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Jamaican Sculptor Extraordinaire

Confession: I've never made an actual sculpture outside of ceramic class as a child and it is one of my life's goals as a fine artist. Once my insane schedule calms down {as if...} I will make time to study all idiosyncrasies of sculpting from wax to clay and bronze to stone. In the mean time in between time, I was privileged enough to ask premier Jamaican Sculptor Basil Watson some questions as he prepares for his upcoming Hampton Art Lovers exhibit here in Miami. Greatly insightful indeed!

MCM: Is there something distinctive about a figure you are drawing or studying that dictates which medium you decide to sculpt in? Or does scale dictate more?

BW: Some of the influential factors in deciding medium are time and scale. However, the characteristics of a figure and/or personality might inspire ideas that influence the final scale and medium and how ambitious I want to be with the project. I do look for and am particularly inspired by movement and rhythm that has a certain "Je ne seis quoi."

MCM: Is there one medium that brings your creations to life more easily than another? If so, what is it, and how did you discover it?

BW: Each medium has its own characteristics but, from my college introduction to clay as a medium for sculpture, I found that it gives me the most freedom and spontaneity to explore my ideas. Depending on scale and design, it might be either fired to terra-cotta or cast in bronze.

MCM: Bronze casting seems to be an arduous task, what was your most challenging work to date? Where is it on display?

BW: One of the beauties of sculpture is that each project poses its own unique challenges, whether technically or artistically. Twice I have had monumental works collapse midway through the process because I didn't make the armature strong enough; however, these were relatively quickly restored because I had already solved the basic artistic issues. Artistically I would say the Usain Bolt sculpture "To The World" has been the most challenging to date. He has such an imposing and complex physique, and at 1.25 life-size it has probably been my most challenging. In the end, it has been successfully installed at the National Stadium in Jamaica and with all the public attention that it has received it has been extremely well received.

MCM: That definitely sounds very rewarding, I wonder then has migrating to the U.S. impacted your career positively and/or negatively?

BW: Coming to the United States in my early 40s, the challenge was doing the leg work necessary to become acquainted and integrated with the art scene. Exposure to a wider field technically, artistically and from a business standpoint, it has definitely moved my career many levels forward as I have been exposed to challenges that would have been difficult to encounter considering the limitations of operating from an island base. My Jamaican experience, however, has also helped to open doors in the United States while my experiences here have helped to open doors in Jamaica; my "Jamaicaness" I never loose while I have developed a deeper appreciation for a global culture. I am experiencing the best of both worlds.

MCM: Did you feel the pressure of your father's success as you carved your own identity? Was he supportive of your career?

BW: Both parents were always extremely supportive and proud of my career and achievements. My father's success only served to push me higher while it shone as an example and guide for me moving forward. The advantages are so positive that I consider his success as a foundation on which I have been able to build upon. My self-identity has always been secure while it will always be intertwined with him as family. I felt secure in the knowledge that his success showed what is possible.

MCM: I love that sentiment, I come from a Jamaican family business background as well and although we are in different industries now I definitely stand on the foundation my Dad built. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me! Can't wait to see your installation at The Historic Ward Rooming House in person :)

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