Kindling Miss Lassie’s spirit

The home of internationally known intuitive artist
Gladwyn K. Bush was open for tours on Friday as part of the Mind’s Eye cultural
heritage site soft opening. The home is truly one of a kind because the artist,
familiarly called Miss Lassie, used not only its walls but also its ceilings
and even the windows and floors as her first canvases.

Henry Muttoo, artistic director of the Cayman National
Cultural Foundation, said the function was held as a way of acquainting the
public with what has been accomplished to date with the property and what is
needed to complete the project. But Mind’s Eye – Miss Lassie’s phrase – is more
than a little house standing on a bit of beach, he told the people who had come
to see it and enjoy a programme of traditional entertainment.

Saving the house is not just keeping an old building from
disappearing, he said; it can be a means of igniting the kind of spirit Miss
Lassie had and shared with so many other older Caymanians, the kind of spirit
that made Cayman a unique place to live, and which people fear is disappearing

Miss Lassie began painting when she was 62 and remained
active until shortly before her death in 2003 at the age of 89. In those 27
years she went from being referred to as the eccentric old woman in South Sound
to recognition as belonging to “the world’s best tradition of authentic,
outsider, visionary artists.”

The latter description is from Rebecca Hoffberger,
founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum. The first
description could have come from any of the scores of Grand Cayman residents
who used to drive past Miss Lassie’s House to see what images she had added
lately to her shutters and doors.

Those shutters and doors are gone now, protected and
preserved as works of art to be displayed in a climate-controlled gallery under
the auspices of the cultural foundation. The original designs, too valuable to
be left exposed to the elements and possible treasure hunters, are being
replicated by local artists for display purposes.

Martyn Bould, chairman of the Mind’s Eye Restoration
Committee, said $275,000 has been raised to date for the necessary work. Later
he explained that $100,000 of that sum was in the form of monetary donations;
the other $175,00 has come in the form of materials or services. A duplex on
the property has been renovated and is leased to the National Gallery for its
educational programmes, he noted. “I am sure Miss Lassie would have loved that
use,” he told the seaside gathering.

With Miss Lassie’s works to view, beach access and the
ambience of the site, Mind’s Eye can be an important stop on any Island tour,
he pointed out. To make everything happen, he said, “We need the ongoing
support of volunteers and benefactors.”

Minister for Culture Mark Scotland acknowledged that the
house itself could have been moved to save it, “but the ambience and history of
the site would not have been carried with it.” 
He read remarks from Premier McKeeva Bush, who was in London for the
Royal Wedding. Mr. Bush expressed his love and deep enthusiasm for the project.

Mr. Scotland hailed Miss Lassie for her ability to
visualise, her capacity “to see what could be and how to get there.” He added
that, unlike many people, she brought her visualisations to reality. He hoped
Mind’s Eye would offer people inspiration to see things differently.

Denise Bodden, historic programmes manager for the
National Trust, presented a certificate of recognition for Miss Lassie’s House
as a site of national historic interest not only because of its wattle and daub
construction but because of the paintings with their religious themes.

Mr. Muttoo said Cayman has to share this wonderful artist
with the world, but Mind’s Eye as a vehicle for doing so is still in its
beginning stages. “It is imperative that individuals and organisations continue
to work together,” he declared. Once Mind’s Eye is properly set up, it could
support itself through rental arrangements and the sale of products based on
Miss Lassie’s extensive artwork, which the cultural foundation has the rights
to, he said later.

Drawing on his conversations with Miss Lassie and his
study of her works, Mr. Muttoo told the audience he came to realise her
individuation – a term he explained as people arriving at a point in life when
they know what their life’s mission is and feel compelled to work toward it. In
the process, they develop their true strengths and become comfortable with who
they are.

That was why Cayman had developed as a community, with
people knowing they could rely on each other, Mr. Muttoo said.

Mind’s Eye can be an experience that helps each person
consider his or her own individuation, he indicated.

Coincidentally or not, the afternoon’s programme and
refreshments provided illustrations of the concept. Artists, craft workers,
bakers, musicians and singers shared their talents. One of the happiest moments
occurred when people in the audience sang along with the performers on stage.

Those taking part in the programme included the Swanky
Kitchen Band, Cayman Islands Folk Singers, Steve and Mike McTaggart, violinist
Nayil Arana, Quincy Brown and the George Town Primary School Dancers. Marcia
Muttoo was master of ceremonies and Lorna Bush gave the vote of thanks.