Disaster artists: A show of painters who were hit by Hurricane Maria

Disaster artists: A show of painters who were hit by Hurricane Maria
Photo by Zoe Freilich

They are the eyes on the storm.

A new exhibit opening in Red Hook this weekend showcases the work of artists from Dominica and other Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Maria. “Dominica After Maria,” opening May 12 as part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition’s 40th season, will not only raise cash for disaster relief groups — it also offers a big boost for the artists involved, said the show’s curator.

“I organized this exhibit with the inclusion of other Caribbean artists because I wanted them to get the opportunity where people can support them and buy their work, or donate to the Caribbean disaster management,” said Donna Mason.

Mason, an art agent, first travelled to the island nation of Dominica in 2010, and developed relationships with many artists there. After Hurricane Maria hit the island, she felt obligated to organize a charity event.

“I am Jamaican, but I’m very connected to Dominica,” she said. “I learned about the country and connected with a lot of artists, and after this hurricane, I knew those artists would illustrate their experiences and need help.”

There are eight artists in the exhibit — four with Dominican roots, some with other connections to the island, and others from countries that have faced similar natural disasters, according to Mason.

Relateable story: This collage piece by Puerto Rican artist Johnny Camacho depicts the island’s flag blended with the shape of the island.
Photo by Zoe Freilich

One artist, Mercedes Nugent-Head, has painted an image of ocean waves inspired by stories from her late mother and grandmother, who were raised on Dominica. Nugent-Head, who lives in Guadeloupe, says that her painting hits a sore spot, since she has never been able to visit the island it depicts.

“I never got to go to Dominica — and I was actually planning on going to Dominica, and then Maria hit,” said Nugent-Head. “When I get there one day, I hope to see what my mother talked about in her time there.”

Puerto Rican artist Johnny Camacho, whose home island was also hit hard by Hurricane Maria, has a collage piece in the show. He says the exhibit is a rare chance for visitors to see the aftermath of a natural disaster though the eyes of artists who were affected.

“A lot of people might be oblivious to all the islands that got hit and the people that need help,” he said. “So I think it’s great to see artists from the islands and get to see how their culture and upbringing is actually projected through their brushstrokes.”

“Dominica After Maria” at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition [499 Van Brunt St., Door 7, at the water in Red Hook, (718) 596–2507, www.bwac.org]. Opening reception on May 12; 1–6 pm. On display through June 17, Sat–Sun; 1–6 pm. $5 suggested donation.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Culture walls: The exhibit features two dozen pieces of art from eight artists.
Photo by Zoe Freilich