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Madwoman In The Back Room, 2008, 15x15 inches, Oil on Linen

Madwoman in the Back Room (2008) is a portrayal of Jane Bronte’s Bertha from my 2008 series Full Moon Madness. In 1834 Antoinette Cosway, or Bertha, was a White creole outcast incapable of belonging to the Europe of her ancestors or to Jamaica, her birthplace. She is a “white cockroach” to the Blacks who hate her. Englishman Edward Rochester weds Bertha and refashions her into a raving madwoman on their honeymoon. Back in England, Rochester locks her away in his attic. Full of terror, rage and anguish, Bertha sets fire to her husband’s estate, killing herself and maiming him. In this work, Bertha has become completely unhinged, exposing herself as a deranged exile who has lost touch with her authentic self. Shame. Guilt. Rage. Grief. Loss. Suffering. On the surface, Bertha can fit neatly into a confluence of themes that form the bedrock of Caribbean social, political and cultural society and institutions. But Bertha cannot be simply reduced to a perpetrator of atrocities against the enslaved, as solely a woman of privilege, or to predictable feminine stereotypes. Bertha is also a victim of an oppressive patriarchal society.

-Roberta Stoddart

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