Jewelry Boxes Encase Curtis Talwst Santiago’s Elaborately Constructed Narratives of Nostalgia and Identity



Art

#dioramas
#found objects
#miniature
#mixed media
#narrative

April 28, 2022

Grace Ebert

“The Apprentice, the fish, the cat, the crow, and the oranges” (2018), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 5.7 x 7.6 x 6.4 centimeters. All images © Curtis Talwst Santiago, shared with permission

Within the confines of a tiny jewelry box, Canadian-Trinidadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago (previously) nestles miniature scenes imbued with in-depth narratives of home and intimacy, diasporic identity, and memory. The elaborately built dioramas are part of Santiago’s ongoing Infinity Series, which he began in 2008 and has since expanded to include dozens of pieces replete with lush foliage, architectural features, and minuscule figures preserved in time.

In recent years, the artist has referenced his childhood and family life in the mixed-media works, including in the “Soca in the Suburbs” collection that incorporates replicas of his parents’ basement complete with thick shag carpeting and a distinctly ’70s aesthetic. These environments, Santiago explains in a statement, reflect on the necessity of private gatherings in 2020 and the importance of sharing histories across generations:

This theme of ‘Soca in the Suburbs’ emerged during Covid with the closure of clubs in the contemporary sense, dancing at home, and quarantine discos at home started popping up, and I started thinking of the family members I couldn’t see, and the parties from my memory… I’m also thinking about what I want to pass forward to my son when photographs fail. I want him to have an archive of his family history, of his cultural heritage. I want him to know where his family came from, not just ancient ancestors but his grandparents, and see the clothing they wore, and those polaroids that a lot of Caribbean people have from their rumpus room adult activities.

Some of Santiago’s works are on view as part of the Atlantic World Art Fair through May 5. You can follow his practice that spans painting, sculpture, and drawing and see more of his process on Instagram.

 

“Artist as Knight (self-portrait)” (2018), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 5.7 x 5.1 x 6.4 centimeters

“Party Can’t Done” (2020), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 9 x 8 x 8 centimeters

Detail of “Party Can’t Done” (2020), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 9 x 8 x 8 centimeters

“Olokun in Fancy Dress” (2018), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 5.7 x 5.7 x 6.4 centimeters

“Visions of Touba 1” (2021), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 5 x 10 x 5 centimeters

“Modern Nubian enjoying Ancient Dogon technology” (2021), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 7.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 centimeters

“Soca in the Suburbs” (2021), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 7.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 centimeters

Detail of “Soca in the Suburbs” (2021), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 7.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 centimeters

“March of the Jab Jabs” (2021), mixed-media diorama in a reclaimed jewelry box, 5.1 x 5.7 x 6.3 centimeters

#dioramas
#found objects
#miniature
#mixed media
#narrative

 

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