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Rising artist Gwladys Gambie : one month after her Tout-Monde Festival residence at Fountainhead

Gwladys Gambie is a French artist born in 1988. She lives and works in Fort-de-France, Martinique. Graduated from the Caribbean Campus of Arts of Martinique in 2014, she has presented her artwork in several group shows in Martinique, and in a solo show Pwézi kô, Poesia del cuerpo at the Centro provincial de artes plasticas de Santiago de Cuba (2017). She was a resident artist of the « Création en cours » workshops in Guadeloupe with the Ateliers Médicis. In August 2018, she participated in Caribbean Linked V residency in Aruba. The main questioning of Gwladys Gambie is the feminist condition of black women which she evokes through drawings and sculptures.

Her work was presented during the second edition of the Tout-Monde Festival (March 13-17, 2019), the Caribbean contemporary arts festival presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and co-organized by the France Florida Foundation for the Arts and French Arts Associates. It was shown in the group exhibition “Echo-Natures: Cannibal Desire” curated by Jean-Marc Hunt and Marie Vickles, on view until April 17, 2019, at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex in Miami. The artwork that was selected for the exhibition was created in Miami only a few days prior to the opening of the Festival, during her residence at Fountainhead Residency (official partner of the Tout-Monde Festival). The work was sold immediately at the opening of the exhibition; several collectors and curators inquired about the artist and her work which they found intriguing through its interconnections between female bodies and trees.

After the Tout-Monde Festival, Gwladys remained at the Fountainhead residency until the end of March. During this period, she had the opportunity to meet with art collectors such as Jorge Pérez (founder of the Pérez Art Museum Miami) and his wife Darlene Pérez who made a major donation to the Fountainhead Residency, Kathryn and Dan Mikesell who own and run the Fountainhead Residence, and Chris Jillionnaire. During her residence, her work continued to evolve quickly and absorb Miamian influences during a very particular season: Springbreak. In fact, Gwladys’ drawings of feminine bodies started to reflect a new black aesthetic, representing longer legs (echoing Miami’s buildings), higher heels, rounder forms, and more glitter. Gwladys’ recent drawings seem to have grasped a new post-contemporary afro-punk-pop aesthetic calling for an empowerment of women through their bodies.

We submitted three short questions to her so she could share her experience in Miami.                       

1. Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the USA : Please cite three characteristics to describe your experience during the Tout-Monde Festival and two examples of how it impacted you or your work.

Gwladys Gambie: This festival has first and foremost been an opportunity for me to discover the United States for the first time. Symbolically, it has reunited artists from all backgrounds in Miami, a major multicultural city in the United States. I met extraordinary people and lived unforgettable moments with artists that are out of this world. It might seem naïve to say but the Tout-Monde Festival is an experience that has allowed me to understand that anything is possible. I am even more determined to pursue the challenging and exciting goals I have set for myself, and to push my limits even further.

This festival has in a way enrichened my experience at Fountainhead Residency.

2. CSFE: Cite three characteristics to describe your experience at the Fountainhead Residency and two examples of how it impacted you or your work.

GG: The Fountainhead residency is the third residence I have completed. These are challenging times yet adventurous and full of new discoveries. For each residence, I always try to absorb the world around me. And this inevitably transpires in my work. We discover a new landscape, a new culture, and make new friends. The residences give us a chance to work outside of our habitual context, and to nourish our artistic practices. These are essential to the development of an artist career and to the evolution of an artist’s work. And that’s what happened at Fountainhead. I met Jairo Alfonso, an artist with whom I shared the residency, who has extraordinary drawing skills.

I was able to create large formats, something I cannot do in my studio which is in fact my tiny apartment in Fort-de-France.

When I arrived in Miami, I was particularly amazed by the huge buildings, visible symbols of the power of large cities. It was a true visual shock for me. I also experienced Spring break, a festive moment wherein women, black in particular, are barely clothed. I had to include these elements in my drawings. I therefore drew these women tall like buildings with powerful sexy bodies. It was indeed an intense and productive month for me, full of inspiration and rich encounters. 

The exhibition “Cannibal Desire” is one of the most significant moments as it was my first exhibition in the United States.

3. CSFE: Please share your favorite experience or story during the Tout-Monde Festival.

GG: I enjoyed the great energy, the relation between the artists, and discovering each one’s artistic practice. It was a beautiful artistic and human experience. I took advantage of all the workshops, but the most memorable one is with John Bailly (Artist and Professor at FIU who moderated a professional panel during the Festival at the Museum of Art and Design, MDC College) and his famous “Elevator Pitch” in which he explains how to promote yourself in less than five minutes. And returning to our hotel in the Tap Tap bus, to the rhythms of the compass, these were amazing moments that we will keep in our memories forever.

Thank you to the entire organizing team of the Tout-Monde Festival, I have lived in incredible experience.

Interview by Vanessa Selk
Cultural Attaché of the French Embassy in the USA

Image credit: Suzy Bell @AfricaMeetsMiami