Sheena Rose is a Barbadian artist who has exhibited her work all over the world, recently completing a Fullbright-funded MA at the University of North Carolina.
Home Is On My Mind… is a sixteen page chapbook published by Tony White‘s intriguing Piece of Paper Press and is a short, graphic, work containing 16 images (some are “loose narrative sequences”) that Rose drew in her sketchbook whilst living and studying in North Carolina. The drawings – as described in the press release accompanying the mostly (though not entirely) wordless publication – represent Rose’s attempts to engage with her identity as a Black Caribbean woman, as well as function as a focus for her thoughts of home, of Barbados, while living away from it. The drawings that have been selected move from the bizarre to the naturalistic to the unashamedly erotic1, with some words alongside images, usually denoting dialogue.
To be honest, even though technically I work in the art industry, I don’t know that much about the visual arts (“lol”), so I’ll be careful to discuss this book only as far as my expertise allows.
The drawings/sketches in Home Is On My Mind… are quite simple pen on paper, but are very immediate and evocative. The cover, as you can see in the header image at the top of this webpage, is a quite literal evocation of someone having home “on their mind” – the top of a figure’s head has been changed into a Caribbean island. This playful image is repeated a few times in the collection, with different trees and plants and animals surrounding the – sometimes underwater – face and body of a homesick2 individual. It’s a simple and powerful image, as too is the picture below, of two women sat on a tiny island, being circled not just by the lapping waves but also by the aeroplanes that are an essential part of international travel and tourism.
Identity is being coopted by place, and place imposes a certain identity. Through the nudity there is openness and freedom, through the sand and the sea there is grounded place, through the aeroplanes there is modernity, there is the present day and there is a sense of displacement.
Aeroplanes are non-spaces, in many ways, no one is “home” on one; they are machines that have changed the way we perceive the world, and allow us to travel to or from our homes much quicker than we could before. Journey times are shorter, but distance has not changed. Rose may have been only a few hours by plane from Barbados whilst in North Carolina, but the physical and emotional distance is larger than that temporal one implies. Also, even were she to visit, whilst committed to a degree programme she is “living” elsewhere. Can one have two homes? Can a person be grounded in different places at the same time? What is home?
Home is On My Mind… also contains images about sexuality, there’s dialogue, for example, about sexy underwear being uncomfortable and there’s a picture of a massive penis (see below image). There is a frankness, a freshness and an immediacy to these drawings that helps a viewer see Rose’s concerns, which I read as the conversation between who people are, physically, and who they are culturally. Our mind, our sense of self, is located in the body, which is a place. In some ways, we are always home, we are always somewhere familiar, our mind is always within our flesh.
I’m being pretentious, sorry. BUT, this is a fun collection of drawings and a great little object. I like these lo-fi publishing ventures, and if anyone can suggest any others I should be checking out, please comment below. Piece of Paper Press and Morbid Books are the two I’m familiar with, but educate me internet!
1. It’s when I type phrases like “unashamedly erotic” then slip into ten minute internal monologues about how – for me – the idea of erotic experience without shame is incomprehensible that I’m forced to remember I have problems more significant than those I ordinarily engage with. Other people are able to think of non-masturbatory erotic experience without crumbling, disfiguring, physically and psychologically. Tbh I’m very suicidal atm, I shouldn’t really be publishing anything on here about anything personal, because what I struggle to do is type any personal opinion without slipping into consideration of the way my mind feels as I’m typing. That is the blog/review divide, as I keep mentioning as an excuse for my sloppiness. I’ve had a premonition recently that I will die by drowning, by self-caused drowning, and I can’t get it out of my head. Yesterday I sat on the floor at the bottom of a cupboard whispering “I don’t want to drown myself” over and over again until I had a massive honking panic attack. I never have panic attacks when I’m drunk, so I don’t understand why people keep telling me sobriety will be good for my mental health. Boozing does slow down the furies, but only temporarily, and now I’m both almost constantly sober but also near-obsessed with this idea that my death is imminent and it will be caused by water. “I don’t want to drown myself” is what I’ve been crying into pillows for days now, whispering into mirrors and was about thirty seconds away from paying to have tattooed (ew, tattoos) on my chest at one point. IF I WAS A WELL MAN I’D DELETE THIS ENTIRE FOOTNOTE. ↩
2. “Homesick” is a weird word and I feel bad for using it, as that second half of it implies an illness, something that is bad or, at best, unhelpful. I am homesick, I suppose, but for a home I’d never realised realised I thought of with that much force. I moved house last week, and it was the first time I’d ever moved out of a house I’d lived in for a long time. My parents still live in the house I grew up in, and I had lived in my previous house for about six years. Other than moving a few boxes of books and musical instruments [I could barely play] about 200 metres every 12 months when I was an undergraduate, I’ve never shifted my life in the way that I did last week. It’s been since then that I’ve been having these nightmares, constantly waking up all night as I try to sleep here, and now – living a lot closer to the river – I am plagued with flash-forwards of drowning, drowning on purpose, or drowning by an accident that is definitely my fault. Now I live so close to water, now that I have seen this premonition, learnt this truth of my death, I don’t know what to do. I’ve lost something in a way I’m not used to losing things. I have only had one close relative die, and though my life has been filled with disappointments, that’s more me failing to achieve things than achievements I’ve made being torn from under me, i.e. a life filled with few positive changes rather than many negative ones. A slow, underwhelming, stasis. I lived in my old house for a long time, much of it very unhappily, but it was my home, y’know, it was where I lived my life. And losing that when I didn’t want to is hard and confusing, for me at least. I wake up every day somewhere I don’t know. I don’t know how to get from here to all the places I need to go, and it’s only a few miles from where I was before, not far enough to make a real difference to the trajectory of my life, but it’s locked me in, deeply, into this sense of imminent death. I don’t want to drown myself, honestly, I don’t, but there’s this FUCKING VOICE IN MY FUCKING EAR MY EAR NOT MY HEAD telling me telling me telling that I’m going to do it, that it’s about to happen, that there’s nothing I can do to stop it and that it’s what I deserve so I may as well get it out of the way and do it tonight this afternoon right now. I can ignore the voice but I can’t pretend it isn’t there. I can’t pretend the voice doesn’t exist and I don’t know what to do. I should probably be back on medication, tbh, but I’d rather see a world I hate, plain, than bumble through a fuzzy world of nothing. I’d rather feel the world and find it unbearable than be able to bear a world I cannot feel (That line’s probably too good to waste on this footnote, but I’m a gonna!). Every day I don’t drink is difficult, but every night I make it to bed sober I am happy, happy, happy, happy, proud. I’m not great but I’m trying to be better. This was a bad time for me to move house. ↩