Art article for a magazine, Signature, which I'm creating
|I was seated in Edison Arts Gallery on the second floor of the Best of Books Bookstore. The sounds of St. John's poured into the space through the open shutters. The walls wore paintings of varying sizes. The subject matter in the paintings varied from women in conversation to men beating the drums, to butterflies, to cockleshells. Despite the width between subjects Edison Liburd's pronounced style comes through each. He uses vibrant colours, invoking movement with strokes of his brushes.
Liburd is not confined to the brilliant colours to which so many of his clients are accustomed. He also paints in black and white, and on different mediums such as clothing, paper, and wood. He produces work for his gallery, for commission, and also for charity. In the summer of 2014 Edison Liburd hosted an art camp in which he taught and nurtured young artists. At the end of the camp, the pieces which had been created by Liburd and his student were turned over to the Children's Ward at the Mount St. John's Medical Centre.
Liburd sat in a cozy corner of the gallery mixing paints as he prepared to create new pieces for the walls. As he delves into the process which he describes as therapeutic we speak about his love affair with art which began when he was eight. As we speak Liburd is at ease, laughing and painting all the while without missing a beat in either direction, while adding the steps of greeting acquaintances as they pop in every now and then.
It is early in the morning and there are no processions of clients just yet. Today's subjects are chickens. Liburd lines up a number of white sheets of paper on the desk before him. They all appear equal in size. The pieces for today will not be extravagant, or large. Each paper is about 4 by 7 inches, and they all sit together, all most touching. They wait in expectancy for the yellow paint he's just mixed.
With a flick of the wrist', he's off. Edison Liburd isn't simply painting one bird at a time, instead he is painting eight or so. He is his own production line. He swishes and flicks the crown onto the first sheet, then the second, and the third, and so on. He moves on to the next colour, onto the next aspect of the bird's body. He mixes it, and again swishes and flicks it onto the page once, twice, thrice, and onwards. He does this for each part of the bird, for each page. He does not miss a beat. He finishes the chickens, and sets them aside to dry.
"Hm, what else do I want to paint today?" he turned to me with a smile. He set his table with clean sheets of paper and the production line began again.
As with most Antiguan artists, Liburd has dabbled in other areas of the work world. He has taught in both primary, and secondary schools, both art, and religious studies. But his love has always been art, this was encouraged by his mother who he describes as a very creative person. When asked about persons who positively influenced his walk on the art side of life, he told of Diane Elis an American Peace Corps, who taught art at his school in the 1980s. She would take them on hallowed field trips, bringing along her sketch pad as well. He reminisced, "she brought a dynamism to teaching art. There was never a dull moment."
Liburd also listed the paintings of Ernest Eugene Barnes, Jr., as a motivating factor. Liburd added that he would like to be compared to Barnes - for his style, to Pablo Picasso - for his prolific ability, and to Michaelangelo - for his precision.
Edison Liburd now has a second location, on the corner of Long, Cross, and High Streets on the third floor, where he continues to produce content. Liburd also uses this space for tutoring and has expanded his production line. The St. Mary's Street gallery remains as a showcase location. This has been Liburd's dream for some time, and he continues to strive towards his dream of adding an art school to the mix where he can pass on his passion, and knowledge to others. He explained, "it would impact nation building". But that's not all. Edison dreams of expanding his production line to something worthy of the league of a major manufacturing companies, in which art students can learn and produce art simultaneously.
These dreams seem large, but based on the advice that Edison has received, "Do what you do best, and your economy will change", and the advice he gives, "Don't live to prove, live to improve", it is easy to understand that this artist will continue to live up to his dreams.