A glorious exhibition of a Bermuda that no longer exists
When the Bermuda National Gallery was offered the opportunity to host a New York reception in conjunction with Hawthorn Fine Art’s exhibition of Bermuda paintings by Clark Voorhees, it must have come as a considerable surprise.
I can imagine that before accepting the offer, the BNG administration must have carefully weighed the pros and cons of doing so.
The reception took place on the evening of January 8 and, from my perspective, as well as that of others who were there, it was an outstanding success.
Indeed, the event was so well attended, I found it difficult to move about.
As for representation from Bermuda, it was a veritable who’s who Governor George Fergusson, Premier Craig Cannonier, Minister of Economic Development Grant Gibbons, Minister of Finance Bob Richards, BNG director Lisa Howie, chairman of the Bermuda Fine Arts Trust Gary Phillips and others.
I am told that for some, the reception coincided with other New York meetings; thus providing the possibility of attending the BNG/Hawthorne reception.
I know, for example, that the BNG director happened to be in New York for an executive course at Columbia University.
Whatever it was that brought us all together at that time, the positive response, especially from Government, was gratifying to realise.
Of special note, two of Mr Voorhees’ granddaughters, Janet and Alida Fish were there as well. Some will know that Janet Fish is a successful New York artist and Alida is a well-known photographer.
Both grew up in Bermuda and attended the Bermuda High School.
Mr Voorhees moved to Bermuda during the 1920s, having purchased a house in Somerset.
His daughter, Florence Fish was active in the Bermuda art scene for many years, especially as a sculptor and potter, but also as a painter.
Mr Voorhees was an important American Impressionist, having been the principal mover behind the establishment of Old Lyme, Connecticut as an art colony.
I am told that it was the first art colony in United States. Whatever the truth of that claim, he discovered the village of Old Lyme, back in 1893, while on a bicycle tour of coastal Connecticut.
Interestingly enough, he did not start out to be an artist.
At Yale, and later as a graduate student at Columbia University, he majored in chemistry; his undergraduate as well as graduate degree was in that field.
When he decided to be an artist he brought to it the eye and outlook of a scientist.
His landscapes show a sensitivity to the subtleties of changing light, as well as a feel for each locale and as one art connoisseur noted, in some of his Bermuda landscapes, there is the sense of heat.
One of Mr Voorhees’ specialities was the painting of moonlight scenes.
In this particular exhibition, his oil painting of ‘Springfield Courtyard in Moonlight’ is highly appealing and evocative of what we locals used to refer to as the “parish lantern”, a term used back before cars and street lights. This is the Bermuda that Mr Voorhees would have known and loved.
It’s a Bermuda that no longer exists, but one that some of us still remember. In that sense, his paintings are, for older Bermudians, loaded with nostalgia.
The artist also had a keen eye for the anatomy of trees. His depictions of craggy, windswept Bermuda cedars are wonderful to see.
His drawings and paintings of trees are freely but also precisely rendered.
Although not in the exhibition, Mr Voorhees was also a skilful printmaker, especially in the making of etchings, which included the picturing of our cedars.
The final outcome for this BNG reception is yet to be realised, still I overheard one person say that although she had never been to Bermuda, it was now on her list.
As I and others have pointed out, in numerous articles, there is an important place for the arts and culture in the revival of Bermuda’s tourism.
This exhibition and reception is just one example of how the arts can be utilised in promoting Bermuda.
As I have indicated a number of times, more New Yorkers, by a wide margin, attend cultural events than sporting events.
Think of it, New York is one of our prime targets for marketing Bermuda and having had conversations with New York artists, I sense they could be persuaded, like Mr Voorhees, to winter in Bermuda.
Not only that, their Bermuda paintings would then be exhibited in top New York galleries, thus freely advertising Bermuda to the educated and wealthy.
These are the kind of people who are regular attendees at art exhibitions and certainly the kind of people we want to attract as visitors to Bermuda.