Tag Archives: artist

Barbadian Inspiration

Heidi Berger is a self-taught artist who has been living in Barbados for the last 20 years. Aside from four years of private art lessons as a teenager, Berger learned what she knows about art from researching books about different styles and artists.

The self-awareness and dignity of Caribbean Women are the main topics in her paintings. “The women of Barbados have inspired me with their resilience, their courage, their humor and their compassion, sometimes in spite of adversity in the form of poverty, abuse or lack of education” says Berger. “By painting them as strong, thoughtful individuals I like to show them in their individuality and support their strength.”

Berger pays extra attention to the background of her paintings. She pours layers of watercolors on her paper or canvas and reworks the surface with pastels, graphite and charcoal. She also inserts seemingly random words  to emphasize the power of women.  Her paintings have been exhibited in Barbados, Canada and the United States.

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The Turning Point in Jamaican Art

 

Albert Huie - the counting lesson - 1938

‘The Counting  Lesson’ (1938), oil painting by Albert Huie

The representation of blacks as subjects in Jamaican art remained almost absent until Albert Huie (1920-2010) entered the art scene. Huie was artistically formed in an era where Ethiopianism, Rastafarianism, Garveyism, and cultural nationalism transformed the island’s social and political landscape. He incorporated the collective ideas of these movements about a black African consciousness and a black Jamaican culture in his works.


By Jorge Cuartas

In early Jamaican art, black inhabitants played a marginal role; they were portrayed as part of the scenery. This image was replaced in the late nineteenth century by the ‘market woman’, a stereotype introduced on postcards, photographs and advertisements as part of the first efforts to promote Jamaica as a tourist winter resort. Although represented in the foreground, the market woman is characterized as primitive, backward, childlike, barefooted, picturesque, tropical, and full of queer superstitions.

Albert Huie’s The Counting Lesson (1938) represents an important turning point in Jamaican art. In it a black young girl is the central point. The girl, looking intently at what is in front of her, is counting. She wears a polka dot dress, her hair is neatly coifed with a red bow, and the finger poised in midair stresses her mental calculations. All elements of the painting point to the girl’s education, respectability, and civility.

On its surface the work is fairly unremarkable. However, in the Jamaican context of the 1930s, the painting changes the focus of black people as subjects in art. No longer are they part of the scenery, or used to emphasize stereotypes, but now they are the central focus of the painting. By fitting the girl into the frame of art, Huie allowed black viewers to attribute to themselves the signs of distinction, prestige, and self-hood formerly reserved for the white colonial elite.

Today, Albert Huie is locally and internationally acclaimed as a key figure in Jamaican art and remembered as ‘The Father of Jamaican painting’, but in many ways it is ‘The Counting Lesson’ that set him apart from others. The painting can be seen at National Gallery of Jamaica, where it is on permanent display.

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Complex and Intuitive Voodoo Symbols

Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948) is a legendary artist of Haiti, known for his complex, intuitive paintings. He used chicken feathers, his fingers and brushes to create his master pieces, which have a free and bold style. He did most of his work during the last three years of his live, where at the Centre D’Art in Port-au-Prince he produced between 250 and 600 paintings. Only about 100 of these have been located today.

Hector Hyppolite - The Siren  - 1946, American Folk art, Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin‘The Siren’ by Hector Hyppolite, Milwaukee Museum of Art

Being a third generation Voodoo priest, most of his paintings depict his religious convictions. He shows us voodoo gods that are crude and ugly and combines these with a warm palette that add to the expressive powers of his images. His heroes are reincarnations of Voodoo spirits (Loas); his empty backgrounds symbolize the beyond; his flowers are metaphors of perpetual life; his birds refer to the supernatural world; and the hypnotic eyes of his subjects evoke the serpent eyes of Damballah.

Maitresse Erzuline by Hector Hyppolite‘Maitresse Erzulie’ by Hector Hyppolite

He is collected and has been exhibited around the world, including the Musee d’Art Haitien du College Saint Pierre in Port-au-Prince, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and the Museum of Everything in London.

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Contemporary Classical Art

Inspired by the Old Masters, contemporary painter Elizabeth Colomba (b1973) shows black people in classical settings. Using iconography as a tool, she re-interprets history while at the same time challenging and exploring issues of identity.

Of Martinique descendant, Elizabeth Colomba, was born and raised in Paris. She was classically trained at the Auguste Renoir, the Estienne School of Art and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She uses both oil and watercolors.

She deliberately chooses a classical context to make her paintings look and feel historical. Her theme however, is very modern. Historically black people in art have been portrayed either as anonymous, less-than-human entities or playing banjos in raggedy clothes, smiling meekly at an absent observer.

