The Cayman Islands celebrates National Heroes Day every January on the fourth Monday of the month. The focus or theme of each Heroes Day is different from year to year as well as the people honored, making this holiday a unique one for our beloved isles. What a creative way to honor our people! This year the focus will be on the Vestrymen and Justices of Peace who were instrumental in the creation of the Coat of Arms.
For this post, are going slightly off theme as we would like to highlight one of our own local heroes in gaining art recognition for the Cayman Islands: Miss Gladwyn K. Bush, also known as Miss Lassie.
Miss Lassie was a late bloomer when it came to painting. She first took up a paint brush and began painting at the age of 62! As many may know, Miss Lassie began painting as a result of visions that she had. If she had to be placed in a category of artists (and oh she fits in many!), it would be as an intuitive artist. Intuitive art is the process of creating without being confined to planning or questioning the ideas that may come. We have all experienced that gut feeling where we just know something without knowing how we know it. Intuition is like our inner guiding spirit. When we are guided by our intuition, we tend to abandon conscious reasoning. Have you ever had an idea and just had to express it via painting or other creative process? For Miss Lassie, her visions were her ideas – she didn’t question them but released them for the world to see. Einstein said it best about an intuitive mind:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Painting Themes and Materials
Miss Lassie was raised with strong Christian beliefs. It is no surprise then, that most of her paintings depict themes surrounding Christianity and biblical stories. She was a prolific artist painting on whatever surface was at hand. Before moving on to more traditional surfaces such as canvas, Miss Lassie would paint on her windows, doors, table tops, and even the ceiling! In this using any material as a canvas, she brings to mind another famous prolific artist: Jean Michel Basquiat. His paintings too, were done in what was considered a simplistic, childlike style, but like Miss Lassie, the themes were heavier than the style of drawing. It is this juxtaposition of style and theme that captivates viewer to Miss Lassie’s body of art work.
There are many instances where living artists do not get to enjoy the brilliance or impact of their work on the world. Fortunately, Miss Lassie wasn’t one of them. In 1997, she was awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE) honor and received the award on June 15, 1998 during the Queen's Birthday celebrations in Grand Cayman. Locally, Miss Lassie was also awarded the Cayman National Cultural Foundation's Heritage Award. And what greater accolade than to have one’s artwork distributed and displayed internationally! As well as being in private collections worldwide, Miss Lassie’s artwork is also in the collection of the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been featured as an intuitive artist in Phaidon Press’ book, Raw Creation. The largest body of her work is covered in the book, My Markings … The Art of Gladwyn K. Bush, which was published by the Cultural Foundation.
Miss Lassie’s House
The Cayman National Cultural Foundation has restored and upkept Miss Lassie’s house and has since rebranded it as “Mind’s Eye – The Visionary World of Gladwyn K. Bush.” Visitors can view the house as one large canvas. Miss Lassie’s painting palette was filled with bright colors depicting various blues and yellows. Even before examining the themes in-depth, the paintings tend to draw viewers in with warm and cheerful colors. Mind’s Eye is opened to visitors and Mind’s Eye is located at #4 South Sound Road, at the intersection of Walkers Road and South Sound Road (you can’t miss it!) and is opened to visitors. Tours can be booked by contacting The Cultural Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (345) 949-5477.
Did You Know: Did you know that Miss Lassie's house was placed on the 2012 World Monument Watch List of endangered world heritage sites alongside such well-known places as the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Valley of the Kings? Well now you know!
Gladwyn K. Bush, aka Miss Lassie, will always remain one of our art heroes of the Cayman Islands. She has paved the way for other artists to follow. We admire her for her fearlessness in painting and opening up to the world that intuitive art is not a lost art form and one that we should never shy away from. If you don’t have time to book at tour to Mind’s Eye, Miss Lassie’s work is also on display at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI) as part of their permanent collection. At NCGI, you can go at any time during their opening hours.
Have you viewed any of Miss Lassie’s artwork? What is your favorite piece? Do you have any other Cayman art heroes?