Art is an exquisite opposite of fact; it cannot be defined, only explained through the reality of diverse eyes. It erupts conversation, morphs cultures, educates and tells stories of a time since gone. To be an artist is to be brave, vulnerable, bold and creative. Art in all forms transcends what meets the eye, and though it may evolve, the fascination that it evokes will forever remain. MACO recognises five artists who, for their own reasons, have stimulated our senses over the years. From historical to contemporary, complicated to simplistic, these artists have shaped the Caribbean art scene for the better.
Nakazzi: A Woman of Substance
Jacks Hill, Jamaica, is famously known as once being home to Bob Marley, yet today, the mountain stands as home to another inspiring artist –Jamaican born and Bajan raised, Nakazzi Hutchinson, also known as Nakazzi Tafari. The daughter of icons in their own regards, the late artist Dawn Scott and Rastafarian Dr Ikael Tafari, Nakazzi knew greatness from a young age. Those who meet her are in awe by her demeanor. It shines so brightly that there is never a shadow for her to hide behind; she forges her own path.
After graduating at the top of her class from the Jamaican School of Art in 2000, Nakazzi did not hesitate to inscribe her mark on the world’s canvas. In fact, she was the first artist to win both the Juried and Public Award Prize of the Mutual Life Artists of the Year. Nakazzi’s wide variety of art has been featured from the USA to Europe and all throughout the Caribbean.
While her portfolio varies immensely, including charcoal drawings, batiks, paintings, murals and mosaics, she admits to having a particularly peaked interest in sculpting, though she “does not want to stick with individual labels.” From intricate masks to large-scale structures, Nakazzi’s work inspires conversation of spirituality. She challenges her admirers with her work, as she explains, “It is created specifically for the expansion of the mind of the viewer and to defy preconceived notions of what art should be.’’
Inspired by her mother’s artistic skill and motivated by her father who instilled in her that, “you are a warrior”, Nakazzi pushes the boundaries to truly be the best. Nakazzi commends the Jamaican art scene for its freedom and progressive outlook on the art form, and the community for their guidance as she marches onward.
A Stroke in Time
Painter Michael –Jean Cazabon was born with no exceptional magic, and yet, he was able to freeze history with the stroke of a brush. On September 20th 1813, Cazabon was born the youngest of four children to free, coloured people. The family founded a flourishing sugar plantation, Corinth Estate, and lived for years with financial ease. Sewn into the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, painter Michael-Jean Cazabon was an anomaly of his time. Despite the political and social climate of the 19th Century, the painter was able to earn a living by his art.
Cazabon lived a colourful life having studied in both England and Paris before returning to Trinidad in 1848. His time in Paris was paramount, as it was there that he married French woman, Louise-Rosali Trolard, fathered three children, had his work purchased by the French government at age 26, and exhibited at Salon du Louvre. One could have been worried that Trinidad would not promise the same excitement, but upon his mother’s death and his return to Trinidad, the stars aligned. Cazabon serendipitously gained a friend in British Governor, George Lord Harris. During his time in Trinidad, the Governor invited Cazabon everywhere he went to document his functions and outings. Many of Cazabon’s great works of the Governor were published in the Illustrated London News.
Known for his impressive eye for colour, there is great debate over Cazabon’s artistry. Up to this day, persons continue to speculate the meanings behind his subjects: a stream, a waterfall, a hillside, a reservoir… They daydream about his assumed athletic build and what he may have looked like. Cazabon provided a peak into 19th Century Trinidad, but despite much research by enthusiasts like Geoffrey MacLean, he left his own aesthetic to lost memories. A man of mystery, some poetically believe that, “the training, experience and setbacks of years took shape [in his work], as though the hand and eye were moved by the same force that shaped land and sea.”
In 1862 Cazabon moved to Saint Pierre in Martinique, where he hoped he would find a greater appreciation for his then lapsed art. Yet like many legends gone, he died with no grand acclaim. Taken by a heart attack while seated in his studio on Edward Street, Cazabon would never come to know that his paintings would one day be valued at TT$700,000; a true cultural icon.
