Aneesha Baldeosingh: Her Life Through Art
  Aryana Mohammed
FEATURES
June 2017

Quiet and understated. That’s my first impression on meeting international artist, Aneesha Baldeosingh. It quickly changes though, when we get to chatting and I realize rather how talkative (in a good way) and accomplished she is. Yet she too once described herself as “quiet”, around the age of twelve when she first began developing a knack for drawing - observing faces, understanding perspective and painting, exploring the skills that would eventually define her future.

Aneesha Baldeosingh placing the “Open” sign on door of TALPS Limited Contemporary Art Studio and Gallery in Freeport 

Unknowingly executing the philosophy “the only constant is change”, she was born in Penal but moved to different areas throughout Trinidad, attending Vessigny High School at first, only to leave for Louisiana in 1997 where she attended two different high schools, and then returned to Trinidad after a year and a half. Back home, she settled for a while at Naparima Girls’ High School, inevitably being kept back a year due to the differing school systems between Trinidad and the U.S.A. However it wasn’t long before she was back in the U.S.A again, this time leaving after “A-levels” to attend the Mississippi University for Women to pursue her B.F.A. in Studio Arts: Painting and Drawing. She then relocated to Milwaukee for graduate school where she obtained both her M.A. and M.F.A in Studio Arts: Painting, at the University of Wisconsin. But the story doesn’t end there folks. She’s currently back in Trinidad about two years now (or more specifically, Freeport) where she now runs TALPS Limited Contemporary Art Studio and Gallery.

 

It’s been quite a ride for Ms. Baldeosingh but the journey hasn’t ended yet, immersing herself in an “unknown” Trinidad, with the pride of being able to adapt easily or rather, easier. However, let’s rewind: we’re here to hear the story thus far. So the question is, how does one choose to pursue art as a career in the first place?

 

After pursing Art for C-SEC, she decided against doing it for “A-levels” because of not considering it as a career. However, after attending a conference in Port-of-Spain with booths set up displaying international universities, she came across an all-arts school from Canada and decided to check them out because she was interested in doing cosmetology, and that’s when the lady at the booth gave her some life-changing advice. Aneesha volunteers, “She was like, ‘Oh, do you not draw and paint and stuff?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I do that all the time.’ And she was like, ‘Why don’t you just pursue art?’ You know, instead of becoming a make-up artist because so many other people do that and that was the only time that I really started to think of it as a serious career choice.”

Aneesha’s work featured in Photographers Forum

But she too was plagued by the thought of every artist’s “arch-nemesis”: money. She recalls, “After the conference I started thinking, ‘Well how do you make money as an artist?’ Because I think that’s the primary thing that any parent kinda freaks out about.”

Eventually she narrowed it down to either graphic design or interior design and decided to go with the later. Following in the footsteps of her sisters, she chose to attend the Mississippi University for Women where she was a recipient of two scholarship funds, the Helen Mullen from 2006 to 2007 and the Amy Byrnes from 2007 to 2009. “Well I got through. I started the interior design program and it just so happened that they were gonna dissolve that program and either way I realized for myself, well, I was doing interior design and I kinda touched on graphic design as well but then I realized that my passion was towards studio arts like the painting, drawing, everything else,” she recounts.

 

Simply stating that “her heart wasn’t there”, she quickly switched to the the B.F.A. in Studio Arts and never looked back. From early she began showing her work around Columbus, Mississippi, selling work and entering into competitions, with one of the most notable experiences being when her work was published by Photographers Forum.

She continues, “And then after ‘undergrad’, I went off to ‘grad’ school. Well I started thinking about ‘grad’ school and I had actually got through for five different ‘grad’ programs in which I ended up choosing University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee because they gave me a full scholarship.”

Summer Student’s Exhibition of 2015 at TALPS Limited Contemporary Art Studio and Gallery 

She received both the Layton’s and Chancellor’s Scholarships and also Project and Teaching Assisstantships during the period of 2010 to 20I3. With the school offering her the option to get the M.A. or M.F.A or both, she chose to do the two, presenting different bodies of work for each degree process, challenging herself to prove that she could one-up or as she put it “ten-up” herself. “I had three professors and what they do essentially is that they sit down and talk to you about your artwork and they interrogate you to make sure you know what you’re doing as an artist before they could give you that degree,” a hint of laughter playing on her face as she reminisces.

 

Out of graduate school, she was on her Artist-in-Residence program and also her Optional Practical Training visa for a year, so she continued teaching at the tertiary level, first at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and then at the Art Institute of Wisconsin but...time flies fast when you’re having fun. She remembers, “Right after that I found out that the visa was expired so therefore I had to come back home.”

 

Believing that “everything happens for a reason”, she explains, “At that moment in my life it was very tricky because you know, it kinda came as a shock what was happening in that moment, with having to leave but then at the same time once I got here and I got settled again, I was happy I got back home so that way I could share my knowledge with those who are willing to listen.” Injecting it with a bit of humour she says, “So yeah, all this, all this dramatic change in my life, it’s not like ‘Oh, you changed your hair, how nice.’ ”

 

So on returning home there was a period where she was trying to figure out what she should do now and that’s when she came up with the idea to set up her own gallery and studio space. With the commonly artistic habit of observing her own life, she mentions, “And this is a huge influence on my artwork as well, dealing with change.”

