Evocative images that speak of summer are currently on display at the latest art exhibition at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Gallery, with paintings and photography submitted by a wide range of Cayman’s talented artists.
The latest exhibition, which runs through September, features work by well-established artists who have frequently shown at the venue, but also offers new and up-and-coming artists the opportunity to showcase their individual pieces, adding to the rich diversity of artistic prowess on display.
Organized by Cayman Traditional Arts, “Summer Memories” is almost a mini walking tour of creativity in the Gallery that spans the width of West Bay Road and is housed in a bridge that connects the two halves of the Ritz-Carlton property.
Chris Christian of Cayman Traditional Arts and an artist in his own right says he is pleased with the caliber of artwork on display.
“We have a really broad spectrum of artwork showcased for this latest exhibition. In particular, we are highlighting the work of artist Yonier Powery, our featured artist, who has an incredible gift and whose paintings manage to combine realism and surrealism. At the same time, they always manage to define a particular place or moment in time,” he says.
Christian says he is equally delighted to welcome some new artists to the Ritz-Carlton Gallery.
“Notable established artists who have never exhibited at the Ritz-Carlton before include April Bending and Janice Brown, while we are also really pleased to enjoy the works of young new artists Jerome Wilson and Kylie Vallo as well,” he says.
The Journal caught up with some of the artists at the opening night of the “Summer Memories” exhibition.
New talent on show
Twenty-seven-year-old Jerome Wilson says he was given his first award for artwork in Year 3 in school for a piece of sculpture. He has been painting and sculpting ever since.
“Water colors are my favorite medium with which to paint,” he says. “They are really versatile because they are useful for making faded colors, but you can also still make a vivid statement.”
Wilson’s two paintings are idyllic Cayman seascapes, a subject that he particularly enjoys painting as he is someone who loves to fish, and frequently takes off for deep sea fishing adventures with his family and friends.
“I love to paint,” Wilson says. “It gives you the chance to really lose yourself in your work.”
The lure of color
Janice Brown is no stranger to Cayman’s art scene, having taught many art classes and enjoyed a solo exhibition at the Full of Beans café. However, this is her first time exhibiting with Cayman Traditional Arts at the Ritz-Carlton.
The Scottish native came to Cayman in the ‘80s and says she has always been artistically influenced by Cayman’s vivacity of color. Her acrylic work is full to the brim with turquoise, aqua, cobalt and emerald green, an homage to Caribbean light and color in all its blue/green glory.
An ardent supporter of the natural world, Brown worked at the National Trust for the Cayman Islands for many years before taking up her current teaching post at North Sound Primary School (now known as the Edna M. Moyle Primary School), and her passion for nature is well documented in her work at the exhibition.
“The Wreck of the Ten Sails is vanishing as we speak,” Brown says of the famous shipwreck located offshore at East End, “so I wanted to record it for posterity. In addition, my painting of Rum Point depicts one of Cayman’s most beautiful beaches. I wanted to keep the painting simple because that is how I hope it will remain for years to come.”
Brown says she achieves her colorful work by first sketching out her ideas and then layering her paintings with acrylic, sometimes with five or six layers of paint to give an overall 3-D effect. She also credits taking the time to paint outdoors looking at live subject matter as an important influence in her work.
“The colors appear so different when you work outside,” she confirms.
Unique direction for established artist
Kara Julian is another well-established artist who is exhibiting at the Ritz-Carlton for the first time. Julian has a popular business called Kara’s Glass Garden, which offers clients detailed painted glassware. She also runs relaxed evening painting classes, but recently she has branched out into focusing on creating her own collection of paintings. Despite her growing successes artistically, Julian has only recently left her full-time employment in Cayman’s financial services industry to devote all her time to her artwork.
First exhibiting at Full of Beans café to great success earlier this year, Julian has pursued a particularly successful aspect of her artwork at the Ritz-Carlton exhibition. She paints on wood that has been cut out to follow the natural lines of the subject matter of the painting, adding a creative twist to her work.