The Ocean’s Art Gallery
At the bottom of Molinere Bay, Grenada, sits a man and his typewriter; but fear not for this man, as he is not alone. He is one of the many creations of British sculptor and diver Jason de Caires. Dubbed a ‘world wonder’ by the National Geographic, this submerged art show was impressively born of purpose and not peacocking. Unsung hero, Jason de Caires, could not standby as the coral reefs of Grenada suffered. Blending art and passion, Jason took it upon himself to assist Mother Nature in rehabilitating the local reef beds. Today, 16 unique sculptures made of natural cement, and specifically textured to allow coral polyps to grasp hold, dwell in what is known as Grenada’s ‘must see’ under water Sculpture Park.
In a TED talk, de Caires credits Mother Nature for the true beauty of this underwater art gallery. “As soon as we submerge the sculptures, they aren’t ours anymore.” He admits, “Because as soon as we sink them, the sculptures belong to the sea.” One look at the transformation images is evidence enough of this claim. Once a blank canvas, the ocean decorates the sculptures with intricate, colourful and stunning life forms. I encourage you to allow the images to speak the thousand words that have lost me to its beauty.
The Dready Movement
In just a few years, Jamaican-born Caymanian, Shane Aquart, transformed minimal strokes on a page into a lucrative business and a cultural icon. The artist himself has become synonymous with his work. Dready, they now call him after the original Dready character. At first glance, a Dready piece can look as if it was created on Microsoft Paint, yet a closer look tells a story far beyond the confines of the piece. Dready was initially created as t-shirt artwork, but then Hurricane Ivan, along with other worldly factors, pushed Shane to amend his artistic plans.
In ironic Dready fashion, it was with a stroke of luck that a couple requested a Dready-styled family portrait. The piece was a hit, and the word spread like a child’s crayon on a white wall. Billionaires, bankers, movie producers, yacht team owners and companies so large they’re the ‘largest whatever in the world’, it seemed that anyone who could buy any art, wanted a Dready. Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, the Bacardi family’s international headquarters in Miami, Dready has been better travelled than an aged stewardess. What started as an experiment between two friends, has now become an estimated collection of more than 400 original Dready’s living around the world.
Though simplistic in appearance, commissioned pieces take an astounding amount of time to create. “I tend to ask people for a lot of information. I ask for a ton of photos, I ask about nicknames, about their lives, their childhood memories, their likes, dislikes,” Shane explains. One can conclude that dreadyness is a complete story summarised in a few lines. “Dready is a true Caribbean creation. Yes, heavily influenced by Jamaica, perhaps, but completely Caribbean. In all Dreadys, no matter if I’m doing a picture of San Angelo in Venice or an old ferry in Belize, there’s always a little red, gold and green,” he says. Proud to announce that he has not only sold every Dready ever created, but there are now also Dready flip flops and custom swim trunks available, Dready – I mean Shane- continues to make the Caribbean smile with his contemporary art.
The Scott Duo
What is more beautiful than two sisters who share a passion? Born in Chile but raised in Barbados, Corrie and Heather-Dawn Scott light up the Bajan art scene with their vivacious body of work. Skilled in photography, sculpting, painting, imaginative knitwear and more, the pair is not easily defined. “I am finding daily that experimenting and allowing myself not to be restrained by what people may expect, I am free to just let go and create,” Corrie shares, her free-spirited nature undeniable.
The duo has been creating art for decades both locally and abroad. When asked about the art climate in Barbados, Corrie’s excitement becomes contagious. “The art scene has exploded,” she shares, “This is mostly due to artists who, frustrated by the lack of support in the fine arts from the government, have stepped up and opened more galleries, pop up events, their own art spaces, created exhibitions and marketed themselves through social media.” In fact, Corrie herself has been known to compile the Artists’ Directory and publish free online guides to art events in Barbados.
Last we spoke with the sisters, Heather-Dawn, who lived in Scotland at the time, fantasised about returning to Barbados, particularly each time she read her sisters’ updates on the thriving local art. Since then we were excited to learn that she has made this a reality. “My sister is in high demand, painting non-stop for galleries and clients,” Corrie shares proudly. While Heather is currently working on a series of art hangings made up of dyed, cut, torn, woven and stitched art pieces, Corrie continues to explore the world of digital art.
“With the progress of iPad pros I have dived into the excitement of learning all I can and have exhibited” she explains. “Photography is also a passion. I recently created a series of close ups of a rusting Land Rover which look like abstract art rather than photography.” Unwavering in their passion for the art form, there are no limits to this unique dynamic duo. When asked if she could share any advice considering her success, Corrie encouraged the up and coming artists of the Caribbean to, “focus, work hard and never stop learning”.