The often sharp-edged and always dynamic art work of Nickola McCoy-Snell has graced exhibitions and art galleries in Cayman for a number of years now, but when The Morgan Gallery shut its doors earlier this year local artists such as Nickola felt a particular loss, for the gallery had been a huge supporter of local fine art. To rectify this situation, Nickola and husband Maurice have embarked on a brand new project which will hopefully see a new fine art gallery for Cayman be established very soon. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.
Crammed full of all things arty, Nickola McCoy-Snell’s artistic base is her garage which opens out to an expansive piece of green garden, a quiet little nook in West Bay that requires a decent sat/nav to locate, the first time you visit.
“Sorry about the mess,” Nickola says, busying herself to dust down a chair for me hidden under the morass of paints, brushes, canvases and cloths. Here works a true artist – someone with the passion and commitment to lose themselves in the moment, transcend the ordinary and create wonderful artwork out of the depths of her imagination. I would imagine that most of the time Nickola does not even notice the chaos in the garage, such is her commitment to her work.
A phoenix from the ashes
Nickola’s artistic passion can be attributed quite specifically to her troubled childhood years. Growing up in Cayman’s only orphanage at the time, Nickola says she suffered tremendously in secret, not daring to speak out about the tyrannical and cruel behaviour of those supposedly there to protect her.
“I would use my imagination to escape the situation that I was in,” she confirms . “No matter how bad the situation, I would let my mind transport me to another, happy place, where I could imagine laying down in long grass and see birds flying over my head. It was my way of coping.”
As she emerged from the horror of her childhood, Nickola realised she had a love for art, a therapeutic medium by which she could expose her anger and fear bottled up as a child.
“I was always a drifter,” she admits. “When I was supposed to be concentrating in class I was doodling. I was never really at peace and always fearful of people. Art allowed me to reflect everything that I was going through.”
Indeed, Nickola says when she was younger her art was dark and deep, reflecting a morbid fascination with death and punishment. However, a knight eventually came to her rescue, in the guise of her now husband, Maurice.
“Suddenly the world lit up for me!” she explains. “I became giddy and the world became light and beautiful. I had never seen such bright colours as when Mo came into my life.” Inspired by love, and also recovering from surgery which required her to take serious painkillers, Nickola began painting in a frenzy.
“I was loved up and doped up!” she says. “I painted my Black Hat series and ended up with 40 pieces. I sold the lot. After I had sold them I wished I could have bought them all back again so I could see why people liked them so much!”
Maurice took Nickola to his family in Essex, England and thus began an eye opening tour for Nickola.
“I fell in love with Mo’s family who were so kind and I fell in love with England. I could not even have imagined how beautiful it would be.”
From that moment on Nickola says her artistic direction changed completely.
She explains: “I found a balance in my life which helped me find a balance in my work. I am now able to paint more commercially viable pieces, such as flowers and Cayman scenes, while still working on the edgy abstract art that I love.”
Her settled personal life also allowed her to open up her eyes to the world around her in an uplifting way.
“I look at the world with great excitement,” she states. “I love to watch rain drops on a window pane and wonder if I can recreate them on canvas. And I wonder if I can recreate the way the light infiltrates your eyes when you first wake up and that first sliver appears. I’m always dreaming about my next painting.”
Now that baby TJ has completed their lives, Nickola and Maurice have applied themselves to setting up a business selling high quality fine art giclee prints and originals fine art from local artists.
“The idea started out initially as a way to reproduce my work to make it more commercially viable, however I knew that my work alone could not sustain a business, so I contacted a few of my artist friends and they have all been very receptive to having their work printed,” Nickola says.
The printing press is currently housed at Nickola and Maurice’s home, and the couple have managed to operate a small but thriving enterprise almost single-handedly. However, Nickola says that the business is expanding beyond a home venture and needs to be separated from her home life. They are currently in negotiations with investors to establish a brand new gallery in Cayman, called Arteccentrix Gallery.
“It’s a very exciting time for us,” Nickola says. “We will have a wonderful base for visitors and residents to come and browse fine art produced locally and to purchase high quality prints for a very reasonable cost. Of course, originals are also available as well.”
The gallery will be split into three sections – the commercial gallery featuring local artists, a rotating exhibitions gallery which will feature exhibitions from both local and overseas artists and an artshop whereby visitors can actually purchase prints and books relating to local artists and their work.
Local artists currently signed up with the project include Randy and Nasaria Chollette, Gordon Solomon, Renate Seffer, Luelan Bodden, Sue Widmer, Christel Ibsen and John Broad, while other artists are currently negotiating with Nickola.
Social networking gives a boost
Nickola and Maurice have used a number of internet-based tools to get the word out about their new project.
“Maurice has developed our website and those interested in purchasing our prints and originals can do so online, which has been a great way to diversify our client base and go global,” Nickola explains. “It also allows us to update cruise ship visitors who can place an order and collect it by the artist themselves when they actually arrive in Cayman. Our customers particularly love this authentic touch!”
The couple has also placed ads on Facebook and Maurice twitters about the project constantly. He has also uploaded videos of the artwork on You Tube.
“We really believe in giving an excellent personal service,” Nickola says. “So we deliver anywhere on the island at no extra cost. We have a first class product that will soon have a wonderful new base so that we can really showcase all the local artistic talent that Cayman has to offer.”
Visit www.arteccentrixgallery.com for more information.