East End’s Edney McLean is endowed with a unique sense of creativity and the ability to transform pieces of rotted wood or cassava root into works of art.
“Cayman has many artists, but most wonder if they have to be like [the late] Gwendolyn ‘Lassie’ Bush before they are recognized and there is a suitable venue to expose their arts and talents,” said Mr. McLean.
Still, he’s optimistic, and is working to bring more exposure to his art and other artisans in East End by opening a roadside stand next to the East End blow holes. The stand offers crafts, carvings, food, paintings, baskets, fans and other works to visitors.
“It was when Prince Andrew was visiting the Cayman Islands in 1994 and I was working at the East End Primary School that Jonathan Tibbetts, a Year 5 teacher at the time, suggested I decorate the outside walls of the school with the Cayman flag.
“I thought, why not do something more historical and ended up painting the East End Wreck of the Ten Sails, along with donkeys and local residents at work on the wall. My artwork took off from there,” Mr. McLean said.
He finds unique material for his art by walking the local beaches and salvaging anything that piques his curiosity – whether it is beach rocks, driftwood, sea fans or shells. “I don’t cut or destroy anything, I just use what is already down or lying around,” he said.
Mr. McLean is particularly proud of a stingray design he created.
“I found the piece of driftwood on Half Moon Bay beach. Dragging it back to my truck, some people thought I was crazy and asked what I would do with it. But I was struck by the likeness of the giant piece of driftwood so resembling our own Cayman stingray,” he said.
At first, he thought he’d found the wood of a sea grape tree, but after cleaning and polishing it, he found he had salvaged a piece of cedar. The durable wood is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attacks, which means anything built with it will last longer and require less maintenance.
The stingray measures 6 feet long and comes with its own barb: the spike-like tail of a horseshoe crab, which Mr. McLean acquired while visiting Jacksonville, Florida.
“I was bringing a boat home to Cayman when I happened to see these funny looking things hanging in a net. I asked what they were and took a few of the tails back to Cayman with me and used it on the stingray barb,” he said.
It took him two months of sanding and polishing to get the piece just right. Now he wants to have the stingray displayed publicly.
Besides the stingray, Mr. McLean has designed driftwood chairs, boats, mantle ornaments and lamps. He even uses cow horns to make one-of-a-kind table lamps.
“I would like the Cayman Islands to own the stingray piece so it will be here forever,” said Mr. McLean. “It could be displayed at the airport in a glass case. Stingray City is one of our biggest tourism attractions and letting visitors see what one looks like just as they get off the plane would add to their island experience.”
Mr. McLean has taken his stingray to the Cayman Islands National Museum, the National Cultural Foundation and the National Art Gallery.
While politicians are aware of his efforts, his efforts to get it displayed have so far not met with much success.
“It hurts when we Caymanians say we are trying to do something for the country and are ignored,” Mr. McLean said, but the 62-year-old added that he just takes it in his stride.
Mr. McLean and his daughter Eleanor greet tourists who visit the East End blow holes, offering an old-school Caymanian greeting: “How are you fine people today?” Then he proceeds to tell them all about Cayman culture and heritage.
Mr. McLean can be reached on 917-6031.