Painter Belina Wright On The Influence of Heritage
Belina Buisson Wright found the painter in herself through her work as a teacher. The native Floridian, born of Haitian parents, was teaching at the elementary school level when she began experimenting with acrylic paints. She was also homeschooling her children and that also sparked her creativity. Wright will be the first to admit that she’s highly influenced by Haitian culture. “Growing up,” she says, “I didn’t have the opportunity to experience all the artistic elements of my culture, but I got to experience the love, spirit of community and food from my family and friends. My artwork is inspired by those elements thereby strengthening my connection to my heritage.”
“Ordinance of Humility”, one of Wright’s paintings, shows a robed Jesus from the waist down, having his feet perfume-washed by a repentant-faced Mary Magdalene.
Wright has formed her own company BWright Art, LLC, and has had her art displayed in the city of Eustis, FL City Hall.
How did your first piece of art come about?
I didn’t start painting until 10 years ago. I watched another artist paint flowers. I followed her technique until I could paint them. Then I realized I was painting her style I wanted to paint something that came from me. I drew this simple sketch of a faceless woman with a headscarf and a basket on her head onto a jewelry box.
Who recognized that you had it in you?
My best friend was painting with me and she saw the box and she really liked it! I was pleasantly surprised. I started painting just as a hobby friends and family were surprised and very supportive.
When you’re painting, what do you like to have on hand, and what sort of atmosphere do you favor?
Because I am a messy painter I tend to have a lot of paper towels in my work area. I keep my spray bottle with water to create different effects on the canvas and lots and lots of paint and brushes. When I feel inspired to paint I must have music playing. I mostly listen to gospel, Bollywood soundtracks, and some Haitian folk music.
Do you tend to procrastinate when it comes to starting or finishing a painting?
Yes to both! When I’ve been commissioned to create a piece on a subject I’ve never done before I’m nervous and a bit apprehensive because I am still contemplating how I will approach the piece. I say a prayer and God gives me the courage to begin. In the process of completing the painting I go through phases where I love it, I hate it; and ask myself why on earth I accepted this project! I become fearful again and avoid the piece like the plague! I pray to God again for the wisdom on how to complete the piece and when it’s done I surprise myself!
Have you ever taken an art class?
I took a beginner drawing class once but I never went to school for art. God has given me the gift to create art and what I didn’t know I learned from art books and videos in the library, YouTube and experimentation.
Is there a story of sort behind your painting “Community of Women”?
I was commissioned to do a piece similar to the “Community of Women”. I normally paint two or three women in a painting but I was asked for a group of women. When I finished them I liked the since of community and nurturing spirit of them. I liked them so much that I painted them several times since.
You’ve indicated that your work “Pattered Women Blue” stemmed from a series of doodles you did.
I took a beginners drawing class and to warm up the teacher had me make certain doodles. I would make the doodles in my sketch book and then embellish them. I liked them so much I wondered what it would look like if I added it to my faceless women. I liked how the doodles added a tribal aesthetic that accentuated the Haitian/ African Art themes I create. The paintings came out better than I imagined.
You are on Facebook and you have a page on the site Etsy. How else do you get the word out on your art?
I also have a Twitter and Instagram account. Social Media has done a lot to help me share my work. It’s a wonderful feeling to have my artwork admired not only by the general public via social media but also acclaimed art collectives and institutes and artists across the globe.
Women are the chief subjects of most of your pieces. You have some of different hues, and different hair textures. [Like with Baillarin Felix, you have this olive-skinned woman with dreads in her hair. There is a permed look on “Girl City Chic”, “Not Gonna Stop” has the main subject sporting an afro.
The soft curves of women and the curves of their faces are very appealing to me. Secondly, I believe it’s important to celebrate all women. We are all strong and beautiful. By painting women in different hues with different hair textures is my way of touching on and celebrating all women. Lastly, I am a natural hair girl and have gone through almost all theses progressions of hair styles so naturally it translated into my work. My latest collection of work celebrates this self acceptance of your natural self and your heritage.
Last but not least, tell me about your piece “Haitian Woman”.
When I went to Haiti all around were men and women carrying on with their daily lives. The women wore hair scarves and carried these huge bundles of food or packages in baskets on their heads. They were everywhere! I thought where are they going? Do they have a family? If so, do their families rely on them selling or purchasing these goods? Is someone ill that needs these goods? I thought wow these women must be some hardworking nurturing people. That image has stayed in my mind all these years and has become a very constant theme in my work. “Haitian Woman” was my first attempt at pen and ink and naturally it had to be of a humble, strong Haitian Woman. She is the symbol in my mind that represents Haiti. It’s one of my favorite pieces.
When was the last time you went to Haiti?
The last time I went to Haiti was 1989 to visit relatives. I absolutely loved the experience. I remember feeling carsick on the bumpy roads and crazy traffic going up to the mountains of Les Cayes. Looking out the window over the cliff and seeing the lush green landscape. I remember seeing the beautiful homes built into the mountains and shining brightly at night. I remember the bustling market place and people haggling loudly. There were stunning paintings, wood carvings and beautifully hand embroidered clothing. I remember being completely crammed into a brightly painted tap-tap to get around town. And the food was out of this world! Fresh fruits, vegetables, delicious fish and rice seasoned with fresh herbs! These are the scenes I remember and paint.
If you could reach out to up-and-coming artists, in particular visual artists, what pearls of wisdom would you place around their necks?
I would tell them don’t compare yourself or be intimidated by another artists work. It’s easy to tell yourself, “Man! I can’t paint like him or her!” But that’s exactly the point! Be unique and embrace your own style. God made us uniquely different and we create art from our experiences and in our own interpretation. So just be you and create art that pleases and inspire you. That’s what’s important.