Florida-based artist Weldon Ryan has painted many pieces of art depicting carnival-partying people for almost three decades. Frequenting carnival events in Miami and Brooklyn, Ryan captures images from these colorful events, and paints them on canvasses. He recently showcased these artworks, some for the first time, and he is ready to paint even more.
His paintings were recently on display for “Art of Carnival” exhibit at Clover’s Fine Art Gallery from Aug. 26 – Sept. 2, sharing artwork he painted as far back as 2002.
“I think carnival is a special celebration that we as Caribbean people do,” said Ryan. “It’s our custom — it demonstrates exactly how we can make joy out of pain. I like the carnival theme, and one of the reasons is because the freedom that you see — you have a little joy, a little sin, and a little sex.”
Many of the people in Ryan’s paintings range in all ages and genders in an almost realistic style, from masqueraders dressed in costume, to happy onlookers. Specializing in abstract and realistic art, Ryan says the realistic art expresses thoughts that jump out to people in a more relatable way.
“I work from photographs because my whole art is about realism,” said Ryan. “I try to get things real. It’s festive and it’s very creative, I take from life, I imitate life and take from art. I paint people. I bring that out in my paintings. I like painting my people. I take from art that we are a viable and energetic beautiful people.”
Painting realism gives a realistic image and texture to the canvasses, capturing more attention and allowing people to look at it more. Ryan also says that when he strays from the original backgrounds of the photo inspirations, they allow people to make use of their imaginations.
“It just flows, but one of the reasons I do solid color backgrounds is because I want the viewer to make up in their own minds, what’s in the background,” said Ryan. “You can place the subjects in whatever setting you want. When I leave the background info blank, it’s a psychological game that I play with the viewers to make them participate in the artwork itself.”
Finding his talent with realistic art, the now retired NYPD officer almost found himself in a different art field. Immigrating to the Bronx at six years old from Trinidad and Tobago, Ryan’s mother saw his talent and encouraged him to pursue art. He attended the High School of Art and Design, and went to the Fashion Institute of Technology where as a young man, he hoped to focus on illustrating art for literature.
“Going to High School of Design was great because it was my window to art and the whole experience was fantastic,” said Ryan. “That experience catapulted me to what I wanted to do, which was book jackets for science fiction and romance novels. That was really what I wanted to do — be painter in that kind of way as illustrator.
With the West Indian day parade over until next year, Ryan has a new batch of images including photos from Boston’s carnival, and expected photos from carnival in Miami next month. He hopes to continue showcasing the vivacious joy of carnival that he loves.
“The dancing, the costumes, the colors — just the vibrancy and the bacchanalia of it all,” said Ryan. “It’s very tantalizing in so many different ways and that’s why I enjoy the carnival theme.”