Acrylics, Watercolours and Activism — Patrick Waldemar unveils Kingston New Orleans

Sunday Social

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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It's impossible to look at a Patrick Waldemar painting without having something stir within you. This stirring leaves you speechless and the only word that you can manage to utter is “wow”. Rare is it to witness a room filled with luminaries, established art collectors and communication professionals collectively thunderstruck. Such is the power of Waldemar's work.

Waldemar divides his time equally between New Orleans and Kingston and is currently on the island showing his most-recent collection Kingston New Orleans at the Toyota Gallery at 93 Old Hope Road. The exhibition, which opened on Thursday, and runs until Friday, June 16, is a captivating array of oil, acrylic, watercolour and digital images that, amongst other things, explores religion, slavery, politics, skin bleaching, activism and gender expression.

“Toyota Jamaica is a proud supporter of Jamaican art and Jamaican artists,” said Mick McGrane, branch manager, Toyota Jamaica Ltd. He noted that this collaboration between Toyota and Waldemar was in the works for approximately six months. The result is our gain.

Speaking with the Sunday Observer, Waldemar mentioned, “when I first moved back to Jamaica in 1967 we were going through a political upheaval. The same social unrest that I experienced in Jamaica then, America is experiencing now but on a different level.” The witnessing of this racial tension and disruption in civility influenced a number of rousing political pieces.

Standout pieces like The Gollywogs replace the faces of notable and infamous Americans like George Washington, Marilyn Monroe and President Trump with that of Golliwog — the racially charged minstrel that appeared in American children's books in the late 19th century. Waldemar even explores the connection voudou, obeah, Santeria and Catholicism share in his “Kindred Spirits, Kingston or New Orleans” series. If art is supposed to challenge the establishment, then Waldemar is definitely flipping it 'the bird'.

If all things were truly equal, Waldemar's political work would achieve the same acclaim that Norman Rockwell's 1964 piece The Problem We All Live With (a depiction of Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South, being escorted by Deputy US Marshalls) has.

With deft hand strokes and an innate understanding of colour composition, Waldemar's landscapes and floral paintings allow one to travel to the artist's literal world. Speaking about life in Jamaica the artist said, “you can't help getting seduced by the beauty of the place. After living in Irish Town and waking up to such beauty each morning I realised that this is why the old masters did landscapes.”

At the opening, the artist announced that 10% of all purchases made that evening would go to the Wortley Home for Girls and the Maxfield Park Children's Home. Dr Renée Rattray, Maxfield Park Children's Home board member, was grateful for the donation and reminded the attendees of the daily struggle of operating a children's home. Just last week a set of triplets was dropped off by the police at the home. And, after the fire at Wortley Home, Maxfield Park, despite having limited resources, stepped up and housed a number of Wortley's residents.

At one point during the event, the artist commented, “all children draw and then a lot of them give it up. I guess I am still a child because I refuse to give it up.” Waldemar, living his life with such childlike wonder, has allowed this particular oeuvre to do double duty as a cultural battle cry and a balm for these uncertain times.

 

The show is opened to the public Monday to Friday between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm @ The Toyota Gallery, 93 Old Hope Road

 

See further highlights of the opening on Pages 8 & 9 of the Style Observer.

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