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Coming together to make a whole

  • This collaborative piece was created by Blades and the students of Lyford Cay International School (LCIS). It was sold at a live auction for $50,000 at the annual LCIS Gala to benefit the school. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Guardian Managing Editor

Published: May 04, 2013

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Not all artists can work collaboratively, but for Lillian Blades it has become an important part of the creative process, allowing her to experience a diversity that pushes her work in ways that she says she could never do on her own.

It is not a far stretch for Blades, whose own work is rooted in rich exchanges of material and ideas. Small bits that come together to make a whole.

“I get to incorporate their art into my art too because I can’t get the type of diversity into my own art even if I tried,” Blades recently told Guardian Arts&Culture.

“And I love the variations from what I can get from so many different inputs coming together.”

Blades is best known for her assemblages. The sculpture quilt-like pieces that are made up of combinations of eclectic objects that form a rich landscape of texture and color, and address universal themes of motherhood and childbirth, memory and loss.

After graduating from St. Augustine’s College in 1991, Blades attended The College of The Bahamas where she earned an associates in art. She studied for a Bachelor of Fine Art in textiles and painting at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and then went on to earn an Master of Fine Art from Georgia State University. She has also taken part in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and the Caversham Center for Artists and Writers in South Africa.

Blades has made a name for herself abroad and has worked out of Georgia – first in Savannah and then Atlanta – since 1993. She has gallery representation at the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta, and her pieces have been a part of group and solo exhibitions in several states in the U.S., Trinidad and South Africa, and are included in international permanent collections. Blades has also worked on a number of community public art projects for the City of Atlanta.

However, Blades has managed to maintain a strong connection to her Bahamian roots, returning home for solo and group exhibitions, and those collaborative projects that are so important to her work.

She was in Nassau most recently for a collaborative art project with the Lyford Cay International School (LCIS). The entire student body (more than 300 students) took part in the project – a collage of color, faces and objects that created an engaging narrative of the school community. The end result was sold in a live auction at the LCIS annual gala last month for $50,000.

In fact, it was a collaborative project with artist Linda Costa of Brazil, who does light painting, that brought Blades to her current experimentation with a new material.

Blades is creating sculpture that incorporates light, using stained glass, plastic and colored resin. She uses resin to cast textural material like buttons and mold, and then dies the pieces different colors.

“The pieces are meant to glow,” explains Blades who says that light brings out the full beauty.

Blades, who started out painting says she has started painting again, but this time on glass.

Her new-found interest can be seen in her contribution to the recent NE6: “Kingdom Come” exhibition at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Blades was one of the 49 Bahamian artists invited to participate in the NE6.

Artists were asked to create a work around a central theme – the true meaning of the apocalypse and what it implies to the country, the region and the world.

Blades did so using panels made up of a patch work of material held together with translucent objects. The very deliberate positioning of the “Mystic Veil” created the effect of a veil being lifted off the eyes of viewers as they entered the gallery.

Asked about her impressions of the local art scene, Blades says it’s become larger and includes more experimentation, pointing to the recent NE6.

“It is a lot larger and there is more experimentation,” says Blades. “It is reflective of what I see outside of The Bahamas.”

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