April 27, 2002 – Watercolors and other paintings with spiritual Caribbean themes by British artist Mandy A. Thody are showcased in the new exhibition opening on Friday at Bajo el Sol Gallery in Mongoose Junction.
Thody grew up in England and South Africa then married a cruising sailor and sailed to the Virgin Islands and the U.S. East Coast, then back to the islands and back to England. A decade later — two year ago — she returned to the Caribbean and its artistic inspirations.
She will be exhibiting works from her two current series, "Spirits of the Rainforest" and "Mermaids." These she describes as "an attempt to portray the vanished Arawak and Carib influences on the landscape, reflecting their belief — which parallels the folk beliefs of Europe — that each tree, pool, mountain or creature would have its own embodying spirit — faerie, sprite, naiad."
Her imagery includes some subject matter "damaged by time, historical factors, deforestation and pollution, and so they look a little sad, and they are aged," Thody says. "But others are still young and perhaps a bit mischievous — or mysterious, depending on your view."
She adds, "More so than in northern forests or woodlands, in the tropics there always seem to be shadowy figures and faces glimpsed from the corner of the eye. Perhaps they are really there, and we are the figments of their imagination?"
Thody was born in Bedfordshire, England, into a creatively nurturing family — her father an architect, painter and builder and her mother a fabric artist working in clothing design and interior decor.
After spending her first decade in England, she spent her second in South Africa. There, she says, she was strongly influenced in terms of subject matter and use of earth tones in her paintings. "As a teen-ager I learned batik, weaving and dressmaking," she says. She worked her way through university studies "by designing clothes, shop windows, etc., and by teaching sewing, handcrafts and adult literacy in the notorious Crossroads township/squatters camp near Capetown."
En route back to England in 1985, she unexpectedly became a cruising sailor after meeting the man she would marry. Four years later she reached England, after detouring over to the Virgin Islands, up to the East Coast of the States, back to the islands and finally back across the Atlantic. Back in Britain she began to produce hand-painted silk clothing, scarves and soft furnishings that reflected her experiences at sea — turquoise and blue backgrounds with imagery of marine and bird life and the occasional mermaid.
She took up watercolor four years ago in England. She says her paintings have increased in brightness since her return to the Caribbean two years ago and are typically of West Indian people and local flora and fauna. She has been living and working mainly in the southern Caribbean and has exhibited her work in Grenada, Carriacou, Bequia and Antigua.
Bajo el Sol will host a meet-the-artist reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday to open the show. The public is invited to enjoy the art, the artist and complimentary wine and cheese.
Thody's works will hang through the end of May. Regular Bajo el Sol hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Sunday.
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