Colomba’s paintings change that. She inserts black individuals into classical settings and re-interprets their place in history. Her paintings redefine how black people have been conditioned to exist, and how they have been conditioned to reflect upon themselves.

Elizabeth Colomba has exhibited her paintings in Los Angeles, New York City and Switzerland. As a visual artist she has contributed to feature films like Romeo and Juliet, One Hour Photo, Jesse James and A Single Man.

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Zoya Taylor’s ‘Sweet Infidel’ wins first prize

Zoya Taylor - The Sweet Infidel

Ten Years of Wide Eyed Emotions

‘Sweet Infidel’ by Jamaica’s Zoya Taylor was selected this week for the first prize Award at the 2015 International Juried Exhibition of The Center for Contemporary Art, New Jersey. In the painting she uses one of her wide eyed characters with skinny bodies which have become her trademark.


By Jorge Cuartas

Zoya Taylor was born in Vancouver, Canada; grew up in Kingston, Jamaica; and now lives in Norway. She is the daughter of a Jamaican father and a Canadian mother. Although she took drawing classes as a child and always had a desire to be an artist, she focused on full-time painting only ten years ago.

“I do not paint portraits but rather the odd and marginal characters which fill the spaces in between. They communicate the different facets of humanity. My cast is the cast of misfits; they are immigrants found between cultures, continents, languages and disciplines” – Zoya Taylor.

Zoya Taylor - Me and my shadow Zoya Taylor - You and me against the world

Zoya Taylor - I said no - Oil on Canvas Zola Taylor - The Reluctant Bridesmaids - Jamaica

That is why her characters have a worldly but innocent look; and that is why they are emotional. In her series, running now for ten years, Zoya Taylor’s characters have been known to feel  it all: anger, shyness, love, insecurity, everything.

Her work has been exhibited in the USA, Norway, Germany, Italy, Spain, England and Jamaica. The exhibition in New Jersey’s Center for Contemporary Art showing her ‘Sweet Infidel’ opens on November 6th 2015 and runs to December 12th 2015.

Paintings used in this article:

  1. ‘Sweet Infidel’, Zoya Taylor, oil on canvas
  2. ‘Me and my Shadow’, Zoya Taylor, oil on canvas
  3. ‘You and me against the World’, Zoya Taylor, oil on canvas
  4. ‘I said No!’, Zoya Taylor, oil on canvas
  5. ‘The reluctant Bridesmaids’, Zoya Taylor, oil on canvas
Links: Zoya Taylor Gallery | Jamaican Painters Pinterest Board  | Caribbean Painters Facebook
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CAZABON: TRINIDAD’S FIRST GREAT PAINTER

Nowadays he is generally regarded as one of the Caribbean’s first great painters. But in his time, Trinidad born Michel-Jean Cazabon (1813-1888) was appreciated more in Europe than in his country.  


by Jorge Cuartas


Michel-Jean Cazabon came from a rather wealthy family of free colored immigrants from Martinique, who owned a sugar plantation. At the age of 24 he was sent to Paris to study medicine, where he decided to concentrate on painting.

Cazabon started painting under Paul Delaroche, a leading painter of that time in Paris. He soon became popular as a society painter of Trinidad scenery; and of portraits of planters and merchants of Port of Spain. It is due to his paintings that we have a fair view of Trinidad’s way of life in the 19th century.

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His works include images of the Caroni river, the Port of Spain docks, sea views and other landscapes. He preferred using watercolors combining stunning pallets that remain fresh and bright to this day. Some of this most important works are part of the following collections:

  • ‘Views of Trinidad’ (18 lithographs, 1851)
  • ‘The Harris Collection’ (44 paintings, 1848-1854)
  • ‘Album of Trinidad’ (18 lithographs, 1857)

In England and France his work was much admired and he won several awards and medals at exhibitions. His first exhibition was at the Salon du Louvre in 1839, followed by expositions every year from 1843 to 1847. Back at home his art was much less appreciated. Disillusioned with life he became a drunken eccentric.

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After his death in 1888, Cazabon’s style gained more recognition in the region and his influence grew. Today he is considered to be one of the first great painters of the Caribbean. His work is appreciated for the rich details and for the use of light and shadow.

His scenes of a clean, natural and unspoiled Trinidad show a country as it was before the heavy industrialization of the twentieth century.To many Trinidadians the scenes are familiar, creating a tremendous sense of nostalgia.

Cazabon’s paintings can be seen at The Louvre in Paris and at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Trinidad.

Paintings used in this article:

1. Dry River
2. On the Caroni River
3. Maravel Valley

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