On a steamy Sunday afternoon during Dominica’s dry season, Jenny and I headed to the mountains for a little
change of scenery. But this time, we did not don our hiking boots. Instead, we walked down a shady lane on the edge of the rainforest to spend some time appreciating the eclectic art works in the gallery of renowned sculptor, Roger Burnett.
While I had visited Roger’s gallery several years ago, I was eager to refresh my memory about his past works and see what he had created in the mean time. Jenny, a volunteer with Dominica’s Mountain Chicken Frog Project is an art aficionada as well, and it was actually she who expressed initial interest in viewing the Sculpture Studio. When Roger recently distributed a flyer announcing his exhibition of “50 years of capturing Caribbean people and places” in over 150 paintings, sketches and sculptures, I immediately decided that I couldn’t wait a moment longer to pay him a visit!
I had called ahead and booked our appointment, so that when we promptly arrived at 2 p.m., Roger was there to greet us at the door. We didn’t even have to ring the bell! The first thing that struck me as he took us through the breeze-way on the way to the gallery, was his effervescent and passionate enthusiasm about art and creating it from real life. His zest for his work infected us with an immediate admiration for this profound devotion to his craft. We were instantly transfixed with Roger’s spellbinding stories about how his creations came into being. I kept telling him that I wished I had brought my voice recorder – to which he replied that probably would have reduced his spontaneity!
However, I did tell him I would be writing a blog post about my visit with him and his studio. That is when he clearly informed me that he had difficulty with the word ‘blog’, and instead referred to such personal writings as a ‘diary’. I certainly respect his opinion, and I guess I could use the two words interchangeably, in my case. But if you’d like to take a look at Roger’s personal writings, which disclose considerable background about his fascinating life, as well as details about his art, you must click right here.
The lively septuagenarian told us that he was, at that time, more occupied with the mechanical side of his artistic capabilities.When it came to be known in Dominica that he could repair different kinds of machines, he was highly sought after for that additional talent. He comes by that aptitude honestly, as he began his career in engineering design, which then naturally morphed into artistic design.
Roger and his wife Denise, who is originally from Grenada, relocated to Dominica from England about 10 years ago. The British expatriate had spent
considerable time in the Caribbean over a span of 50 years, and had always been captivated by the beauty of the West Indies and its people. Therefore, he commenced expressing his love for these tropical countries at a young age through his creative abilities. Unsurprisingly, his closest companion, Denise has often been the subject of his sculptures and paintings. As well, he has sculpted from other life models, both in Dominica and the U.K. For Roger, it’s got to be the real thing. No imitations, such as photos, for his creations!
As I studied the busts and bodies of those who had ‘modeled’ for him, I gained further insight into the beauty of the human form. It made we realize that we
should celebrate our uniqueness and differences, as I believe that the Almighty Creator would want us to do so.
I was further astonished when Roger showed us a sketch that he had created in five minutes for a group of students. When he was asked how he could possibly do that in such a short time, he replied that it had taken him 50 years to be able to do that now!
His water-colours have a dreamy island feel, and I was drawn to them as they evoked feelings of tranquility in me. I could easily identify with the tropical hues in blues and greens, which made me think of the relaxed Caribbean way-of-life.
At the end of our two-hour session, my mind was filled with sensory delights, both visual and auditory, from seeing and hearing about Roger’s interpretation and adoration of all forms of natural beauty in the West Indies.
But I would be remiss if I did not mention that Roger is very desirous of sharing and teaching his knowledge to others who have an aptitude in this artistic genre. While the students have been slow to emerge, he is encouraged and delighted to be able to inspire or motivate even one potential artist. In the mean time, he continues with his mechanical projects while he formulates his next artistic plan.
I feel particularly proud to report that the morning after our visit, I received this response to my thank-you email, from Roger:
“Likewise, my thanks to you and Jenny. I really enjoyed having you along. And you know what, I think you brought me some good luck, for this morning I started work with an inspirational new model. I’ll keep you in touch with progress.”
Roger, there is no doubt that you definitely work from life, for life! I look forward to viewing your next creation.
To get in touch with Sculptor Roger Burnett at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio and Art Gallery in Dominica, call or email, as follows:
Telephone: (767) 449-2550; Text: (767) 225-5470/615-5010; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org