Jamaica, Basil Watson on show for Independence at Miramar Cultural Center, Florida
Jamaica in the WorldMonday, July 12, 2021
Thanks to Jamaica's internationally famous sculpture Basil Watson, the island is on show from now until Independence at the Ansin Family Art Gallery in the Miramar Cultural Center Arts Park, Florida, Miami's Community News said.
Watson's has made the cultural centre the meeting place for some of Jamaica's best Olympians and historical figures from June 1 to August 15, 2021. They are not in the flesh but cast in bronze by the master sculptor, the news outlet said.
The exhibition, entitled Maquettes: the studies and drawings of Basil Watson, is free to the public and “acknowledges the nationally recognised month-long observance of Caribbean American heritage in the city of Miramar,” the cultural centre said.
The city of Miramar, a 2021 All- America City awardee, is home to many Jamaicans.
“As we celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month, the community has an opportunity to see his miniature-sized statues or maquettes which offer a very realistic depiction of some of the life-sized statues of Jamaica's greatest athletes,” said City Commissioner Alexandra P Davis.
The athletes include Jamaica's world-beating sprinters Usain Bolt, the three-time Olympic 100m Champion, and Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the two-time Olympic 100m Champion, as well as iconic figures like Louise Bennett-Coverley and America's Martin Luther King Jr and others.
“In this Olympic year, it is so fitting to have this exhibit of prolific athletes in our gallery,” she added, noting that she would be hosting “An Evening with Basil Watson”, featuring a moderated discussion with Watson and the exhibit curator, Christopher Norwood, at the Miramar Cultural Center's Banquet Hall on August 5, 2021.
“The reception on August 5th will be just in time to celebrate Jamaica's Independence as well as Trinidad and Tobago's Independence that same month. I invite the public to join me as we enjoy an evening at the Botanical Garden followed by a discussion with the artist himself in MCC's Banquet Hall,” stated Commissioner Davis.
Cultural Affairs Director Camasha Cevieux added: “The exhibition provides a chance showing of Jamaican-born Basil Watsons' heritage, influence and brilliance. Some key maquette highlights include the recently commissioned sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr at the request of the city of Atlanta, Muhammad Ali and John Lewis, to name a few; as a means of demonstrating impact and pride of the Caribbean people through art.”
Commenting on the exhibition, Watson said: “Figures have been my interest, inspiration and focus as I have continued to study and build a strong foundation in drawing. I found sculpture as I sought to explore a more plastic vehicle of communication.
“The energy, vigour and emotive quality of the human figure intrigues me, and this has sustained and anchored my work. Through the exploration of the language of the body, I have been able to capture exaggerated movement, subtle gesture, and the expression of emotions and attitudes to thus encapsulate and portray varying aspects of the human condition.”
For more than 40 years, Watson has been translating “life's most important attributes — positive emotions and attitudes, the spirit of freedom and spontaneity, strength, beauty, energy and vigour — into finely crafted works of art”, said Norwood. “It is my pleasure to curate this show and share a visionary tale of his artwork.”
Watson, a Kingstonian, follows in the artistic footstep of his father, the internationally renowned painter Barrington Watson, both also studied at the Jamaica School of Art. He then went on to establish a successful career as a top Jamaican sculptor.
Some of his most notable works are mounted on the three major Jamaican university campuses and two major stadia. He was recognised in 2016 by the Government of Jamaica with the Order of Distinction (Commander) in recognition of his contributions in the field of art.
Watson migrated to the US in 2002 and continued his climb to international stardom by completing major works in various states in the US, in China and Guatemala, according to Miami's Community News.
His plethora of works for various governments and organisations also include:
• Rings of Life, 2012 —unveiled by Prince Harry in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II
• Balance, 2006 — a 15ft sculpture commissioned in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of Montego Bay's Doctors Cave Beach
• Circle of Knowledge, 2001 — signature work for Mandeville's Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica
• Tribute to Jamaican National Heroes, a seven-bust series
Basil Watson was among four artists shortlisted to create a new monument at Waterloo Station in London honouring the Windrush generation of workers who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and the early 70s.
The winning design is due to be revealed during Black History Month in the UK in October 2021, while the monument is expected to be unveiled on Windrush Day, June 2022.
— Compiled by Kevin Wainwright and edited by Desmond Allen