Shirley Rufin

Martinican artist Shirley Rufin shares her blog post about the Caribbean Linked II residency programme at Ateliers ’89, Aruba. Rufin refers to the experience as one of discovery, finding similarity between her new space and her home country while also reveling in the differences. She harnessed this idea of making new connections and linkages in her work – stemming from interactions with her fellow artists and taking inspiration from the Aruban landscape, her final pieces for exhibition interweave organic elements from nature to recreate the human figure.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Shirley Rufin- New works created for Caribbean Linked II. From the series MartinAruba.

Shirley Rufin – New works created for Caribbean Linked II. From the series MartinAruba.

Caribbean Linked II was a beautiful experience full of meetings, good moments, laughter, dance and especially complicities and creation. The two weeks spent on the island of Aruba at the Ateliers ’89 studios were two weeks of madness and pure happiness. This opportunity allowed me to meet Elvis Lopez, the director of the Ateliers ‘89 and an artist, but before any of that a magnificent person full of kindness. I also had the opportunity to meet local contemporary artists; Nelson Gonzalez, Ciro Abath and his wife, Glenda Heyliger, Osaira Muyale, Ryan Oduber and Alydia Wever, and within that the great gift to also connect with nine very talented artists who splendidly represent their countries and media.

The stay on “One Happy Island” was very enriching because this island is very familiar and close to Martinique due to its climate and population, but still very different in its weather, vegetation, customs and especially the language. I was the French artist of the group, and as I discovered the space, I was able to let go of what I know and remembered to learn to see everything with a new eye full of curiosity.

The day after we arrived we were able to preview a retrospective of Elvis Lopez titled “ISLA” and Nelson Gonzales’ “Identity Pill’ which placed us directly in a bathing pool of curiosity and creation. During our walks exploring the capital of Oranjestad I was able to discover this new place together with Sofia aka Miss Porto Rico, Mark aka Mister Barbados, Rodell aka Mister Trinidad and Tobago, Omar aka Mister Curacao aka Shaggy, and Veronica aka Miss Bahamas aka Scooby. This allowed me to see things which inspired and pleased me. Later that day we welcomed the arrival of Dhiradj aka Mister Suriname, Robin aka Miss Aruba, and finally Germille and Kevin aka Misters Aruba. This led to the completion of the artsts who would comprise the meetings and discovery which is crucial for human and artistic connection on every level. Each of us knew how to encourage and support himself/herself by being interested in the work of each other. The sharing of long breakfasts and lunches, along with improvised dinners and dance parties, solified the connection and provided an outline of the mode of life for each artist.


On our first Thursday we visited the carnival of San Nicolaas and the nightclub run by Bushi. Thanks to Glenda who accompanied us, we were able to have unforgettable moments of laughter with her dance moves amplifying the night. It was a real pleasure to be able to share points of view and ideas with each of the artists present during this residency.

To represent my entire stay I decided to make a proposal motivated by this notion of connection, and what to me was the strongest visual connection; the island’s bare trees that are full of branches that move and twist in every sense and direction. The words creation, link, connection, representation, tree, life, interaction, resemblance, difference, contribution, opportunity, meeting, culture, expansion and many others allowed me to concentrate on a photographic proposal which consisted of four images presenting something organic with fragments of nature ordered to recreate a human figure. The roots used evoke the notion of earth and ground, of implanting and relation in a certain place.


I wanted to work with the on-the-spot and present elements and within the supporting media, but some challenges came into play and I was aware of some uncertainties with editions, but the end result was very enriching and rewarding. This kind of working was governed by the cohesion of the group and with the collective inspiration and support that everyone lent. With this capacity of emulation I realized that it was something that it is necessary to maintain and to keep forever in order to rise to higher levels in my creative process and to progress.

Shirley Rufin - New works created for Caribbean Linked II. From the series MartinAruba.

Shirley Rufin – New works created for Caribbean Linked II. From the series MartinAruba.

About Shirley Rufin:

Shirley Rufin is an emerging plastic artist from Martinique. She was born in Paris in 1985 and lives and works in Fort de France, Martinique. Her primary medium is photography, which she utilizes to question the body’s relation to abstraction in ways that offer a reconfigured look at female representation.