Weldon Ryan, recipient of The Salmagundi, Dale Meyers Cooper Medallion Award, is set to display his colorful pieces for the first time in a major exhibition in New York City, from May 26 – Aug. 8, titled: “Urban Portraits,” at the Stone Sparrow Gallery, 45 Greenwich Ave.
The Trinidad and Tobago-born painter who has been an artist all his life, told Caribbean Life that this collection was inspired by the West Indian American carnivals from Miami to Brooklyn and the people in and around the parades.
‘Guyanese woman with her flag’ painting will pay tribute to the Republic’s 55th Independence Anniversary on May 26.
Many of the nine paintings were created during the Coronavirus pandemic, like his signature pieces, as well as the 846 (George Floyd and the amount of time the cop’s knee pre trial and 929 post trial signifying the year painted).
“During the lockdown I discovered images I didn’t quite see before. Some of these images I pulled out to work on later. But I did work intensely, and planned a course of action to really work on showing in larger venues to get museum attention as a Caribbean artist,” said Ryan who feels that Caribbean artists are not recognized as they should be.
“Peter Minshall inspires me with his creativity and outstanding costumed pageantry. Basil Watson does the most fluid sculptural interpretation of the human form,” he said of fellow Trinidadians, adding that his work incorporates all aspects of art. “It is graphically composed and painted in oil. It is in the genre of figurative contemporary realism.”
A graduate of the H.S. of Art and Design, the State University at New Paltz, and the Fashion Institute of Technology with an AA in General Illustration, Ryan is well known for his solo exhibitions in Brooklyn galleries, annually with the traveling “Art of carnival exhibit,” inspired by the West Indian American Day Carnival.
“My passion is to paint realism telling a story through my paintbrush. I love the human form and the way it works. I love costumes and the pageantry of carnival. My favorite children’s book illustrators are Leo and Diane Dillon because of their depiction of culture of Africa and around the world. They paint festive and that’s what I want from my paintings of carnival.”
An extraordinarily talented artist, Ryan worked at Quato Book Publishing, a part-time comp artist for advertising agencies and the NYC Urban Park Ranger, before working for the NYPD as a police officer in the Forensic Artist Unit until retirement in 2004, and continued painting when he moved to Florida.
“I moved my family to Palm Coast, Fl. in 2005 where my wife, Richlin, also an artist, and I continued painting. As an artist I must share my talent. Telling stories through the media of paint, I must tell stories as a visual griot, just as calypsonians tell their stories, and like storytellers from long ago in Africa. I find that this is my role in society,” said Ryan.
“Attending high school of Art and Design in Manhattan cemented my direction in art. Everyone is born with inherent abilities that are developed over the course of our lifetime. I discovered my ability very young and was helped by people who saw it and help me recognize it and pushed me in directions. Once I was on my way I excelled,” he recalled.
He said his Trini culture was ingrained in him. “The Calypso and Soca music ran through my head, and the early memories of JabJabs coming down his street. Steelpan and carnival filled me with pride,” said the artist of his vivid memories.
“Unfortunately or fortunately I grew up in the Bronx and not around many West Indians. We didn’t go to Eastern Parkway for carnival but twice, and so I missed out. Being a cop and working during the carnival inspired me to share through my paintings carnival and West Indian culture.”
He is also a photographer who shares the works of his son, Xavier, daughters Riva Savannah and wife Richlin on their blog “Art of Carnival.”
His amazing works will be on sale at the exhibition. Prices range from $600 – $11000.