Historical Society Exhibit Spotlights Guyanese Artist Stanwyck Cromwell

The vivid colors and island influences in the new show at the Connecticut Historical Society would be enough to set it apart from the institution’s usual fare of centuries-old folk art and colonial objects. So would its reflection of a non-white world, writes Roger Catlin in this review in the Hartford Courant.

But perhaps most shocking about “Echoes From Across the Ocean — From the Caribbean to Connecticut: Works by Stanwyck Cromwell,” which opened this week, is that its artist is alive.

Despite a name that sounds like a patriarch from an old Connecticut folk art portrait, Stanwyck Cromwell blends memories of his Guyanese homeland with other influences gleaned in his nearly 40 years in Connecticut.

First featured in a Historical Society exhibit about the West Indies’ influence in Connecticut several years back, Cromwell’s new one-man show features encompasses a variety of media. There are vivid oils of bright rhythms and abstract figures with fruits and fish. Then there are his monochromatic pen-and-ink works, colored pencil pointillism and even some watercolors. Among these works are a few dense assemblages that reflect the influence of the black power movement in the U.S. and reference his own upbringing and varied heroes, from politics to sports.

The textures and rhythms of line and color almost make their music visible. Images in dense works such as “Boat People” come in and out of focus. Some works play with various paint thicknesses, others toy with Dali-like dripping structures. Some of the most recent works are smaller impressionistic pictures of life in Guyana, of women standing together or a child under a darkening summer sky.

A selection of sketches for future works, with notations, gives an indication of the metaphors at work in his pieces, with a shell representing travel, and the ocean standing for life. But the works are visually pleasing, even without the road maps.

It’s quite a bold move for the Historical Society to present the show, but certainly welcome. We get to better know an artist in our midst. The society six years ago purchased one of his works, illustrating the life of the migrant farm worker.

Museum officials say the works reflect the blend of memory and sense of place that informs much of the rest of the museum. But overriding that are the visual pleasures of the pictures.

Echoes from Across the Ocean: From the Caribbean to Connecticut: Works by Stanwyck Cromwell” continues through Oct. 15 at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library, 1 Elizabeth St., Hartford.

For the original article go to http://www.courant.com/entertainment/arts/hc-artweek-0414-20110413,0,2682436,print.story

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