To thine own art be true
A Bermudian artist whose work was recently exhibited at a charity gala run by Beyoncé’s mother stressed the importance of staying true to oneself.
Gherdai Hassell, who was raised in Southampton Parish and now works in China, was talent-spotted by the team behind Tina Knowles Lawson via social media and invited to exhibit at her Wearable Art Gala at the Waco Theatre Centre in Los Angeles this June.
Her paper collage fetched more than $6,000, and Ms Hassell will this month be displaying more of her works including oil paintings at the Emerging Artists exhibition at the Bermuda Society of Arts from August 9.
“Beyoncé’s mum holds a charity art gala, which raises money for arts programming for young people,” Ms Hassell explained.
“Social media is interesting, I am all the way in China, and they found me and invited me to come. I couldn’t attend, but they had my artwork shipped over. The piece sold for $6,000 which is awesome, it was my largest acquisition and has added a lot of value to my work.
“I prefer to work in collage, although I do enjoy oil painting. I would consider myself a multimedia artist. The collage work, which I call ‘alibi’ are an exploration of self as an exploration of materials.
“My biggest dream is to live authentically as myself, and to be able to draw a direct line from my life to my work.
“If I can live my highest, truest expression of myself, all the bells and whistles of being an artist are sure to follow.”
Following her dream didn’t come easily.
Born in Bermuda, Ms Hassell, 28, graduated from the Berkeley Institute in 2009 and putting aside her lifelong love for art, she studied public health at the University of North Carolina with a minor in business.
Despite high academic achievements, Ms Hassell tried to get a job and set up a business in Bermuda to no avail.
Instead, she decided to try out law school, studying a legal practice course at the BPP University in Manchester, UK.
She quickly realised that she was not being true to herself.
“I would be in class drawing and trying to figure out how to get art supplies,” she said. “After two months in the course, the art took over. For as long as I can remember, I have always been an artist.
“I could no longer fight the urge to put my art at the forefront of my life and I haven’t looked back since.”
Ms Hassell applied for numerous overseas jobs, before landing a position teaching English at a school in China where she has lived for three years.
“I was lost for a really long time and felt like I needed to be alone to find myself.
“I needed the space, time and clarity to be able to do that so I wanted to go somewhere where I was not familiar.
“It was a rocky time — the first day I got there my bags were lost, didn’t know the translation apps, and I’d missed a flight.
“When I got to my hotel, I sat on the floor and cried my eyes out.
“I told myself to get through the first week, then the first month, six months and a year.
“It has been the best decision I have made in my entire life.
“An opportunity came up to teach art at a school in Guiyang in the Guizhou Province, which I have been doing for the last year and a half, and I am now planning to do a Master in Fine Art here.
“I feel like, if I hadn’t gone to China, the opportunities wouldn’t have come. Sometimes, you have to set yourself up and put yourself in positions, for the doors to open.”
Ms Hassell is back in Bermuda for six weeks, and although this is her first time seeing friends and family members in three years, she hasn’t stopped working.
Aside from preparing for her show, she has been teaching art at the St George’s Community Centre and erecting her artwork in the Government Administration Building.
She also delivered a speech at the Berkeley Institute’s graduation ceremony. “The speech was about the power of asking; asking for something that you want in your life, and asking despite foreseen obstacles,” she explained.
“At the end of the day, it is either a yes or no, but if you don’t ask, you don’t know.
“My entire journey has been completely about that. We should all ask for the things that we want, when we do, we’d be surprised when it comes to us.
“If we are continuously putting our intentions out, it will come back.”
• The Emerging Artists exhibition at the Bermuda Society of Arts runs for a month from August 9. The show also features works by Kayley Gibbons, Miniya Wainwright, Shanna Hollis and Terrina Nolan
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