Jamaica, Jamaica! Comes to New England

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Although this has been a mild New England winter, some still want to
fantasize about being in a warmer climate. Art lovers can get a brush
of the tropics with the “Jamaica, Jamaica” exhibit now showing at
L'Essence Art Gallery in Boston through February 26. The
featured artists, Lucilda Dassardo-Cooper and Ekua Holmes of Boston and
Dipanwita Donde of New Delhi, India, were inspired to do the show after
a painting expedition the trio made to Jamaica in 2004. They visited
Dassardo-Cooper's family home in Portmore, a suburb of Kingston, and
also Treasure Beach, a quiet, artsy resort and fishing village on
Jamaica's South Coast.

“Lucilda and I met in India a few years ago,” said Dipanwita Donde at
the opening reception for the exhibit. “She told me that I should come
to her studio in Jamaica many times. Finally I gave in a couple of
years ago.”

Donde was born in Calcutta and graduated from the College of Art in
Delhi. She is primarily a watercolorist who has begun to dabble in
oils. The government of India has purchased four of her watercolor
paintings and placed the images on postage stamps. Donde has also
participated in exhibitions in Europe. She currently lives with her
son in a suburb of New Delhi.

The paintings and collages depict the people of Jamaica leading their
lives, not necessarily in the postcard settings that are often all
tourists see of the island. Dassardo-Cooper takes the point of view of
a Jamaican living in America who makes regular trips back to the
island, while Donde uses the perspective of a first time visitor.
Holmes is an African-American who was seeing the island country for the
second time.

“The Jamaican people inspired me,” said Holmes. “It inspired me how
they related to nature. Painting is like meditation to me.”

Holmes, a Boston native and Mass Art graduate, has participated in
Boston's artistic scene for three decades. As an independent curator
and owner of Renaissance Art & Design Gallery, she has worked to
increase exposure for women artists of color throughout the
commonwealth. Recently she has concentrated on her own work, mainly
collages, but also paintings. She maintains a studio in the Piano
Factory and is currently splitting her time between Boston and
Baltimore, where she is pursuing a masters of fine art at the Maryland
Institute of Art.

“Since I was a little girl I was drawing stick people with crayons,”
Holmes said. “It’s funny today there are people in Soho who are
getting paid big bucks for doing that same kind of work with crayons!”

“I also started painting at a young age,” said Dassardo-Cooper. “I
came to Boston in 1971 and went to art school.”

Dassardo-Cooper has over 30 years of oil painting experience. In 1997,
she represented the United States in India's Triennale, an
international exhibit that has in the past featured the works of
American artists Sam Gillian and Louise Nevelson. She lives in
Dorchester and maintains studios in suburban Rockland.

The exhibit draws its name from an exclamation in a popular reggae
tune, "Welcome to Jamrock," by Damian Marley, son of the late Bob
Marley. One of the oil paintings in the exhibit is "Chant Down
Babylon," by Dassardo-Cooper.

“The image is drawn from one of [Bob] Marley’s last concerts,” she said. “The
concert was from the concert at Harvard stadium in 1978. I wanted to
capture the image because he was such a great performer and a great
symbol of Jamaica. I wanted people to see what I saw in him.”


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