Teresa Grimes lights up art

Archaeology’s loss is Cayman’s gain
judging by the splendid landscapes of artist Teresa Grimes.

The West Bay resident, who recently
came away with first prize in the inaugural Ogier Art award and exhibition for
her landscape West Bay Skyline Collage, had wanted to be an archaeologist in
her 20s, but gave it up as to study art restoration before discovering the
freedom of life drawing in Ravenna, Italy.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland,
the painter completed her bachelor of arts in classical archaeology and
classical art before eventually succumbing to her chosen art form.

A well-known figure in the local
arts scene, she is a fairly low-key figure, these days, preferring whenever
possible to let her art speak for itself. She even balks from defining it. “I
think you have to leave room for others to interpret your work and sift through
what they bring to it.”

Though hardly publicity shy, the
painter doesn’t court attention, perhaps I suggest because she doesn’t live by
her art alone. Ms Grimes, you see, as well as being a talented landscapist is
equally as well-known as one of the owners of one of the islands’ best loved
restaurant, Calypso Grill, with husband James Mason.

More visible in the local art world
in the ‘90s, the last exhibition Ms Grimes staged was a two-hour show at the
restaurant last December.

“I only had a Monday when I could
put it up as the restaurant is closed on a Monday. My staff and I had to clear
the restaurant, hang the pictures and reverse the cumbersome process all in the
matter of a few hours,” she said.

She sold 18 of the 22 canvasses
that evening.

Thirty per cent of the show’s
proceeds went to the National Trust of the Cayman Islands and was specifically
earmarked for its Land Fund with the help of Janet Walker and Frank Balderamos.

More recently two works of hers are
in the current Arteccentrix show “Right now I work in fits and spurts,” she
said by way of explanation. She also sells her work through the Kennedy Art
Gallery a long-time retailer of her vibrant landscapes.

The painter, who paints from her
dining room twice a week, describes her art as being integral part of who she
is. “Painting feeds me, keeps me in balance and keeps me alive,” she said

With less time to devout to her
paintings with the restaurant being so busy she lets her work pile before
“going round and peddling it”, her words not mine.

For the past two years she’s been
able to absorb herself fully in the creative world with her August sojourns in
Italy. A fan of working retreats for several decades, this year will be no
different for the acrylisist who settled in Cayman in 1986 and whose painting
Rapture, was one of five that was selected to represent Cayman in the Carib Art
travelling exhibition that opened in Curacao in 1993. Her works’ last big
outing was alongside the work of 13 others which was chosen to Cayman at the
2008 Guyana Carifesta.

“I’m off to Montecastello near
Perugia between Florence and Rome,” she said visibly relaxing, a beatific smile
playing about her lips.

The two-week stint will see her and
a four fellow painters painting in the hills of northwest Italy. Staying in a
nunnery with cells barely large enough to hold a bed, the painters will work
from 7am until noon before breaking for lunch and resuming from 4-8pm with
Sundays off.

The only acrylisist among four oil
painters, she said they’ll go to a town and while all of the others take in the
beauty of door frames and churches. She turned her back to drink in the beauty
of the hills.

“I enjoy plein air painting – it’s
an exercise which forces you to recalibrate your ability to reappreciate
colour, proportion and your ability – to zoom in on something for three hours
on a 12”x12” or a 15”x15” to capture the light, that essence before its gone.”

With different subject matter and
colours to capture, the painter invariably comes back from such overseas trips
reinvigorated and asking herself how she can incorporate some of that
rediscovery in her work.

Her unfailing muse – judging from
her West Bay Skyline Collage and her working holidays – is capturing light. In
her first-place work it was the “light bouncing off the zinc rooves… it’s the
light of that glow that attracts me to my subjects and makes me want to capture
it… it’s the seed” she added.

One of this year’s art prize judges
was the Artistic Director of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, Henry
Muttoo. He said that what impressed him most about her submission was that
“technically as a painter she was superior.”

Having reviewed the more than 90
pieces submitted to the show from 45 artists, Mr. Muttoo said that what made
Teresa Grimes’ picture stand out was “her brush work and the way she captured
light… there were several very strong pieces but there was no doubt in my
mind that her work was outstanding not only technically but in the way that it
captured a piece of Cayman, captured a particular moment in time… and immediately
pulled the viewer in”.

For now, the future holds more
painting and more busy shifts as hostess at her Morgan’s Harbour restaurant.
And while stunning landscapes fill her busier hours, night time is all about
curling up and losing herself in landscapes of the written word: “I’m ploughing
through The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Swedish author Stieg Larsson…
I suppose painting and writing are both about building pictures, forming
associations and indulging one’s creativity,” she concluded.