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Artist helps bring back memories

Putting his heart into art: artist Tai-Quan Ottley shows off the mural of Verona, Italy, he painted for Anthony Correia and his wife, Patricia, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An unlikely union was struck during a function for people with Alzheimer’s — and it has resulted in the creation of a giant, lifelike mural depicting an idyllic Italian street.

Anthony Correia was attending the event with his wife of 61 years, Patricia, who suffers from the disease, when some exceptional art caught his eye. He asked around and found out the work was by 24-year-old Bermudian Tai-Quan Ottley, who helps to care for his aunt who also has Alzheimer’s.

Mr Correia had been searching for an artist to paint a mural on the side of his house, which is next to the Verdmont Museum, and he had even selected the scene he wanted. He had scoured the internet and found a photograph of a cobbled street in Verona, Italy, a city he and his wife visited during their extensive travels.

Mr Correia approached Mr Ottley and asked if he was willing to take on his mural challenge.

“I saw him and I told him my idea. This is one of the biggest things he has ever done,” Mr Correia said. “I had found photos from all over Europe and selected eight of them and when I showed them to my wife, she selected the same one. We have been there several times over the years. It had everything I wanted — it had the cobblestone streets, the old buildings, and the plants and flowers and beauty of it just springs out of you, you just want to walk down that street.”

Mr Ottley admitted that when he heard the idea, he had second thoughts as most of his work is done in dry mediums such as pastel, pencil, graphite and charcoal. However, never one to turn down a challenge, he accepted and began the momentous task in January.

“I had never really put my mind to painting,” he said. “I wasn’t even sure if I could do it at first. I decided to do it to see what I can do and to see my potential.

“It was irritating when I was working on the detail of the bricks — I had been painting them for about three hours and the rain came and washed it right off. I am out here all day in the elements from morning and once I have finished I am tired.”

Mr Ottley worked every dry day he could from about 10am, once the morning dew had dried, to about 5 or 6pm and yesterday, after four months, he was putting the final touches to the piece.

Mr Correia said: “He is very meticulous about it and his work is very impressive. Because of the position my wife is in now, it kind of helps to bring back memories. It is great.”

Mr Ottley said he had a natural gift for the arts, as does his sister, who is an interior designer in New York.

Among those who have helped to nurture his talent are former teachers Lisa Rego from Clearwater Middle School, Tony Landy and Manuel Palacio from CedarBridge Academy, and Edwin Smith from Bermuda College.

He says he wants to build a reputation in Bermuda through commissions such as that of Mr Correia and having his own stall at Harbour Nights before taking his talent to London and beyond.

He also has work showing at the Windjammer 3 Gallery at Bluck’s China Shop on Front Street. His work has been displayed previously at Bermuda College and Masterworks’ café gallery.

To see more of Mr Ottley’s work, visit his Facebook page at Tai-Quan Ottley, his Instagram page at taiottley or e-mail him at ottley tai95@gmail.com