Art critic and teacher, Dionisio is recognized as a master draughtsman. His meticulous drawing delineates the harsh physicality of the rural Dominican which he juxtaposes with an ethereal, visionary world. Recently, Blanco has been portraying this world as more surreal - sprouting whimsical gizmos. Certainly the work of this artist is enigmatic yet it is also deep. Through his archetype, Blanco explores issues with which he has long been pre-occupied: the dignity of physical work, the beauty of his island’s rice paddies, the mutual responsibility of worker and society, and the bond between humans and nature. Yet, what I love most about Blanco’s work is that he reveals the magical in the ordinary. As the artist himself puts it, “Painting is always an act contrary to reality, and in this way it is similar to a profound and deep dream.”
Roy Lawaetz likes people to experience his Caribbean ideas. To that end, several of his paintings are interactive, in fact, they’re more like whimsical sculptures. Carnival Dancers plays music from a hidden CD when a viewer taps the steel drum. With a concealed pump, Fountaning waters a fertility Zemi in a rain prayer painting. Fax of Life, a tongue-in-cheek comment on our technological dependence, portrays a goddess that contains a real fax machine.
Salt Pond is
an important place for Roy as his father documented the early history of
the area. And now at Salt Pond, through his art, Roy Lawaetz documents
Caribbean culture - inspired by Salt Pond’s mysterious pre-historic past.
L.D. Lucy’s life journey has taken her from Wales - where she grew up - to Whales. Bequia a small island in the Grenadines, is not only famous for its handcrafted, double-hulled boats, but for whaling, which is still allowed on Bequia and done from February to April in the traditional manner with hand-held harpoons in their wind-powered boats.
Escaping from her workaholic life as the executive director of Calgary’s International Jazz Festival, she came to Bequia on vacation and before the ferry even docked, had a feeling of homecoming. Soon, she married a Bequia man, Kingsley “Prop” King, celebrated for his hand-crafted model sail boats. Their studio, “The Boathouse” is now also a gallery, open to the public.
For L.D. Lucy, Bequia is literally a sea change; it made what she calls her “northern values” slip away.
“I watch men repair their nets, join the gathering when the priest blesses the whaleboats, sit on a boat builder's workbench under a mango tree and watch a pattern of purple islands emerge from a sunrise mist. I party on the bayside on full moon nights, sharing roast fish and stories, jokes and songs... the subject of my paintings. I also watch myself. How I change here, how I learn to sing, be still and be welcomed by another culture.”
All of L. D. Lucy’s sense of awe for Bequia’s traditions and mysterious natural beauty is reflected in her otherworldly paintings.
Nick Quijano’s paintings are fun. His paintings are so whimsical, they make you smile. His style resembles folk art and he uses enamel and found objects within the canvas to heighten the fantasy. Imagine my surprise then when I trekked to Nick Quijano’s studio in old San Juan and found that in contrast to his colorful naive paintings, he designs elegant, sophisticated furniture. This unlikely dual-career reflects the artist’s dual background. Nick Quijano spent his early childhood in New York City but later moved to Puerto Rico.
“As a child, almost as an observer from afar,” he explains, “I was seduced by the rhythm, magic, innocence, generosity and sensuality of my Latin roots. The contrast between the sophistication and struggle in New York versus the exoticism and carefree, “tropical” attitude of Puerto Rico in the 50s and 60s caused a wonderful creative tension that still permeates my being.”
Nick Quijano’s childhood was shaped by stories and traditional images of his island homeland which he transforms into colorful depictions of daily life, popular feasts and events. His art documents Puerto Rico customs that are being eroded by the modern urban culture of San Juan. Growing up in a musical family, Nick Quijano’s subjects are often musicians and dancers and the stories of their songs La Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows) shows a woman listening to romantic songs amidst love letters and weeping for her lover who is shown in the photograph. La Vida En Broma (The Merry Life) was a place Nick Quijano loved in Old San Juan, around the corner from where he lived, it was a place for music drinks and laughter. The painting is his personal homage to the good times in his neighborhood. Ironically he believes it is because his paintings are so personal, that they have such universal appeal.
received a degree in Environmental Design from the School of Architecture
at the University of Puerto Rico. A few years ago when some friends opened
up a furniture store and invited him to be their designing partner, he
jumped at the opportunity. Today, he sees no contradiction between
his elegant, formal furniture and the funky, folkloric quality of his paintings.
“In both my painting and furniture design, I aim to transmit aspects that
I see as Puerto Rican: beauty, playfulness, joy and sensuality.”
The two worlds of Nick Quijano are representative of all Puerto Ricans
whose identity gracefully balances US citizenship with Latin American culture.
Alcina Nolley is particularly struck by what she calls St. Lucia’s “pattern of things: leaves upon leaves upon leaves in the rain forest; the patterns in the islanders’ clothes, and the profuse jumble of forest flowers.”
