Marissa Lee Presents “Memory, Myth and Mas”

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By Verdel Bishop, SHE Magazine

Marissa Lee artist-‘Memory, Myth and Mas’

Marissa Lee is a self-taught artist with a particular focus on oil painting and the use of classical techniques. Lee’s latest body of work is titled ‘Memory, Myth and Mas’ and comes from an essay written by Amanda T McIntyre.

McIntyre is a writer and feminist who examines the use of traditional mas to portray and create mythology and backstory for Dolly Ma through the Traditional Carnival character, the Babydoll. Lee’s entire body of work was done in oil and paint on linen surfaces. She said McIntyre’s essay a concept that she found applicable through their rich backstories steeped in folklore.

Her body of work is a small collection of 14 pieces of varying sizes which took half a year to complete.

source: Caribbean Nostalgia

She recently successfully exhibited her work at the Horizons Art Gallery. Lee’s hope for viewers is that ‘they walk away from it feeling the same reverence I feel for local culture and traditional mas performers’.

Perhaps they will even take more interest in coming out to see them during the Carnival festivities.’This essay examined the use of traditional mas to portray and create mythology and backstory for Dolly Ma. I found that many characters already had rich backstories and walked hand in hand with our folklore.

Another idea I found interesting is how we as Trinbagonians have a sort of collective memory through storytelling and folklore,’ Lee said, adding that working on this body of work was an immersive and creative process. ‘The piece entitled ‘The Phoenix’ stands out to me because of who the model is and the effort it took to create it. Stephanie Bailey of the Next Level Devils lit her wings on fire and danced through Adam Smith Square this year for the Traditional Individual Mas Competition.

A few months ago, I went to their mas camp in Paramin, and they recreated it just for me.

It took the entire team to prep the wings, light them on fire, and ensure Stephanie was safe while holding my lights and standing by for me to get my reference photos.

We had exactly 90 seconds before the wings burned out, and then it was over.

‘During those 90 seconds, Stephanie gave me a lifetime of material and mental memories. The fact that she was willing to wear wings that were actually on fire for her art and mine is not a small thing to me and I am so grateful and fortunate to have captured that,’ Lee said.

Another special piece is ‘Lady with a Secret’. I generally love backlighting in my paintings because I find that it has instant visual impact. For this painting, I used a model – Candi Acosta – and put heavy focus on her beautiful face and the lighting on her upper body,’ she said.

Lee added, ‘Although I dabble with charcoal, pastels and watercolours, I generally prefer to work with oils. This is because it is a slow drying medium and I like to take my time when painting. Oils tend to be very vibrant and offer a large variety of effects. It is also an unforgiving medium when it comes to mixing, which forced me to learn colour theory and other proper methods in general. It is a medium that made me a better artist.’

As a self-taught artist, Lee’s love for art has grown stronger over the years. ‘I learned to paint on my own. I have supplemented my learning with three international workshops with master artists, Susan Lyon, Scott Burdick Suchitra Bhosle and Pramod Kurlekar.

‘I travelled to the US and to India for these workshops which were about a week long.

I have always loved art. I’ve been fortunate to have been travelling to Europe since I was ten years old and being able to see Renaissance and Baroque sculptures and painting from such an early age has had a heavy influence on me still of art.

‘I love the romance of classical paintings, particularly in the gestures of the human body. My hope is to bring that style and romance to local subject matter and this is something I am constantly working on,’ Lee said.

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