After retiring from a lifetime of woodworking as a professional carpenter, Bodden Towner Dean Chollette is turning his hands to creating works of art.
A self-taught artist, Mr. Chollette’s first piece of art, “Catboat by Moonlight,” was bought by a tourist through a consignment deal with Pure Art Gallery. Since then, his passion for the arts has exploded.
“I was looking through a book with catboats and found one sitting in a mangrove swamp with the moonlight shining over it … I got a piece of canvas and just started painting and it came out wonderful,” Mr. Chollette said. He was even more delighted when someone bought it.
Working out of his porch on Macaw Drive, off Will T Drive in Bodden Town, Mr. Chollette said painting and creating things is something he likes to do.
”It’s just an inspiration that comes from within,” he said.
A lot of his paintings on canvas are whimsical, while others highlight the culture of the Caymanian people, either enjoying the outdoors, playing dominoes, dancing or having a drink at an outside bar. There are also wood carvings of parrots or boats, and paintings on wood that feature Cayman local flora, fauna and animals.
From the time he was a child, Mr. Chollette considered himself an artist because he always wanted to create something. In school, he scribbled graffiti on walls but as he got older, he evolved and began expressing his creative ability on canvas during his spare time.
“Sometimes I got in trouble for the graffiti,” he admitted, as his mother Leticia interjected, “A couple of times well.”
“But I learned my lesson,” he said with a chuckled.
Mr. Chollette said he has great respect and admiration for Cayman artists but wonders why Caymanians rarely buy art. “It’s more or less the foreign people that have an appreciation and buy the art … maybe it’s not ingrained in our culture,” he said.
Although Mr. Chollette acknowledges he never bought a piece of artwork himself because he delights in creating his own, he does appreciate the works of other artists.
One such artist, he said, was the late Ralph Terry. Mr. Terry lived in Lower Valley. On any given day, one could observe Mr. Terry working on his carvings and paintings on his front porch.
Mr. Chollette said he was very fortunate recently to acquire two pieces of Mr. Terry’s art, which he was currently restoring. “I can just tell it’s his handiwork. Mr. Terry was an excellent artist who carved beautiful things out of wood.”
Mr. Chollette feels the market for art is not good in Cayman and he cannot make a living from it so he just does it as a hobby. He hopes this will change, but in the meantime, he said, if he sells a piece now and then, that is fine with him because he just enjoys what he does.
He also encourages anyone with a desire to paint to go ahead and do it, as they will enjoy it.
Mr. Chollette’s artwork can be found on sale at the Pure Art Gallery on South Church Street or from his home on Macaw Drive.