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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

An interview with artist, Claudette Dean
By Susan Moir Mackay
May 3, 2008 - 5:26:08 PM

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I have known the Grand Bahama artist, Claudette Dean for a few years now, and I am always struck by her quiet intelligence.  It seems this ability to observe humanity through her warm eyes translates well onto the canvas as her success as an artist has grown from strength to strength.  A piece of her work has been purchased by the National Gallery of the Bahamas and is now part of their permanent collection - impressive for the Canadian born, who is now a true true Bahamian.  Exhibiting since 1993, Dean has exhibited in the Bahamas, the U.S.A and Canada.

With her Art Show, "Lumiere" running presently at the Freeport Art Centre, from   April 25th 2008 until May 17th 2008, I stole some time to ask the artist a few questions to offer us a peek of her vision of the world.......art and otherwise.....

Have you always known yourself to be an 'artist'? If not what was the process through which you learned that you were?

No, I have not always known myself to be an artist but taking a retrospective look at my life, a lot of things make a lot more sense now that I do know myself as an artist and now realize that I always was. For me, that urge to create, what I describe as a physical sensation of a tugging at my midsection began in what is commonly referred to as mid-life crisis. During a time when the status quo was no longer working and I was in search of Claudette Dean on a very spiritual level. I believe that it was a case of my purpose being revealed to me at a time when I was "ready" to receive it.

Spirituality seems to be embedded in your work, especially in this upcoming exhibition, 'lumiere', could you tell me a bit more about how your spiritual beliefs have influenced your work?

 I have to say that my spirituality and my work are so intrinsically connected that I see no distinction between them. My work came to me through my spirituality and my spirituality is evolving through my work.

Can you describe the process for finding inspiration for each painting?

I have difficulty with that question, I think because process for me implies the mental and inspiration the spirit. So I don't believe that inspiration has a process.

I understand what you mean, but what I'm trying to get at is, how do you 'find' the images then? Does the original idea come in the form of a 'vision' then, if there is not traditional process.....Or does the image come from thoughts and ideas.....?

Do you sketch out an original idea, to find the composition? And does the idea change as you work on the painting?

Basically I want to understand the 'process' of finding an image to finished painting (where does the image/ idea come from?)

My process of translating inspiration to finished product varies but what usually happens is this- I get an inspiration, I let it float around in my subconscious and conscious mind for a while until a vague image or piece of an image begins to emerge. Once I feel excited about what's coming through I sit down with sketch pad and start doodling. It could take awhile before something starts to happen but when it does, I go from that vague image to a complete composition. If I need a visual aid, I use photographs. At this point I start drawing the composition onto the canvas. Colour develops as I start painting. I usually start with a colour that jumps out at me and then take it wherever it goes. At some point the painting does start to take a life of its own and unexpected things begin to happen and again I just go with it.

Where do you want your artwork to go in the future?

I'm hoping to be able to get out of the way more and more with my art so that it is able to come through more and more freely. I really am just working, following the signs and doing my best to go with the flow. I'm ready, willing and eager to go wherever it takes me because I know that it is my purpose.

Who are your favourite artists and why?
Of course there are many, but I must say that the first response that comes to my mind when asked that question are "The Impressionists". I love their use of colour and light and I appreciate their filtering of the visual through the spirit to the canvas. Van Gogh stands out among them because I love the innocence, the honesty and the passion of his work.

What do you think about the art scene on Grand Bahama ?

I feel that the Art Scene in Grand Bahama is in a period of growth, that the creative energy on the island is expanding and that Grand Bahama could very well become a mecca for art and culture in the Bahamas in the foreseeable future.

Other than art what are your passions in life?

My family, travel, rings, perfume, fine wine and good food.

What has been the most profound moment in your life?

Feeling my son move for the first time in my womb. Being pregnant, feeling and seeing life grow inside of me was the most beautiful experience I've ever had. I felt the power, the beauty and the privilege of being a woman like no other time in my life.

What music do you like to listen to?

My favourite instrument is the Flute - so anything featuring the flute whether it be jazz, classical or mystical. I'm also partial to music that is nostalgic for me. The Beatles and most of the music from that era. I also love Enya and, from the more current charts, Alicia Keyes is one of my favourites.

Is there anything else you would like to add, that may offer us a bit more insight into your character/personality?

 I'm about peace and harmony. My home is my sanctuary, my family is my refuge and my art is my sustenance. I consider it a privilege to be a part of the art community in the Bahamas and in Grand
Bahama in particular. Art is a powerful vehicle for unity, understanding, education, change and enlightenment. 

Claudette's exhibtion, "Lumiere" is showing at Freeport Art Centre until 17th May 2008.

Claudette Dean’s “Lumiere” Enlightens Grand Bahama Island

Streaming Video - Claudette Dean explains the inspiration behind her "Lumiere" Art Exhibit

Streaming Audio - Artist, Claudette Dean speaks on her upcoming art exhibit, "Lumiere


About the author: Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Susan Moir Mackay is a professional artist with a B.A. (Hons) in Art and Design from Edinburgh College of Art. She is an impassioned advocate of art and has a deep abiding belief that art benefits individuals and communities. Susan has travelled extensively, observing art in all its forms and has invested much of her time to art education projects, as well as developing her own art works and exhibitions. Susan currently lives in Freeport with her two children, Fiona and Dylan. She can be reached at sozmac@hotmail.com  


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