Last week, at the Women in Art exhibit I saw Winsom’s painting Birthing of the Olmecs. There were several nice pieces in the exhibit, tropical colours, mostly figurative and a couple abstract. Winsom’s painting stood out, because it differed from the rest in form, colour and theme.
She said that the inspiration for the piece was a dream. Winsom said that she had actually been dreaming the piece for a long time but was unable to complete it and didn’t know why.
“There are nine pyramids and nine snakes in the painting.” elaborated Winsom. “The dreams lead me to find out who were the Olmecs; that they were Africans in Mexico. The Olmecs wished to be honoured and ancestralized.”
In describing the piece further, Winsom said that the dream, which was the inspiration for Birthing of the Olmecs, was coming from this world and being able to see the light across. In the dream she could see a baby, because of the light, but was unable to get near to the child and the light, because it was dark. Still the light illuminated a way towards the child via pyramids and paths. When she was finally able to get to the baby, she discovered that the child was floating; disconnected. With this piece she was able to put the ‘umbilical cord’ or the continuation of life. Winsom says that when NICH approached her for Women in Art, she instantly thought of the piece and was able to finish it. She believes that the piece was significant to the show, which was in honour of the Maya goddess Ixchel, because the piece features the birth of the Olmec.
I asked Winsom to share what inspires her to produce and what message she conveys with her art.
“99% of the work is dreamt. I start sometimes not knowing the meaning behind it until I continue working at it or until it is finished.” she explained, then added “Sometimes the message is for others and not me. Jumping the Great Boa was all dreamt. Sometimes the work offers healing for people, sometimes for me.”
Winsom has been doing art professionally for fifty years. She is a member of the board of directors of Winsom Foundation, founded in 2007, which works with the communities in the surrounding areas of Santa Elena and San Ignacio. The Foundation has many ongoing projects, for example The Cristo Rey Art program, Writing project, Litter project, summer programs and scholarships. Along with these programs, the Winsom Foundation has two major annual events; the Festival of the Light and Paint Up a Storm.
I asked Winsom to give me a little insight into Paint Up a Storm. She explained “The idea surged from a discussion between me and Gilvano Swasey. We thought of just doing something for the sake of art instead of making money, just for the joy of doing art. The idea is to gather a bunch of artists from all over, make art and after, show a film connected with the art.”
Winsom said that artists came from all over Belize; they arrive by 9 and have to all register by 10:00 am. The event is open to all artists, practising and non-practising. Last year, a five hour piece of music with highs and lows was played. There was no preparation done before the event. Each artist was blindfolded and had an assistant. Artists were given six feet by six feet canvas to work on. Also sixty children painted on easels just for the sake of painting. After the film The Agony and the Ecstasy, which is about the painting of the Sistine Chapel, was shown.
Usually the Winsom Foundation is charged with purchasing all the paint and materials for the event; last year they received a donation of some material from Habet & Habet. Winsom says that this year, Builder’s Hardware in Belmopan is sponsoring the event.
This year artists are encouraged to go to the event in groups of three and will be given no instructions until they arrive. The scheduled film is Wasteland which is a film by a Brazilian artist and features the world’s largest dumpsite. The artist revolutionized people’s view on waste. It will be interesting to hear the artists from Paint Up a Storm’s take on the film. It is fitting that the Foundation chose this film, as one of their events; Festival of the Light has artists recycling garbage, boxes and other products. In effect giving a new life to waste products, and making art out of readily available material.
When Winsom was asked what she thought about the current art movement and communities in Belize she responded boldly.
“I think that art has been narrowed down to a very narrow thing. No investment has been made into visual art, as has been done with film, music and performing arts. I think that a disservice has been done to visual artists as they are only portrayed as painters and sculptors, ignoring the other genres. We have opted for the ‘pretty little paintings’ which are technically good but lacking emotion and artistic value. Art should leave you with an emotion.”
Winsom said that she would like to see that visual artists have someone in the ‘higher-up’ places to take a special interest in artists. That this would allow for the setting up of workshops to equip and train artists to draft proper curriculum vitae and document their work. She also suggested that visual artists organize collectives, that artists’ works which are outside Belize are monitored and that an association be set up of artists and lawyers who special in copyright law.
Winsom added “most visual artists don’t make money until they’re dead, so someone should be protecting their copyrights. My concern is visual artists, because the musicians definitely get more exposure.”
Winsom is surely a breath of fresh air and a shock to the senses. Her energy reminds us that we need to be alert and fight for our passions. She is currently setting up for her exhibit in the Image Factory Art Foundation on May 4, 2012. The exhibit will feature a segment of Jumping the Great Boa before this is sent to Canada to be presented in full as a travelling exhibit. She says that the exhibit is all about confronting death and leaving this world to go to the other. “It is about facing death before it happens” she smirked.
Paint Up a Storm will be held on March 17, 2012 in San Ignacio Town in Columbus Park across from the Police Station in the Cayo district. For more information, on this or any other project that the Winsom Foundation hosts, please visit their website: http://www.winsomfoundation.com.