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By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Aruba’s progressive art movement shines under the full moon

Text by Tina Causey-Bislick / Photography by Steve Keith

moon shining through the trees in Aruba

“Place park, scene dark, silvery moon is shining through the trees; cast two, me, you, sound of kisses floating on the breeze.”  -Lyrics from “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” by Edward Madden

This tune, from the Tin Pan Alley era of music in the early 1900s, is frolicking in my head as our photography crew navigates the darkened streets of an area of the island called Brasil, just on the outskirts of San Nicolas, literally by the light of a full moon. Destination unknown, sort of. We are on the lookout for an abandoned school sandwiched within a maze of unmarked tiny streets. The school is the location for “Translucent Moon…Bedtime Stories,” a site-specific multidisciplinary art exhibition held under a—you guessed it—full moon. It’s the third edition of this art series—always held under the brilliant orb of night in a less-traveled outdoor locale—and the first I have attended.

Aruba art exhibit

Creeping along the streets and comparing notes with the Google Map coordinates posted on Facebook, we know we are close when vehicles turn the discreet neighborhood streets into an anything-goes parking lot. The stress of squeezing my car into a weeded patch of something is overshadowed by my anticipation of experiencing the works produced by these creative, budding talents who have collaborated towards growing Aruba’s progressive art scene. The streets are filled with locals converging on the dilapidated remains of the old school, curious about this underground movement that apparently is not so underground anymore.

Aruba art installation
Aruba art exhibit

The crumbling ruins, surrounded by an eerie embellishment of wild, gangly, overgrown trees and shrubs (something we refer to here on Aruba as “mondi”), are aglow in LED hues of pink and purple—the effect is somewhat haunting, very much intriguing. We are greeted at the door with a flyer introducing the evening’s artists and a map detailing the various staging areas…waste lands, emulsion room, macaco den palo spot…hmmm, this should be interesting!

art exhibit Aruba

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a lover of the arts—from painting, sculpture, and mosaic to music, theater, dance, and the culinary arts (especially the latter, particularly eating the latter). However, I must confess, until now, installation art was not really my thing. The genre, which is typically site-specific and often temporary, aims to transform a space characteristically using three-dimensional presentations that are very alternative and most assuredly abstract, and, well, often leave me saying “Huh?” I guess you could call me a traditionalist, wanting art to be more tangible for my mind—something that speaks directly to me, moves me personally. But as my business partner and sometime collaborator (and art history major), Rona Coster, so eloquently and rather bluntly puts it, “It’s not about you or if it even speaks to you…it’s about the artist and what moves them, what is evocative to them.” Duly noted: check ego at the door and keep an open mind.

Aruba art exhibit

With 27 installations to visit, there is no risk of sensory deprivation. Our group starts perusing the installations together, but as the evening unfolds, we lose track of one another, finding our individual selves drawn to different installations that intrigue us. Performance art is in no short supply, exploring emotions and offering social commentary. The short films, although perplexing, are intoxicating. All senses are activated—even smell and taste are roused by a consumable art display, which Rona calls “cave soup.” A huge kettle is set up over an open wood fire, holding a simmering, smoky mélange of oxtail and vegetables. “While our Stone Age ancestors left no cookbook behind to verify what I am saying, to me that soup tastes prehistoric, what I would have eaten in my stylish cave a few thousand years ago,” quips Rona.

Aruba art exhibit dancing

A meeting of the minds takes place throughout the evening at the social hub of the event—the bar. Set up in the central courtyard area, it’s the scene of much mingling within the interesting cross section of personalities attending the event. For me, it is this social aspect, thriving in the surrealistic environment of the night, that sets this art event far apart from a typical stuffy, champagne-and-caviar gallery event.

Translucent Moon…Bedtime Stories took place in 2016. To see what Much’i Mondi, the organizers of Translucent Moon, are up to now, visit their page on Facebook.