Bill Ming is from Bermuda, that lovely group of islands in the North Atlantic that have been a staging post between Europe and America since the 16th century. As a young man, he was a cook on the liners that ferried people between the US, England and the Caribbean, crossing routes that once carried sugar and slaves. In those days, like all black people, he could only enter City Hall in Hamilton through the back door.
Later he came to England to study art, establishing himself as a sculptor, artist and teacher. Solo shows in London, Birmingham and other cities followed, and a year as Henry Moore Fellow in Liverpool where his work connected again with those tender memories of trade and ships.
And in 2006 there was a solo exhibition at Bermuda National Gallery, in the City Hall Arts Centre, and a Lifetime Achievement Award made by the Bermuda Arts Council. Time to go in through the front door.
Journeys and transitions
The sea and the journeys people make across it are constants in Bill’s sculpture, paintings and collage. Sometimes the results are satirical, even humorous – sailors trying to keep afloat in the flooded shell of their beached ship, a captain scanning the horizon, patiently observed by the vulture on his cap, itself unaware of the bird shit on its own back.
More often, there’s a darker tone, recalling the threats, hopes and anxieties induced by journeys, those forcibly carried between continents and the drowned. Past and future, memory and dream, are in suspension. Every arrival is another departure.
People travel burdened – or buoyed – by objects and memories they feel they must take. Cords bind and restrict. Windows frame past and future uncertainly. The shell, the bow, and the torch: all take on new meanings in the journey and acquire new ones on arrival.
Stories do not stay the same. Memories do not stay the same. People do not stay the same. Each one changes and is changed by the other.
Bread and salt
Bill has been a close friend for 30 years and I am thrilled he’s working with me on Bread and Salt. Inviting image and text to approach experience – and each other – through their own ways of knowing is integral to Regular Marvels. Art and words are not the same together, when they meet.
Where we Dream took one approach to that idea. Bread and Salt takes another. The journey is reaching its destination. There’s land on the horizon, though I can’t tell what it is yet. Wherever we set foot will not be what we anticipated all those months ago.