporium on the 1st floor. The Emporium is just incredible – a huge collection of vintage clothing and objects beautifully presented in multiple rooms across the whole floor. SWOON. I’ve already spotted a bag I may find it hard not to buy. Michael has been providing costumes to the film industry in LA and internationally for many years which involved travelling all over the world – and has a huge collection of costumes of which the shop contains only a part. He is semi-retired from the film work and is concentrating on the Gallery and Emporium. Lucky Jamestown residents and artists to have this wonderful space!

Michael is extremely interested in our work for the show. He tells me he has a high regard for Debra and her work and when she talked to him about the project was intrigued by the prospect of a group of international artists coming to Jamestown – as this is something new for the town. Michael is interested in using the gallery to host work and events ‘with an edge’ as an alternative to the more traditional and conservative art in the region which appeals to the tourist market.

As part of Colonize, he is hosting a panel discussion at the gallery called ‘I and We: art and community in the 21st Century’ moderated by Dr. Patricia Briggs of the Weeks Gallery, on the nature of art & community in the 21st Century, which is happening on 7th April. I am looking forward to this event as it connects very much to my own interests in collectivity, generosity exchange. It is wonderful to have opportunity to have some conversation with artists here in Jamestown about their experiences and reflections on these ideas.

The other artists from the UK arrived last night – Bruce Davies, Michael Borkowsky and David Cotton – and so today we begin the work of looking at the pieces for the show and making decisions about what goes in which space. Best go and get ready.