STJ Gallery Features ‘Snorkel Man’ and ‘On These Shores’

Janet Cook-Rutnik's series of photos of second-hand figures on Hawksnet Beach are part of the display. (Submitted photo)
Janet Cook-Rutnik’s series of photos of second-hand figures on Hawksnest Beach are part of the display. (Submitted photo)

Migrations and multiculturalism are explored in a contemporary art exhibition opening at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bajo El Sol Gallery in Cruz Bay.

The exhibition, which features installations, videos and photographic essays, is the work of Janet Cook-Rutnik in collaboration with William Steltzer and Sigi Torinus.

One component of the exhibition, titled “On These Shores,” began more than 10 years ago when Cook-Rutnik first started collecting miniature figures from flea markets and curio shops. She photographed these figures at Hawksnest Beach on St. John in ways meant to evoke “the many migrations of myriad peoples who have made their way to these shores over the last 400 years,” according to the show’s catalogue.

A second component of the exhibition, titled “Snorkel Man,” was also photographed in the V.I. National Park. Portrayed by Kurt Marsh, a St. John artist and community activist, “Snorkel Man” is “intended to provoke questions about the difficulties involved in trying to conduct business and go about work wearing fins, a snorkel and mask,” according to Cook-Rutnik. “This becomes a metaphor illustrating the strangeness of trying to do business in an environment that seems designed for play.”

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Cook-Rutnik, who moved to St. John 50 years ago, is intrigued by social and environmental issues and the shifts that have taken place in the islands as tourism has become the dominant force of the economy.

'Snorkel Man' is a series reflecting on the difficulty of life in a tourist paradise. (Submitted photo)
‘Snorkel Man’ is a series reflecting on the difficulty of life in a tourist paradise. (Submitted photo)

“Living in the constant carnival of a resort based-economy, we are reminded daily of the dreamy life the tourist is experiencing as we toil under the tropical sun hoping to change roles with him or her or simply secure our daily bread and prepare for the future,” Cook-Rutnik said. “This ‘dreamy life’ is a part of our lives in a very special way as we on St. John truly are living in a National Park, which is a preserve for nature.”

The artwork, intended to be both humorous and serious, deals with the realm of imagination and “offers infinite possibilities for the narrative each individual chooses to make of their life.”

The show will be up for one week only; the last day to see the show will be July 20, which happens to be the 50th anniversary of Cook-Rutnik’s arrival in the Virgin Islands.

More information is available by calling the gallery at 340-693-7070.

Editor’s note: Bajo El Sol Gallery is owned by Priscilla Hintz Rivera Knight and her husband David Knight. David Knight also works as a Source copy editor.

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