Tag Archives: caribbean

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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Expressionist Perception of Grenadian Art

Stacey Byer is a Grenadian abstract-expressionist who uses colorful, bold palettes and heavy brushstrokes to invoke the rich and colorful culture of the Caribbean. With her work she wants to change the perception that art in Grenada is only ornamental and commercial.

“I think painting beaches, boats and sunsets is fine, but you can be a Caribbean artist and do other things”, says Byer. “If I wake up in the morning and eat pancakes instead of bakes, that doesn’t make me less Caribbean. Art is like that too. I can do pancakes and still be Caribbean.”

Stacey Byer - Beauty

Stacey Byer is co-curator of the Women Make Art (WOMA) project, a groundbreaking recurring Grenadian event, featuring solely locally-based female artists. “The art scene here does not truly tell us who we are or might become, as very few of our artists question identity, individual or collective memory. Many of the works produced are for buyers who want images of colorful villages or markets.”

Stacey Byer has a BFA from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. She currently concentrates on illustrating children’s books. Her paintings have been sold Barbados, Grenada, the USA, Europe and Asia.

The quotes in this article were taken form in an interview with Caribbean Beat back in 2012.
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The Imaginary World of Jorge Severino

Jorge Severino - Debut en sociedad di mi prima Cleotilde. Oil and acrylic on linen.

When he started exhibiting his paintings in the mid-sixties, Jorge Severino from the Dominican Republic didn’t have a clue to what he was doing. Reviewing Severino’s first exhibition in 1966, art critic Contín Aybar commented that “the ten paintings could easily have been created by six different artists. There is no common style in them”. So when Severino sold his first painting for $75, he was astonished that people would even pay for his work. Nowadays his paintings are hard to come by and cost $12,500 or more.


By Jorge Cuartas

Severino came to his own when he started painting black woman in luxury dresses. Using mostly a combination of oil and acrylics and never an easel, these black society women are decorated with over the top jewelry, silk dresses and red flowers. They stare defiantly at their observers.

Jorge Severino - 'Tía Gertrudis que era amante de Toulouse, haciendo antesala en el Moulin Rouge'. Oil and arylics on linen.

Severino is a representative of the magical realism movement, to which Gabriel García Márquez also belonged. His paintings are based on an imaginary photo album found in the attic with written indications in the margins about the Tia Clotilde in Paris, and the Tio Roque at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Severino uses this family to mock the megalomaniac fantasies of middle and upper classes of the Caribbean.

Jorge Severino 'Prima Johanna posando para Hector Baez'. Oil and acrylics on linen

His brilliance not only lies in transforming the perception of black women’s reality, but also in adding surrealistic elements to his paintings. Look for floating keys, football goal posts, or red fishes swimming in the air as part of his decorations.

Jorge Severino’s paintings have been shown in Europe, Latin America and the United States. He has won several international prizes for his paintings and is considered one of the Master Artists of the Dominican Republic.

Paintings used in this article:

  1. ‘Debut en sociedad di mi prima Cleotilde’, Jorge Severino. Oil and acrylic on linen.
  2. ‘Do you like Klimt’, Jorge Severino. Silkscreen.
  3. ‘Morena’, Jorge Severino.
  4. ‘Tía Gertrudis que era amante de Toulouse, haciendo antesala en el Moulin Rouge’, Jorge Severino. Oil and arylics on linen
  5. ‘Prima Johanna posando para Hector Baez’ by Jorge Severino. Oil and acrylics on linen.
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Pioneer of Positive Black Imagery

Untitled acrylic on canvas by Jennifer Lewis "Pepperstone".

Jennifer Lewis (1966-2012) aka Louie Pepperstone created a contemporary, powerful vision of the identity of black Caribbean women. Starting in the late eighties, when positive Afro-Caribbean imagery was not so readily available as today, she pioneered in combining the vibrant, natural colors of her native country Saint Vincent with African themes. The results were portraits of women that empowered black people around the world.

She grew up in London where she studied Jewelry Design at Central St. Martins. Her work was exhibited in several galleries in London and in the Caribbean. The colors, textures, history, religion, and folklore of Africa and the Caribbean were her inspiration. On her canvases she used acrylics, watercolor, relief, print and collage, woven with gold and silver leaf. Most of her work today is in private collections.

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The Joy of Vibrant Colors

Esther Griffith really likes her colors. Using layer upon layer of paint she creates rich, deep, vibrant and expressive colors. Greens and reds are her favorites. “I enjoy using oils”, says Griffith. “They create beautiful, unexpected effects.”

She was born and lives in Trinidad, where she studied Visual Arts at the University of West Indies at St. Augustine. Most of her paintings are portraits, which she shows like masks, resulting in a delightful contrast of hyper realism and abstraction. “I love experimenting with color, form and texture to produce unique effects”, says Griffith. “My paintings are inspired by the vivid features of nature, the earth and its surface.”

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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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Bohemian Women

Ramón Unzueta (1962-2012) painted women who smoked, laid around, and were brokenhearted, seductive, happy or sad. But no matter how he portrayed his bohemian women, they all had their big, watery eyes in common, just like his favorite actress Bette Davis. Unzueta’s women never look defeated, they stare into your face ready to fight for a better life.

Ramón Unzueta was born in Havana, Cuba and attended the National School of Applied Arts. In 1992 he became a resident of Spain. Besides his portraits of women he is mainly known as an illustrator of children’s books and for his illustrations and cartoons in several magazines.

His style can best be described as surrealistic and magical. His works have been exhibited in galleries and museums in Europe and the United States, including the Flores Carbonell Collection.

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Sheldon Saint shows Bahamian Simplicity, Grace and Dignity

Sheldon Saint is a master in depicting every-day Bahamian life. His quiet, intimate settings are recognizable to anyone in the Caribbean. His subjects seem immersed in what they are doing, unaware of their surroundings. “They look like they have arrested time for their own purpose”, says Saint. “You know that they are not part of an affluent class of people, so you may want to rescue them, or envy them.”

Born in 1971 in Freeport, Bahamas, Saint is a self-taught artist who has been painting professionally for the last 20 years. He paints in oil, watercolors, egg-tempera and conté.

Simplicity, grace and dignity are the main themes of his work. “The colors I choose are not bold and often mimic the simple everyday life of my subjects”, says Saint. “My paintings remind us of the delicacy of our natural environment and how humankind co-mingles with it.”

Sheldon Saint has had several solo and group exhibitions in the Bahamas. His watercolors have been featured in magazines and in books. His work hangs in private collections in the Bahamas, the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, China and Trinidad and Tobago.

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