In her most recent series of work, “The Brain Wants What The Heart Desires”, she explores dealing with the change of returning home and leaving behind the life she had established abroad. “I took old story books from when I was growing up and you know, living in Trinidad, as well as newspaper from Trinidad and then I recycled that and created a new sheet of paper. Kind of like a reflection...”, she trails off. She continues, “There is a map like quality to the way that it’s drawn and it’s intentionally so. It’s not to reflect on any specific maps but it’s to give you an idea of displacement, of trying to find oneself.”

First row, third from the left, is Aneesha with her first drawing class during her Teaching Assistantship at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

For her, each series is like a “chapter” in her life and with this one she is “experimenting more with the idea of finding self, and identity and self in relation to place.” “It’s the whole idea of the in-between and how you’re constantly in and in-between space because you’re always in relation to other cultures and other experiences that’s always happening around you,” she says profoundly.

 

Divulging her artistic process, she says, “I deal with it like as a section where I have to get it all out and sometimes within doing that you tend to do other little pieces on the side that’s not necessarily part of that particular series but I think all artists could kinda relate to that idea.”

 

Flipping through Aneesha’s CV, is no easy feat. There’s no doubt that’s she’s had a lot of experience and as stated before, is highly qualified, so I jump to a simple question to sum it all up: “What’s her most memorable work to date?

 

“I think in terms of a series that I was most proud of in that moment in my life, I would say, it was my ‘Khora’ series which was for my M.F.A show. Mainly because I was going through a really hard time trying to figure out what it is that I wanted to do after my M.A. Show and it just happened spontaneously in my studio.” “Khora”, a Greek derived word that encompasses everything she’s ever wanted to say, represents many things, one being “the way your body relates to space”. Done out of charcoal, acrylic paint and graphite creating a reflective quality on the surface, so that when light hits the piece you see different images at varying angles. Inspired by her childhood dreams of being in a spinning room and the juxtaposition between the industrial tanks at Petrotrin and nature, she describes her pieces as “windows of darkness” with their own personality, creating a presence in the purposefully dimly lit showroom, to build a sense of uneasiness. “But in order to see light, you need that darkness,” she reveals.

Display of the Liminal series for her M.A. exhibition 

Although her work can be argued to be abstract, she considers it to be non-objective, coming from herself instead of being inspired by a subject. With a love for creating atmospheric paintings, she hopes to achieve her hidden goal of getting people to “slow down” and “ just breathe”. “I am trying to get to know myself, ‘cause even though I’m creating it, it’s showing me certain things about myself and showing others certain things about themselves that they don’t necessarily realize about themselves,” she says in one breath.

 

But Aneesha wouldn’t have gotten so far without her supportive family, who despite trying to advise her on bringing stability to her life, stood by her through the cliched “thick and thin”. When she opted out of doing photo-realistic work to try her hand at non-objective drawing and painting, motivated by a class taught by her undergraduate teacher, Alexander Stelioes-Wills, her family had one reaction, “What are you doing?!” She chuckles, “But then on the flip side, I think they understand me far better now than back then when I just started off.”

From right to left, Aneesha with her inspiring undergraduate professor, Alexander Stelioes-Wills 

Although at first she too didn’t appreciate non-objective work, what intrigued her was the notion of creating “something that’s visually stimulating, visually interesting without the guidance of something in front of you.” Or as she puts it, “Giving yourself a problem which you have to solve.”

 

An ardent admirer of the sky, she distinctly remembers trying and failing to photograph a certain phenomenon in Milwaukee but managed to infuse her interpretation of it into her “Liminal” series where “it was almost like the sky was joined with the ground and you couldn’t tell like, you couldn’t see edges.”

Display of the Khora series during her M.F.A. exhibition 

Back in Trinidad, she did two solo shows in 2015, “Take A Second Look” and “Retrospective”, both challenging the viewer in a literal sense “to take a second look” and “take a look back” at where she came from.

 

However her aim is to be teaching again at tertiary level, involving herself in the artistic community here. She never forgets the admiration she once felt for her professor, Alexander Stelioes-Wills, that led to the “Aha!” moment of her deciding to become a professor as well. She beams, “I love teaching and I love interacting with people and watching their frustrations as well as their joys in it.”

 

More so she understands the importance of accomplishing that goal here, reinforcing that her purpose is to “educate the public and create a sense of community” which she has begun fulfilling through art classes held at “TALPS” and her part-time teaching jobs at St. Peter’s Private Primary School and Mango House Preparatory School.

Kids workshop held at TALPS Limited Contemporary Art Studio and Gallery 

From making international connections, and even hosting Trinidadian born, U.S. based artist, GA Gardner at her studio, she hopes to host other international artists to show their work in the future. Her only regret is that even though she was afforded an amazing experience abroad, she has to play “catch up” in networking here. Through commissioned work, art classes, and the support of her family she manages to keep “TALPS” afloat financially. Like every artist, she would like to be internationally recognized but wishes to “to have an impact on Trinidad’s perception of art, to create and initiate change.”

 

Terming her return home as a “wonderful experience”, let’s hope this capable daughter of the soil achieves many great things to make our nation proud.

 

TALPS currently offers courses in Drawing, Acrylic Painting, Mixed Media, Watercolour Painting and Figure Drawing.

 

Connect with TALPS on Facebook, email at www.talpslimited@gmail.com or call 287-2945 and feel free to check out the links below for more information.

 

http://talpslimited.weebly.com/.

www.aneeshabaldeosingh-art.com

 

By: Aryana Mohammed | FEATURES | June 2017


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