Tag Archives: portrait

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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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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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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A Mixture of Africa and Europe

Jamaican born and USA stationed Michael Escoffery was voted one of the ‘100 Most Influential Caribbean Americans’ in 2012 , but when it comes to his art he remains humble. “It’s not good for an artist to speak too much about his work”, says Escoffery. “Let the work speak  for the artist.”

His parents introduced him to painting at a very young age, prompting Escoffery to say: “I have always been an artist, conceived by artists and born an artist”. He was formed in that typical Caribbean mixture of Africa and Europe, an influence that is still visible in his work, where he merges his cultural heritage with modern art.

Michael Escoffery’s style is not easily defined. He combines abstract-realism with expressionism, cubism and iconography. He takes his inspiration from his heritage, the Caribbean people, and from the female form. “A work of art should reveal something new to the viewer each time it is seen”, says Escoffery.

His art has been exhibited in over 200 solo exhibitions and over 300 group shows worldwide. His work has been included in over 100 books worldwide. He is considered outspoken, controversial, but sensitive to his position and responsibilities as an artist. “To be an artist demands great courage.”

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Thick Lips: Jean Girigori’s Trademark

Jean Girigori is one of the leading painters of the Caribbean. Her work is colorful, vibrant and joyous, her Expressionist-Naive style unique. She was born at sea, lived in the Dominican Republic during her childhood, and settled by way of Haiti on Curaçao, the country of  origin of her grandparents.

Women and women’s rights play a central role in Jean Girigori’s paintings. Her big eyed subjects look accusing into the world, denouncing social injustice just as much as enjoying life. The thick lips of her women are her trademark. These lips used to be  opened in her earlier paintings, but nowadays are almost always shut. In her interviews Jean Girigori always emphasizes the great contribution women make in their Caribbean community.

Jean Girigori has been exhibited around the Caribbean, in the United States and in the Netherlands.

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