Now that there is some relief after two years of stress, distress and restrictions, Tobago-based artist Lethe (Jeannine Crouch) believes it is necessary for people to be mindful of themselves and their environment.
So her newest exhibition, Mind Fullness will be held at Arnim's Art Galleria, Tragarete Road, Port of Spain, from May 16-27.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
Lethe said, “Now I believe it’s important to highlight that return to self which mindfulness brings about, where you appreciate everything around you and how it connects to you. As a people we have been through turbulent times which caused us to question what is art, what is life, the nature of life, what is important to us.
“Some of us found talent as artists and emerged. Some of us became entrepreneurs and changed the way we viewed our world. I felt it was a very appropriate theme to remind everybody to take stock, take a deep breath and be aware of yourself again and make this return to ‘normalcy’ work for you and change how your life can be.”
Lethe said the pandemic changed the way people looked at art, the art world and art-making processes. People focused on digital media to make and view art, experiencing it through a different lens. And while being virtual was “nice,” with people from all over the world engaging with local artists, she believes the tangible aspect of art was lost during the pandemic.
She said she wanted people to be aware of the value of experiencing art in person – seeing it, and being moved and inspired by it.
She hopes to do so with her 31 paintings and installations, which she describes as bright, engaging, colourful and fun to view, with emotive colours and textures that exude energy.
Lethe explained that her installations were a mixture of two- and three-dimensional work that encourages an interactive experience which cannot be fully appreciated via video. She uses vinyl cores which are very difficult to burn and usually thrown away, and reworks them into hanging and standing installation pieces.
One of the installations in the show is called Bipolar. It is an “anamorphic illusion” with abstract images on each poll. However, as the viewer walks around, the images merge and flow to become one person.
A tribute to people with bipolar disorder, the installation is black and white, representing the positive and negative parts of self, the mood swings, feelings, nuances, and ideas of a bipolar person coalescing into “a beautiful abstraction of the chaos” in one being.
She also uses a lot of symbols in her work, the most frequent being the eye, which symbolises vision, consciousness and awareness.
Even her Mind Fullness logo includes an eye, hinting that her eye is overflowing.
Lethe has been painting and representing Trinidad and Tobago for 25 years.
Her first show was at St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain at the age of 14. She was contacted by someone visiting the school exhibition and they bought the piece, a small watercolour of an orchid in a pot.
“When I exhibited, the piece sold and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do! If somebody likes it this much, maybe I can do more like this. I want to do art that moves people.’”
She continued studying art but her dream was almost derailed when CXC lost both her O- and A-level art portfolios. As a result, she received bad grades and was devastated.
She went to the Creative Arts Centre at UWIs, now the Department of Creative and Festival Arts, and met its head, artist Kenwyn Crichlow. She showed him some of her work and begged him to take her in at any level. He looked at her first piece and declared she could start immediately.
“I told him I was so grateful and I was going to make him proud one day. He was my angel. My total hero. He gave me a chance when everybody else shot me down. He is an amazing artist and person, and an absolute godsend.”
She won awards every year she was at UWI and graduated with a degree in visual arts and English literature in 2001. She was also the first recipient of the Eastman-Christensen Award for Visual Arts.
After graduating she fulfilled one of her dreams and entered the teaching service. She also dreamed of living in Tobago, as her family was from there, and she achieved that dream in 2008.
“My grandfather was the principal of Scarborough Sec many years ago, my mother attended Scarborough RC as a child, I used to visit as a child and I loved it and wanted to be part of it. So I waited for an opportunity to teach art in Tobago.”
She is now an art teacher at Scarborough Secondary School and her work is part of the permanent collection at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Tobago.
She represented TT internationally at the high commission in London and had her art displayed at Carifesta. Also, the images of two of the works in Mind Fullness were bought by Virgin Atlantic Airways and are used in the airline’s digital in-flight art gallery, Gallery in the Air.
In addition, Lethe previously served on the boards of Women in Art and the TT Visual Arts Association, and was recently elected the first Tobago-based director on the board of the Art Society.
She works with the NGO Healing with Horses in Buccoo, which works with people with special needs, and gives art lessons and workshops for adults, as well as art and equine therapy.
She has a husband, two children and two dogs, and is still in love with art.
“I’m representing my country in art everywhere – internationally, in who I am, in TT, in school for the youths, in my community. That’s what I’m here for and I’m really, really happy about it.”