Her paintings are contemporary, lively and full of energy, from the catboats with billowing sails that she sets forth across the ocean to the fresh and colorful hibiscus flowers that bloom out from her paintings. Julian has a knack for creating artwork that people really want to buy.
“Exhibiting at the Ritz-Carlton has been a big step for me,” she acknowledges. “I’m really looking forward to greater exposure to my work. I’ve been painting for 17 years and it’s great to be recognized in this way.
“Painting is what I’m passionate about. I’m really happy doing what I do. I don’t always know where the next paycheck will come from, but it’s always there. It’s wonderful when all the pieces of the puzzle come together.”
A notable change in direction from the water colors, acrylics and oils on display, Shane Aquart’s artwork has grown from his Dready character – a cartoon that evolved from a doodle – into one of Cayman’s most iconic artistic images, digitized to adorn postcards, T-shirts and even fine art.
“Dready was always a Caribbean cliché,” Aquart says. “He has evolved, along with my other two favorite characters, the Trustafarians, into fully formed characters.”
Aquart keeps his backgrounds simple and bold in color and uses this medium to explore everyday scenes that inspire him. His artwork has expanded even further over the years, using the digitalized format to depict recognizable scenes and images from everyday Cayman life.
“Sometimes I’m inspired just by looking out of my window at the scenes on the ocean beyond,” the South Sound resident says.
Working on a computer, Aquart draws the images and creates prints that are highly collectible. A recent popular piece on display at the Ritz-Carlton is a lionfish, an invasive species populating Cayman’s reefs, that Aquart has given its own Caribbean motif. Sales of the image have helped raise thousands of dollars for charity, he says.
“Summer Memories” featured artist Yonier Powery is also fresh from a successful solo exhibition at Full of Beans. As the featured artist, Powery has been given a wide expanse of wall on which to display a good amount of his powerful acrylic work.
A native of Cuba’s Isle of Pines, Powery is passionate about sharing the world around him through the medium of art.
Often mixing realistic depiction of images such as a boat and the world of nature, and surrealistic images of faces, Powery says he likes to challenge the viewer to really look at his work and understand his message.
Yonier is influenced by maritime images from his home country and also from his current place of residence in Cayman.
“I like to try and record a piece of history when I paint,” Powery says, “for tomorrow it will change.”
“The Catch,” for example, highlights the turtle, an important part of Caymanian history.
“The turtle was food, it was life for the Caymanian people,” he confirms. “I wanted to depict that close relationship.”
Powery infuses his paintings with passion and energy by using palette knives as well as brushes to “make noise” in his work.
“Paintings can be quiet, to make you think, or they can be loud and catch your attention,” he says. “It’s important to show the viewer the brush strokes because I don’t want my work to look like a photograph. For me, it should look like a painting.”
Whatever the spirit of the painting, Powery says he enjoys depicting a particular point in time, to show for posterity how people lived.
“I think it’s my responsibility as an artist to show life here in this beautiful country,” he states.
Arts on the island
Julie Jacobs, the Ritz-Carlton’s retail manager, sums up why she believes the Cayman Islands has such a strong representation in the arts scene.
“Beautiful locations always tend to draw in great artists,” she says. “It’s as simple as that.”
“Summer Memories” showcases new artists April Bending, Kerwin Ebanks, Tansy Maki, Jerome Wilson, Suzzete Hislop, Kylie Vallo, Grace Marcar, Janice Brown, Susan Lueck and Kara Julian.
Returning artists are Christel Ibsen, Patricia Nicholson, CJ Viggers, Cathy Church, Jim Helmen, Andrew Christian, Amanda Nicholson, Avril Ward, Lorna Griggs, Courtney Platt, Renate Seffer, Dawn McTaggart, Chris Christian, Simone Scott, Laurél Schmid, Kushana Gentiles, Villence Buchanan, Randy Chollette, Mikael Seffer, Shane Aquart, Gordon Solomon, Al Ebanks and Monte Thornton.