This year’s Cayfest, the national festival of the arts, will be end on a high note with the opening of the Mind’s Eye cultural heritage site on 29 April.
Previously known as Miss Lassie’s, the site is where visionary artist Gladwyn “Lassie” Bush resided her entire life. Her house and her paintings are now considered cultural treasures of Cayman, and extensive work is being undertaken to restore and preserve both the buildings and the paintings.
Miss Lassie, a fourth-generation Caymanian, had never painted before the age of 62. It was only when she began to have religious visions that she picked up a paint brush. From then until her death in 2003 she painted prolifically, with any kind of paint she could lay her hands on. She painted not only on canvas, but also on the walls, windows and ceilings of her house.
Strong religious themes run through her work. Unlike other Christian-inspired art, which can be rather sombre, Miss Lassie’s is cheerful and bright, filled with smiling faces. Greg Howarth, the art conservator who has been working on restoring the paintings in her house, suggests this is because her painting was genuinely inspired by visions, not by religious paintings she had seen elsewhere.
Miss Lassie has been profiled in books on intuitive art, and her work is in private collections worldwide, as well as in the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
Her home is considered a national cultural treasure, and a good deal of work has already been undertaken both to shore up the structure of the house and to restore the paintings or “markings”.
As well as depicting biblical scenes, she also painted scenes of everyday life in Cayman, scenes that capture a way of life that has all but disappeared. The property itself is a rare example of a traditional Caymanian wattle-and-daub home. It sits on a raised concrete platform with an outdoor kitchen. Both the house and the paintings are therefore valuable examples of Caymanian heritage.
A little help from friends
In the run-up to the opening, staff, students and parents of George Town Primary School volunteered their time to assist in the clean-up effort and the sale of tickets for the event. Last weekend students were hard at work from 6.30am cleaning the yard. Later in the day, volunteers and students dressed in traditional quadrille dance costumes and sold tickets at Foster’s Food Fair at the Strand and at A.L. Thompson’s.
Mind’s Eye opens at 3pm Friday, 29 April. The Cayman Islands Folk Singers will perform, along with the Swanky Kitchen Band and Nayil Arana. Refreshments will be provided, and attendees will be able to view Miss Lassie’s home and much of her artwork.