50 years of local art history

The last five decades of Cayman’s art history is now on show at the National Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Our Story of Art”.  

The visual feast for the eyes, which opens Nov. 15, celebrates the development of fine art in Cayman, tracing the journey of local artists over the past five decades.  

The exhibition starts in the late 1960s, a period dominated by picturesque realism. The show then follows the development of the fledging art scene through the 1980s, moving on to the emergence of a home-grown Caymanian aesthetic in the mid-1990s, before culminating in the more socially conscious visual narrative of the present day.  

The exhibition includes works by Bendel Hydes, Gladwyn “Miss Lassie” Bush, and The Native Sons, along with lesser known artists who were instrumental in establishing the early visual arts scene.  

“The diverse selection of works on display provide an insight into the history and creative vision of a people realized through a wide variety of mediums and disciplines, including painting, works on paper, collage and mixed media assemblage, ceramics, sculpture, thatch craft, textiles and photography,” said Natalie Urquhart, National Gallery director and curator of the exhibition.  

Much of the work has been drawn from private collections, Urquhart explained, while others have been in storage for decades, offering a wonderful opportunity for the public to enjoy key artworks that aren’t readily available.  

“‘Our Story of Art’ is only a brief survey of our story thus far, and is intended as a starting point in the creation of a framework for the interpretation of our art, a chance to reflect and to simultaneously engage in further scholarship and discourse about Caymanian visual expression.”  

Urquhart said that Cayman’s art scene has changed dramatically over the past few years, with crafts such as embroidery, applique, and smock work forming the primary cultural expression during the mid 20th century. 

“The growing affluence generated by Cayman’s seafarers during the Southwell Years, along with growth in the financial services industry from the 1960s, created more opportunities for leisurely pursuits and art materials from overseas,” Urquhart said. “It was later in that decade that the first regular fine art classes were started by ‘Mr. Ed’ Oliver.” 

Urquhart explained that the last 15 years have seen the birth of art collectives like The Native Sons, while artists’ work has become increasingly socially conscious. 

“Many of these artists are articulating a uniquely Caymanian experience through their work and striving to express their location within 21st century Caymanian society. Contemporary art forms such as installation, photography, and assemblage have become as common as more traditional media of painting and sculpture, and these are being executed with an increased clarity and confidence.”  

She added: “We are fortunate in Cayman to enjoy a flourishing art scene, but it’s important that we continue to create more and more opportunities for our artists, who are the transmitters of Cayman’s unique culture.”  


The gallery is offering a selection of supporting educational programs, including lectures, discussions with featured artists and workshops. For details contact the gallery on 945-8111. The exhibition is free and runs through Feb. 13, 2014. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. To 3 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sundays and public holidays.