by Jada Roberts
Sheena Rose: The Barbadian Warrior Artist
Sheena Rose, an 35-year-old contemporary artist, is determined to control her narrative and inform the world of her Caribbean heritage beyond her canvases.
Rose was born in Bridgetown, Barbados. At a young age, she always knew she wanted to pursue her life through art. It was her expressive outlet where her bedroom would foreshadow into “a gallery space.” She aspired to be a comic designer dabbling with understanding how to create animations.
This fascination sprouted into her works with multimedia such as hand drawn animations, drawings, paintings, performance art, mixed media and new media. In 2008, she graduated from Barbados Community College with honors for her BFA degree. She later earned a MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) with a Fulbright Scholarship.
In April/May 2016, Rose shared her cinematographic thesis at UNCG to the public on her Instagram account (@finallyilovemyself). The account has a total of 96 monochrome posts, each with a duration of 15-16 seconds, resembling an simplified soap opera. Rose challenges unspoken topics such as sexuality, love, overthinking, critics, death, stereotypes, being excessive, and gender expectations.
As a multidisciplinary artist, Rose introduces multiple personas such as Mr. Fox, Lovely, Sassy and Georgie Bundle, The Overthinking Artist, The Serious Art Critic, Subtitle, Diamond, Bajan Parents, and a few more. Many of the characters are based on her ideas of society’s expectancy for living filmed with deep personal messages. Mr. Fox, a dashing, confident male figure who exudes dominance around females.
Then, there’s the Bajan parents, whose Caribbean mothers evoke strictness and structure regarding their children’s actions while the fathers silently criticizes everything. She re-enacted how her parental household was dominated by a matriarchal figure who voiced the opinions of both parents in the Caribbean household. Under each captions, there would be multiple hashtags #blackcaribbeanwoman, #memories, #Barbados, #performanceart, #woman, #love, and #finallyilovemyself. Some viewers may have found her performance to be bipolar or uncomfortable.
Her realistic characters explore the society regulatory on female grooming, selling sex in advertisements, the social and gender norms in today’s society. “The soap opera characters addressed various issues facing women, such as women’s positions in the society, expectations in relationships between men and women, and the life of an overthinking artist,” Sheena said.
“I don’t do art to please. I do art to address.”
In December 2016, Rose was one of 20 artists selected to display their artwork for The Rush Arts Gallery, a sponsored organization hosted by Russell Simmons and Daniel Simmons, Jr. She selected one of her hometown pieces entitled Under Construction to donate to the auction called Art for Life. She felt honored since this opportunity could potentially attract new investors. Within the night, the fundraiser exceeded her expectations.
Rose was able to meet and pitch her masterpiece to tennis player icon, Venus Williams. As a result, Ms.Williams was completely impressed that she outbid other collectors for Under Construction. Rose was overly ecstatic when she received the news and ultimately felt grateful since she knew this was just the beginning.
Rose artwork has been featured worldwide in locations such as Alice Yard in Trinidad; Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut; the Queens Museum, New York; the Havana Biennial; the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC, Greatmore Art Studios, Cape Town; the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico; the 2014 Jamaica Biennial at the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Aruba Biennial; and the Panama Biennial del Sur.
Her work has also been featured on the book covers of See Me Here published by Robert & Christopher Publishers (Trinidad), and the domestic fiction novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson. She is the founder of an art group called Projects and Space, which organized public art projects.
In 2017, Rose performed her piece “Island and Monster” at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts in London and MoCADA in New York. One of her murals reside on display at Pérez Art Museum Miami called The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art.
Rose’s artwork also debuted on television in the Fox drama series season six of Empire.
Besides the art gallery walls, Rose’s artwork also debuted on television in season six of Empire. The Fox drama series Empire starring Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, centers around a black family fighting to gain control of their company in the music and entertainment industry. The piece entitled Black Obeah (21 inches x 28 inches, mixed media on Print) is seen in multiple scenes, growing in size each time. She felt awestruck because she always dreamt of starring on Empire and her wish was granted when her art was seen by millions.
“If your life dreams get scary, that means overall growth.”
In 2020, Rose began adjusting to the pandemic shutdown resulting in many of her projects to be halted. Similar to the world shutting around her, Rose also found out her internal body mimicked her surroundings. The culprit is lupus or what Rose refers to as “Lulu.” Ms. Rose always remarks on their ‘frenemy’ relationship as an ongoing argument which she wishes to be victorious in the end. Rose repeatedly continued to preserve in reaching her goals.
As of November 2020, she announced over joyously of how Lulu is currently filing for remission.
She currently resides where it all started in her hometown of Barbados.She also shared her latest accomplishment was featured in the November 2020 issue of Hospitality Design with the support from her longtime fan, Venus Williams.
She plans to embark on a new journey participating in a silent retreat meaning no talking, no Internet, and no phones are allowed. She wishes to mediate and refocus on herself and her art since the world is full of distractions and troubling news.
As evident, Sheena Rose will forever continue to break barriers and channel her inner artistic Barbadian warrior to the world