Women artists display high quality work at National Library By Ruel Johnson
Guyana Chronicle
November 9, 2003

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THE Guyana Women's Artists Association is currently hosting its 15th annual Exhibition at the National Library main branch.

According to Maggi Dookun, secretary of the Association, since the exhibition premiered in 1988, there has always been an encouraging public interest in the pieces on display. The veteran artist said that the association's exhibition this year has felt the loss of three great women artists: Stephanie Correia, Marjorie Broodhagen and Maylene Duncan.

Norma Woolford, who is exhibiting at the annual event for only the fourth time says that she sees the Exhibition as a place where "people get to know you." Woolford says that sales of artwork, even functional pieces like her pottery, have slipped in recent years, with most major retailers ceasing to purchase work, citing a lack of public interest.

Another potter, Ms. Irene Gonsalves, said that the durability of the annual exhibition owed a debt to both the high quality of the exhibits and to the fact that every year, the exhibition introduces a new batch of young talent to the public. Ms. Gonsalves specialises in wheel-thrown pottery, ranging from ceramic penholders to vases to wine sets.

Among the younger talent on display was Alison Gaskin. Gaskin, manager of Sala Craft boutique (Hibiscus Plaza), featured in her display several wall hangings as well as her own particular line of 'fusion' fashion. A self-taught artist and designer, Gaskin's wall hangings feature an eclectic imagery, whether loaded with petroglyphs inspired by her conversations with the late Viola Burnham, or populated by sea-turtles in homage to conservation efforts at Almond Beach.

Storyboards help trace the development of some of Gaskin's fashion pieces, which include the evolution of the traditional Japanese kimono over the centuries into Gaskin's own sista-geisha girl tie-dyed piece; and her fusion of African and Indian themes into what she labels cross-cultural costumes.

Previously residing in the US, Gaskin speaks of a cultural awakening on coming to Guyana.

So does guest artist at the exhibition, Marilyn Brophy. A British citizen, Brophy is currently attached to the Cyril Potter College of Education where she lectures on the subject of special education needs in children.

Although her career has primarily been in education, Brophy says that she has always painted, selling and displaying pieces that she did in her spare time. The artist said that since she arrived in Guyana her painting has taken on a whole new life of its own. She said that painting in England and Europe had sent her work into a sort of grove.

Guyana, she says, has helped her open herself to greater options when she sits down in front of a canvas, something she attributes partially to the quality of light here. Whereas back in England she painted by looking at the landscape and then applying her paint directly to the canvas afterwards, Guyana, she claims has afforded her the ability to internalise a scene and paint it from memory.

The local flora has also helped inspire her. She speaks of having to wait four or five years for water-lilies to grow and mature back in England, while we have them growing wild everywhere.

"I'm not sure, I want to live in England again," she said.

The exhibition features several other artists, with items on display (and for sale) ranging from costume jewelry to pottery to macramé tissue box holders. The exhibition goes on until November 12th.