And as intimately as she depicts island vegetation, she depicts island people - particularly women. It is the women that she believes, do much of the hard work in the Caribbean. “The women,” she explains, “are often the steady people, the ones who must carry on.” Alcina Nolley reveals the tired stance of a Castries market vendor, the grace of mothers, and in Boundless Spirit, she depicts the uninhibited joy of a little girl at the sea.
A former art teacher, Alcina Nolley now paints six hours every day, gives private art lessons and runs her own gallery. Yet she still makes time to challenge herself with new media. Recently she has created a line of enamel jewelry and fabric Christmas ornaments, and she has developed what she calls “Character bowls.” These are black copper enamel bowls that sport poly clay feet and appear to have an uncanny human attitudes. Pottery with personality.
The artist’s website shows her fine art, posters, pottery, as well as her books and note cards that are printed on paper hand made from banana leaves, sorrel flowers and hibiscus. Oh yes, and of course there are her “Caribbean clocks” with original landscapes but no numbers to reflect the leisurely island’s pace.
St. Lucia is known for its dramatic, verdant beauty. Living in the shadow of the famous Pitons, Alcina Nolley is forever inspired. “It’s like Hiroshige’s 100 views of Mount Fuji. You can stand in one spot and turn, and everywhere there’s a scene to paint.”
Saba is a tiny island with a population of only 900. An extinct volcano, until recently it was so inaccessible that it remains pristine and beautiful. Hence Saba’s nickname: “The Unspoiled Queen.” Heleen Cornet wants everyone to see its remarkable beauty.
I discovered the art of Heleen Cornet on the Internet. Through the wonder of cyberspace and my slow modem, her image of Saba’s rain forest was revealed to me with great suspense - little by little - until at last I saw her entire marvelous creation. I tracked down Heleen Cornet and discovered a woman who is in love with the beauty surrounding her. Of course, when she came to Saba in 1974, she didn’t know she would fall in love with this tiny 5-mile island. An art teacher and artist who grew up in Holland, Heleen came with her husband Tom Van’t Hof, a marine biologist who was asked to design Saba’s underwater Marine Park. Now Heleen Cornet calls Saba her home and is dedicated to letting other know just how lovely it is.
Soon after arriving Heleen became known for her depiction of the Saban cottages with their white walls, shingle red roofs and green shutters. What she appreciates most though is that these houses were built by women a hundred years ago while their husbands were at sea. Her love for these unique homes turned into a 1994 book of watercolors “Saban Cottages.”
Today, Heleen is most inspired by Saba’s mahogany rain forest. She often camps deep within it, calling it “very mysterious.” Her paintings of the Saban rain forest are themselves mysterious - a dappled tangle of vines and leaves in jewel colors. Her goal is to make people notice more for as she says:
“What I want people to feel when they see my work is that something good is going on in nature here. Saba is a kind of Paradise. If you want to see it, you can see it.”
To help people see the Saba paradise. Heleen Cornet makes installation art that goes beyond lettings people see the rain forest: it lets them “enter” it. Last year in Curacao, she created an exhibit you could walk into. She painted the rainforest on the floor, ceiling and walls and used mirrors to not only reflect the visitor within the forest but to seemingly extended the rain forest forever into the distance. Appropriate forest sounds and even smells were wafted into this enchanting human-made illusion. As she explains, “I like art that you’re soaked in.”
Heleen Cornet’s latest passion is painting what the locals call “Saba’s own Sistine Chapel,” decorating the walls and ceiling of the Roman Catholic Church in the island’s main town, The Bottom. While perched high on the scaffolding and listening to Mozart requiems, Heleen painted the church walls and ceiling with Saba itself: the mahogany rainforest, the Saban cottages and the old churchyard. Even, the many angels depicted are actual portraits of Saba’s black children.
“The rainforest here is perfect for portraying Heaven because it’s a cloud forest,” she explains, “and I made the angels Saban because I want to show that God is everywhere. Besides, the congregants enjoy recognizing and pointing out their children as angels!”
Besides exhibiting internationally, she creates children’s book, illustrates dive guides and designs posters. She is president of the 36-member Saba Foundation of the Arts whose goal is to promote the members’ art through exhibits and publicity. The Foundation also develops workshops for children in both oils and watercolors so that they can, early on, learn to appreciate and convey the natural splendor that surrounds them.
Heleen Cornet’s work on Saba is an example of how on all the Caribbean islands, artists, even the most tiny, artists are spinning dreams. The islands - from the large land mass of Hispaniola to the islet of Saba - are rich with beautiful paintings to seek out and cherish.
I have brought this beautiful art into my life. Over the years, I have filled my house with fanciful paintings that bring me colorful Caribbean joy every day, and somehow have made my green carpet look like the sea…
Where to find the artists’ work:
Nader Art Gallery
Art Center Inc.
*L. D. Lucy
Jambe de Bois
- restaurant / Gallery
Art Company Gallery
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