Louis Taylor – January 2016
My encounter with Louis Taylor was one of those moments in life that just happened, unprepared and spontaneous.
During one of my many adventures in search of subjects, I was walking down the street in Seymours, Long Island, when my attention drifted towards a little blue cottage, typically Bahamian, and also, as often is in the out Islands, very run down.
This was a witness of the past and living proof of the many decades of rough out island life. Brutal sun, hurricane force winds, and salt air were the culprits that led to the condition of this lovely cottage. This was enough to trigger my interest in this place and so I ventured onto the property. Suddenly, Mr.Louis Taylor appeared. He was wearing a blue striped shirt and on his head a little white hat, which seemed to have been through the same rough weather as the cottage. My interest suddenly switched from that run down home to the man before me.
He was easy to talk to with a big generous smile. Humility and pride were pouring out of his eyes and face. While he was talking, I couldn’t help being distracted by his shirt that matched the blue horizontal stripes of the cottage siding. His strong hands told no lies about the hard working life that the out islands provide.
We spoke for a while and before we parted I took photos of him to help me remember that moment. I promised that I would be back to visit.
I never did anything with these photos, never painted his portrait because I wanted to go back to get to know him better as I truly believe that the better you know your subjects the better you paint them.
The following year I returned to Seymours. To my disappointment the cottage was boarded up. No one was in sight. I never saw Mr. Taylor again and even today I still wonder what became of him.
A few years passed and I lost hope of meeting him again, I remembered the photos I took and made the decision to immortalize him on paper. I wasn’t completely sure if my portrayal of who he seemed to me would do him justice but I knew I had to try to paint him as I remember him, a humble and proud man.
This exhibition is the second chapter of my four year journey with Ophelia that began four years ago with the ‘crabbing day’ and continues with this ‘day at the farm’.
“I‘ll take you to my farm. It is time to go because of the tide.”I wasn’t too sure what the tide had to do with her farm, but I got excited. I didn’t need more encouragement to go on one of Ophelia’s outings.
After a short drive, which is usually a long walk for Ophelia, we got to the very end of Long Island’s only road. In front of me was a beautiful bay enclosed by a few hills. The friendly mangroves at the bottom help Ophelia hide her 8-foot vessel at night.
We start to go across the bay, in shallow waters, pushing off the seabed on her long oar. I cannot stop thinking that she looks like a pirate. Her red scarf and red blouse, which sometimes appear to be pink under the effects of the light, create an amazing contrast of colours amoung the green mangroves. When I propose my help, with the hard work, she declines laughing, probably thinking it would be too much risk to have me taking any part of it, and that we would never reach. “You sit here!”
After fifteen minutes we arrive in front of a beautiful beach dressed with a few more hills. The white limestone cliffs guard the entrance of the bay to the ocean, where she used to go out to set her fish pots. At that moment I feel like Christopher Columbus discovering a beautiful unknown territory. That pride went away very quickly when I nearly went headfirst stepping out of the ‘Santa Maria’.
“This is my farm”. I look around and cannot stop thinking this is not the type of farm that I know… She proceeds to walk me through, very proud to show me all the goodies growing randomly.
A vast number of corn found home on the hills. The sweet potatoes field settles at the bottom. It stretches all the way to the beach where a ‘disorganized fence’ of pigeon peas seems to protect it from the wind. Coconut palms, papaya trees, little hot pepper bushes stand arbitrarily all over the place; all planted by four hands. Her dear husband, Urban, when alive was a big part of the farm. I am sure that his soul is here helping her.
After a few hours of cleaning, working and picking up some all natural ‘organic’ produce for dinner, the changing tide says we have to leave. Ophelia battles one more time with her rock anchor, before to sailing back to ‘Europe’.
Having had the privilege to witness what used to be a part of Bahamian life, for past generations, I wanted to immortalize it, leaving some kind of trace behind on paper.
This show is the story of that day depicting those little moments, emotions and thoughts.
OPHELIA lets go crabbing!!
That is the beginning of a great journey in the Long island bush.
A wild world unknown to me. A world into which Ophelia is about to take me.
This is her world. The comfortable way she moves through the bush, tells me she is at home. She has done this for a long time.
Throughout the walk, the search, the catch, she is in harmony with the environment, while a feeling of ineptness invades me.
With her crab basket over her shoulder, she cuts our way through the oppressive bush, her inseparable machete in hand,. We start our search for the pretty black crabs that hide under big rocks. The red, orange, yellow and purple of their backs, claws and legs make a splash of bright colour among the earthy, grey, deep green of Long Island bush.
Bending, as though folding in two, she lifts a large heavy rock, revealing hidden crabs, releasing them from their sanctuary, catching them and immobilizing the larger claw with a piece of wood or her cutlass.
While watching her I think I should be doing this work but she is happy and proud to show me and to teach me.
As I watch her I try to melt into the background while imprinting the images, thoughts and emotions in my mind.
As a painter I like to capture her daily routines. I also want to show, through my art, the parts of Bahamian life and traditions that are slowly disappearing with the generations and sadly may be gone one day.
If my work could be a modest contribution to the Bahamian heritage then I will have achieved something…