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  • Susan Moir Mackay


Published: Aug 31, 2013

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This week, Grand Bahama-based mixed media artist Susan Moir Mackay answers this week’s 20 Questions from Guardian Arts&Culture.


1. What’s been your most inspirational moment in the last five years?

I find inspiration in the ongoing unfolding of life – and being back in Scotland for the first time in seven years is incredibly stimulating.


2. What’s your least favorite piece of artwork?

I used to be hypercritical about my own work and other people's. About 12 years ago I did a workshop that shifted my view. Now I want to appreciate the creative process, even if the style or theme is not interesting to me.


3. What’s your favorite period of art history?

I adore everything contemporary. However, recently I've been taking time with work from all different eras. There is merit and something to be gleaned from all.


4. What are your top 5 movies of all time?

Oooooh that's a hard one, there are so many films, filmmakers and genres I love. Off the top .... Valhall – a beautiful, hideous and brutal film. I enjoyed it because it is so startling. Then, there are films from books I love, for example, the Unbearable Lightness of Being, Like Water for Chocolate, House of the Spirits, Love in the Time of Cholera... that's five!


5. Coffee or tea?

One cup of coffee in the morning (or the day doesn't quite start) and tea anytime after.


6. What book are you reading now?

Right now I'm re-reading “Silence of the Heart” by Paul Ferrini for the umpteenth time. I find it so full of wisdom.


7. What project are you working on now?

Water – Transforming Spaces 2014. And excited to be playing with some new ideas.


8. What’s the last show that surprised you?

Not that I should have been surprised, but the “Single Sex” exhibition at the NAGB surprised me by the strength of the work by Bahamian female artists.


9. Saxons, One Family, Valley Boys or Roots?

From the Grand Bahama perspective, I would say Junior Junkanoo wins my lasting respect.


10. If you had to be stranded on one Family Island which one would it be?

Exuma, because I haven't been yet – I'd like to explore!


11. What’s the most memorable artwork you’ve ever seen?

When I was young, my mother would take me to art galleries frequently. The national galleries in Scotland would have predictable fare, until one day there was a large, low, tank of black water. I was about 14 years old at the time and I knew nothing about conceptual or contemporary art beyond movements like Fauvism, Impressionism, Cubism etc, however, this piece was totally different and spoke to me deeply. I was profoundly moved. I have never forgotten it, and believe it has continued to influence me as an artist. Sadly, I do not know the title or name of the artist.


12. Which artist do you have a secret crush on?

Oh! Any artist who is intensely passionate about their process and work – that is irresistible!


13. If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?

My granny, my mum's mum, who died when I was young. She also graduated from Edinburgh College of Art, circa 1920. I would love to have known her better.


14. Who do you think is the most important Bahamian in the country’s history?

There are obviously many worthy candidates but as an artist, I choose Amos Ferguson. He set such an incredible example that art doesn't have to be oils on canvas, and he validated the importance and value of outsider art. He proved neither education, age nor traditional materials are necessary to produce outstanding and original art.


15. Who is your favorite living artist?

Tracey Emin.


16. Sunrise or Sunset?

Sunrise because I see it so rarely!


17. What role does the artist have in society?

To fearlessly: say the unspeakable; show the hidden and to confront society with itself.


18. What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Too many to mention!


19. What wouldn’t you do without?

Apart from the obvious – love, family, friends and beloved objects – I think a sense of inner freedom. I become very stressed when I forget this simple notion.


20. What’s your definition of beauty?

Beauty is everything. It bothers me the narrow concept society seems to accept as beauty. I believe such a limited view of beauty/acceptability creates a schism. “Other” becomes reviled, and our collective unconscious monsters become dangerous projections. I think paradox answers the definition of beauty best of all.


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