From computer science to art
Two years in as an artist, Dianni Culltar had his work accepted into the Bermuda National Gallery's Biennial.
He was thrilled, his parents were “stunned”; the 22-year-old discovered his artistry only after the degree he was pursuing in Canada “didn't work out”.
“I was out there studying computer science,” he said.
“I came back and my mother said, ‘I still want you to pursue something educational'.”
A pastor suggested a general arts degree at Bermuda College may lead him to a career path.
“In 2018, I enrolled in my first art class doing painting and I actually enjoyed it,” said Culltar, whose trumpet playing hobby was the most he had delved into the arts before.
“It was actually invigorating, in a different sense, and I just followed through.”
He started exhibiting, first at Bermuda College and then with an arts group, Ill My Fun.
“They put together a silent art auction and me and a few other contemporaries put on an art show,” said the artist who paints as Dianni Culltar, although Minors is his actual surname. “It was pretty nice.”
The reaction to his work was “motivational”, he said. And so when the call came for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial he thought, “Why not?”
“I spoke to my art teachers and they said, ‘Yeah, go ahead' and then I followed through with it.”
He has one piece on display, Poroma-dc from the Request For More Life Series. Made using wood, stain and crystals, it measures 38x55x3in and was born out of Culltar's art history studies at the college.
“I came across a concept called triptych,” he said.
“A triptych is like a cabinet but not installed. Within the triptych [there are] paintings ... and on the outside would be a high relief. So I took the concept and just turned it into a wooden triptych.”
Attached to the work at the BNG is the following statement: “As a black man, I envision gangs to be the go-to figures in the immediate community, outside of the Government. Upholding protection, financial education, codes and conducts; they shall be held at that standard. My artwork is what I've witnessed.”
According to Culltar, who is not a gang member, the comment had more to do with how he felt at that moment than his art.
“I don't spend a lot of time around police officers and doctors. I just hang around regular people. I used to work at OM Juicery and would see a lot of those affiliate people [and they] would just talk to me out of kindness, nothing crazy.
“They would just be encouraging me, telling me to be wise with my money and how you have to stand up for your family and everything. Just simple and uplifting stuff. And I was like, ‘OK, yeah'. That was something I was experiencing within that moment and I said I want to say that, [to say] ‘Hey, it's not always grim.' In the light that they were speaking to me about it was positive how it came across. There wasn't any negativity.”
Being in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic has given him time to consider his next steps as an artist.
Culltar said: “I've been pushing that thought. I have two ideas: if I could secure some funding I would love to go away to school and pursue it or, I want to exhibit around the world, show my artwork. I might even enter into an art competition.”
Having not explored much of the world, he finds the thought of being able to see more of it appealing.
“I've never really travelled abroad apart from Canada for university and going to the United States to see my grandfather,” Culltar said. “I would love to travel to different places with my artwork.
“I just graduated this year. I was thinking about trying to get an apprenticeship so I could have some savings so if I do want to go away I could have something — maybe an apprenticeship in carpentry and probably continue along with the woodcraft.”
He is grateful for all the support he has had so far, from art teachers, patrons of his work and the people who motivated him to go the extra mile: Carolyn Swan, Helen Minors, Cleveland Crichlow, Monica Minors, Scott DeGraff, Michael Walsh, Edwin Smith and “the people at Ill My Fun”.
“They're almost like a youth brand label promoting artists, whether it's musicians or recording artists or dancers or [actual] artists,” Culltar said.
• Learn more about the 2020 Bermuda Biennial at bermudanationalgallery.com. The Bermuda National Gallery is open to the public on Saturdays, from 10am to 2pm. Follow Ill My Fun on Instagram