Published in the Wednesday, February 13, 2013 edition of the NASSAU TRIBUNE.
By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
THE THIRTEENTH century Muslim poet, philosopher and Sufi mystic Rumi inspired Grand Bahama native Chantal Bethel to explore the deeper meaning of the flamingo in her latest solo exhibit "In the Spirit". The flamingo is used as a metaphor to show the beauty of the human soul in the exhibition that opened on Friday at the Hillside House Gallery.
"Delicate and colourful, fragile and strong, with both a natural and odd grace, flamingo birds can be compared to the beauty and wonder of the human soul. In that spirit I created this mixed media body of work exploring the idea that love, wisdom strength and beauty are the primary attributes of spirit the very substance of who we are," said Chantal.
She experimented for the first time with the crackle technique often used to give painted surfaces a worn and aged look. The medium allowed Chantal to bring to life another symbolic dimension of the collection. The crackle paint in Chantal's work resembles cracked egg shells.
"The egg is very important concept in the show because the egg represents a new beginning. When you have an egg something new is about to happen. It is the beginning of the show. It is the beginning of life," said Chantal.
"Crackle looks like mosaic. It is an acrylic medium that I just started using during the past year. It gives the pieces a second dimension. The flamingo begins with an egg, and the egg cracks. The crackle actually reminds you of the cracking of the egg. There is another reason why I used the crackle because to me it represents wisdom," she said.
Each work of art in the exhibition is connected to a thought provoking quote from Rumi. Hand made scrolls printed with these quotes hang on the gallery wall, hinting at the deeper meaning of each accompanying piece.
"Unfold your own myth, so everyone will understand the passage, we have opened you," is the message that accompanies one of Chantal's three-dimensional pieces: two hands cradling a cracked egg made from calabash, with a book suspended inside by fine string.
"The piece was inspired by my children. The two hands represents the nest. For a bird it will be a nest. But for a child it represents home and because I am making the connection between the flamingo and the human soul it is home. In the nest there is warmth, love, and the possibility to grow. The cord represents the umbilical cord which we are supposed to cut and let our children take off. But you have to provide them with enough wings so that they can fly on their own. In the egg there is a book of all the words that should be given to them," Chantal told Tribune Arts.
Chantal's three sons jokingly tell her the umbilical cord needs to be cut. From infancy to adulthood, she held a firm grip on her children giving them little space to make their own mistakes and learn from them. Over time she learned the importance of letting her sons fly, fall, and get up. Before letting go, Chantal said children must be equipped with all that is necessary for them to successfully overcome pitfalls.
"Your children are always your children and sometimes I tell them they need to do this or that. They tell me I need to cut the umbilical cord. Sometimes as a parent you feel that you are not ready to let them go but you have to. They have to fly on their own and make their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes. And this is something that I have learned in life.
My art really is a representation of my life. The things that happen in my life usually come through in my art. And so in that regard art is healing for me; by going over it and using it in different ways art will cleanse you," she said.