Three Miss Lassie paintings come home

Miss Lassie's 'Let There Be Light' painting, which was one of three paintings, gifted to the Cayman Islands by a couple who purchased them more than 20 years ago, is displayed by Culture and Heritage Minister, Bernie Bush, left, and Michael LeMay coordinator of a workshop sponsored by CNCF. - Photo: Submitted

A couple who bought artwork by visionary artist Gladwyn K. Bush, better known as Miss Lassie, more than two decades ago has gifted the paintings to the Cayman Islands.

The three paintings arrived from London earlier this month, after Lyle Lawson and Gordon Janes donated them to Cayman’s National Collection and had them flown here.

A crate containing the artwork was opened at the Harquail Theatre on Saturday, 21 Aug.

The American couple had always intended to return the paintings to the Cayman Islands, according to a government press release about the donation.

Minister Bernie Bush; Ministry of Culture and Heritage Chief Officer Teresa Echenique, Cayman National Cultural Foundation Board Chairman Martyn Bould and CNCF’s Artistic Director Henry Muttoo with Miss Lassie’s ‘The History of Cayman’.

Minister for Culture and Heritage Bernie Bush, CNCF’s artistic director Henry Muttoo and board chairman Martyn Bould opened the special consignment, in the company of the ministry’s chief officer Teresa Echenique.

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The paintings, named ‘Simeon and Jesus in the Synagogue’ (oil on glass), ‘The History of Cayman’, and ‘Let There Be Light’ (both oil on canvas) now form part of the National Collection and are stored in a temperature-controlled room. This brings to 140 the number of Miss Lassie’s artwork in the National Collection.

Bernie Bush, Teresa Echenique, Martyn Bould and Henry Muttoo with ‘Simeon and Jesus in the Synagogue’ by Miss Lassie.

Miss Lassie, who passed away on 24 Nov. 2003 at the age of 89, began painting when she was 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 on South Church Street, by the junction with Walkers Road.

Her work has made its way into private collections in the UK, the US, Jamaica, South Africa, Germany and the Cayman Islands, and in the collection of the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bernie Bush, in welcoming back the artwork donated by Lawson and Janes, said in the press release, “I want to take this opportunity to give thanks to all concerned for the safe arrival and return home of what can only be described as three magnificent pieces of local art.

“Such unique artwork, which the CNCF is holding in trust for the people of the Cayman Islands, is well worth sharing. The Ministry is therefore eager to support public awareness initiatives and exhibits, which will bring the work of our local artists to wider attention.”

The paintings arrived from London in a wooden crate, which was opened at the Harquail Theatre on 21 Aug.

Bould, who had introduced the American couple to Miss Lassie, said, “I’m absolutely delighted and heart warmed to see these paintings returned to Cayman. In some ways it completes Miss Lassie’s collection of which the Cultural Foundation is the custodian, and in addition, her house which is on the World Monument watch list.”

Speaking of the significance of the pictures, Muttoo said, “These paintings represent three key points in Miss Lassie’s life.”

He added, “‘Simeon and Jesus in the Synagogue’ is brilliant, perhaps her most ‘painterly’ work with a strongly religious theme, while also referencing her personal history. ‘Let There Be Light’ portrays Christ as the light of her life, while the third, ‘The History of the Cayman Islands’ gives a pictorial chronology from Columbus’ sighting of our islands right up to the time of when it was painted.”

Miss Lassie’s work has previously featured in the Carib Art Exhibition in Curacao, and both the Surinam and Guyana CARIFESTAs. The last major on-island retrospective of her paintings was at the Harquail Theatre in 2003.

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