A selection of Cayman’s most popular local artists are currently exhibiting their work at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands as part of the gallery’s upcoming Big Art Auction 2.
The works – by artists Avril Ward, John Broad, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Randy Chollette, Wray Banker, John Broad, Theresa Grimes, Chris Mann, David Bridgeman, Miguel Powery, Mikael Seffer, Renate Seffer and John Bird – will be auctioned on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m., to raise funds for the gallery’s operating costs.
The gallery’s first Big Art Auction in 2011 to raise money for its new facility along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway was deemed a huge success.
In this, the first in a three-part series, Weekender chats with exhibiting artists to find out the inspiration behind their works.
A natural theme
Cayman is fortunate to be home to an incredibly creative group of artists, including Avril Ward, whose diverse portfolio includes fabric design, large-scale murals, trompe l’oeil, mosaics, sculpture and paintings.
Her submission for Big Art 2 is called “Poinciana Rain.”
“Every year in summer, we can’t help but notice the magnificent Poinciana trees in Cayman,” Ward says. “Their bright blooms ranging from yellow to deepest red fill the island with their daring but delicate petals. We notice them on the road side, and on the trees, but what I love, when traveling particularly through the many roadside trees in Savannah, is when the wind is blowing and the sky full of bursting white clouds, the petals are blown off the trees and I drive through Poinciana rain!”
Ward says she generally changes up her themes and style of working every 20 to 30 paintings. “I do get bored very easily,” she says. “I always like working big, so I am planning to challenge myself with a huge new work, perhaps with a return to a more realistic style but more conceptual rather than representational.”
Artistic translation of spirituality
Husband and wife artists Nasaria Suckoo Chollette and Randy Chollette have been creating some of Cayman’s most interesting artwork for many years, each artist following a unique direction that produces his and her own inimitable style.
An outward depiction of his deep inner spirituality, Randy Chollette’s artwork inevitably combines strong color, fluid movement and symbolism, always keeping the viewer intrigued and interested. As a self-taught artist and musician, Randy has included a range of artistic styles in his work, including realism and abstract. Whatever style he chooses, however, he is always sure to depict his love for Cayman’s natural surroundings, honor his African heritage and observe brotherhood and humanity, all of which resonate deeply with the artist.
For his submission to Big Art Auction 2, Randy’s “Wind in the Trees” follows a style that takes him somewhat in a new direction.
“I never want to be stagnant, and I strive to ensure that there is growth in my work,” he says. “I call this the ‘shattered glass’ style because the image looks shattered. It’s funny that a lot of people think this work is actually my wife’s work because of the palette that I am using.”
Randy says he likes to keep viewers on their toes and doesn’t like to be predictable.
“The one thing that must remain constant in my work is that each piece, no matter how big or small, is of high quality and must represent my philosophies about the world around us, even as my philosophy grows,” he states.
Randy added that “Wind in the Trees” represents the mystery of the energy that supports all that we see.
“It is celebrating that oneness we share with nature because the same energy that gives it life, gives us life. Sometimes I like to meditate and feel like I am becoming one with all that is around me. The peacefulness is where I draw my inspiration from for my work,” he said.
Storyteller, poet and artist Nasaria Suckoo Chollette’s artwork is inevitably a visual expression of her life experiences. Always bold and exciting in her approach, she uses enticing textures as much as vibrant colors to express her art.
“Henry Muttoo of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation once called my work intuitive, and it meant a lot to me to hear that coming from Henry,” she said. “For a long time, I have said to people that my work is not about technique, it is about expression, the value in my work is what it is saying, what I need to say. This is why I often cannot paint anything, I have a block. Sometimes the emotions are too much and I struggle. I need some time and distance away from the emotional event in order to let the creative process begin.”
In the case of her latest piece, titled “When I’m Gone” and submitted to the Big Art Auction 2 exhibition, Nasaria says she does not feel as if enough time has passed, but the deadline was looming so she admits she fought with the work a lot. In the end she had to let it be what it wanted to be, a much more literal display of the emotions following the loss of a loved one.
“Thankfully, even after passing, this friend is still teaching me because even though the emotions were raw, it was the grace with which she passed that revealed itself in this piece,” she said. “This piece of work is a celebration of becoming something else and not a mournful piece about loss. Are we not all transient? The end of this journey is not the end of us; it is just a transition from one to the other.”
Nasaria said the viewer will still find in this piece her love for texture, infusion of traditional craft techniques and bright colors, while still delivering a powerful message. This piece in particular speaks very much to Nasaria’s style.
When viewing her work, Nasaria said she hopes that the viewer walks away with a strong reaction to her work, whether it be positive or negative.
“Art that stirs nothing in a person is not art at all.”