Preserving Miss Lassie’s home

Maintenance is being carried out on Miss Lassie's wattle-and-daub home, located on South Sound Road.

‘Mind’s Eye’, the historic home of Caymanian visionary artist Gladwyn ‘Miss Lassie’ Bush, is undergoing some maintenance, according to the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.

The wooden windows and doors of the main house have been temporarily removed for re-colouring and are expected to be back in place later this month, where they will once again showcase the brilliance of the artist’s work, or ‘markings’, as she called them.

Miss Lassie’s house is an authentic turn-of-the-century Caymanian wattle-and-daub structure, located at the intersection of Walkers Road and South Sound Road. It was built by her father and grandfather, who started to work on it in 1878.

During the artist’s lifetime, because of the seaside location of the property and the vagaries of weather, her ‘markings’ on the wooden windows would fade after a time and she would often touch them up or repaint them as inspiration stirred her.

When the cultural foundation took possession of the property a few years after her death, the original windows were stored away for conservation and safekeeping. However, it commissioned local artist Sue Howe to reproduce Miss Lassie’s creations on the windows and doors in 2013.

Howe has once again been commissioned and is in the process of re-colouring those reproductions so that they retain their uniquely striking appearance.  The openings have been shuttered in the meantime for protection in the event of a storm.

Some of the ‘markings’ to be found in the house.

“As Miss Lassie said many years before her passing, ‘The weather plays havoc with my markings’,” explained Henry Muttoo, the foundation’s artistic director. “When she was alive, she was able – when the necessity arose or her vision changed – to repaint or alter the images on her windows. This added new lustre and longer life to her paintings and also helped preserve the wood.

“Now that Miss Lassie is no longer with us in the flesh, the images she left must be preserved as faithfully as possible. That is why CNCF has engaged Sue to copy Miss Lassie’s original window and door images onto the newly built ones, before the weather takes further toll and flaking begins.

“Sue did a terrific job on the replacement windows when the house was first conserved and opened to the public and, because she is so familiar with the construction of the images, she has been invited to repaint the images a second time,” Muttoo said.

“It is a great honour to once again be working on Miss Lassie’s historical house,” said Howe. “I’m very excited to able to revisit the original pieces with new eyes and stay as close to her work style and subtle colour variation as possible, and to capture still more depth of colour and detail of the shaping of her markings. I want to bring these replicas a further richness and detail, and just really celebrate how much complexity even the most seemingly simplest of designs holds.

“It’s amazing the number of new things that appeared to me this time around. I do love how familiar the pieces feel to me, like visiting a friend you haven’t seen for a long time. It is a wonderful and magical location to be in, and I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to work where she lived. That really adds something for me.”

The cultural foundation offers guided tours of ‘Mind’s Eye – The Visionary World of Miss Lassie’ for the general public and for students by appointment only. Although suspended due to COVID-19, tours are expected to resume soon.

About Miss Lassie

A fourth-generation Caymanian, Gladwyn ‘Miss Lassie’ Bush began painting at the age of 62, after what she described as a ‘visionary experience’. Strong Christian themes run through her work, which she painted not only on canvas, but also on the walls, windows and furnishings of her home.

She was awarded a national honour, Member of the British Empire (MBE), in 1997 and received the award during the Queen’s Birthday celebrations in Grand Cayman on 15 June 1998. She was also a recipient of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s Heritage Award. Her work is documented in the 156-page art book, ‘My Markings – the Art of Gladwyn K. Bush’, published by the foundation.

Her work is in private collections in England, the US, Jamaica, South Africa, Germany and the Cayman Islands, and in the collection of the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Miss Lassie passed away on 24 Nov. 2003 at the age of 89.

For more information about Mind’s Eye, visit here, email [email protected] or call 949-5477.

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