‘It’s like breathing, we have to do it’
American artist Jim Kuhlman came to Bermuda for the first time with his wife, Julie, while she was going through chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer in 1997.
They both fell deeply in love with the Island and this week will mark Mr Kuhlman's first visit to these shores since his wife passed away in March.
He will be unveiling a new exhibit, entitled ‘Breathing', opening at Masterworks on Friday, from 5.30pm until 7pm. The show will be on display in the Rick Faries Gallery, until August 28.
He said he was feeling a range of emotions in lead up to the special exhibit. “I am really excited to show my work, but it's a little bitter sweet that my wife will not be with me.
“She was always there as my support, and I would say a critic, in a good way. We stayed at Cambridge Beaches five of the six times we visited, and she knew the hotel, and the spots around there as well as I did, and would recognise exactly what I was painting.
“She and I would often talk about the sixth sense of walking into a painting and disappearing into it. It's almost an ethereal experience, it's hard to explain but maybe when Bermudians see the paintings they will recognise the same feeling.”
Mr Kuhlman said he hopes his incredible affection for the Island comes through in his 31 piece collection. He said the Island gave he and his wife something positive to look forward to while she was going through her cancer treatment.
On one particular occasion they both saved $1 a day for three years to help them pay for a visit to Bermuda.
The Island also inspired him to venture into painting with watercolours, to capture the blues hues of the water, and vibrant whites of the roofs, after years of working mainly with pencil.
He has entitled the show ‘Breathing' because it describes his love for the Island. “It's more than a passion or obsession, it's like breathing, we have to do it,” he said. “It's as normal and necessary as breathing.”
Mr Kuhlman was certain about becoming an artist, even as a child. He said: “I told my parents I wanted to be an ‘article'. I thought that was what a person who does art was called, but I just enjoyed drawing as a little kid and it seemed like the more I would draw the better I got and the better I got the more I wanted to do it.”
He said while other young people would get discouraged if their art work didn't turn out as planned, he kept on with it and ended up graduating with an art degree from college.
Mr Kuhlman has been an art teacher for the past 40 years. He said he is also looking forward to sharing his knowledge with residents at a free watercolour workshop he is hosting on Saturday from 10am until 11.30am.
His goal is to show people that while “technique comes from the knuckles down; art comes from way further back: the heart and the brain”.
He said the class was suitable for novice artists and even those looking to join in as spectators. He hopes to show people that you don't have to be born with an innate talent in art, as long as you are interested in it and willing to practice your skill level will progress.
“I wouldn't have been a teacher for 40 years if I believed in talent because that implies that some people have it and some don't,” the artist said.
“I love helping people who never thought they could draw or those who didn't realise they had the potential all along.”
His son and daughter will be visiting the Island for the first time this week, in honour of the new exhibit. He will also be wearing a tie bought by his late wife to honour her memory.
Mr Kuhlman thanked Masterworks for the opportunity to share his work; he also sent his gratitude to Bermuda “for being so beautiful and all the people for being so friendly and welcoming”.
‘Breathing' will be on display at Masterworks from Friday until August 28. For more information or to register for the free watercolour workshop, taking place on Saturday, visit: www.bermudamasterworks.com.
Useful website: www.kuhlmanart.com