The public is invited to join the Bajo El Sol Gallery at 6 p.m., Friday, April 5, in Mongoose Junction, St. John, for the opening of “Until the Spirit Tells Me to Stop,” an exhibition introducing the work of Theodora Moorehead, a self-taught St. Johnian artist.
Theodora Moorehead was born in Cruz Bay St. John, in 1943 in a clinic that stood where the Franklin Powell Park is today, the daughter of Genevieve Hendricks Moorehead and Theovald “Mooie” Moorehead. She was one of hundreds of St. Johnian children delivered by her aunt Myrah Keating Smith, a pioneering nurse and midwife on the island. Her father looms large in 20th-century Virgin Islands history as a senator, businessman and activist, particularly noted for the campaign he led in the 1950s to prevent the National Park from acquiring privately held land by condemnation.
Like many St. Johnians of her generation, Ms. Theodora spent much of her youth in various places, attending school on St. John, Puerto Rico and later in New York and Virginia. She graduated from the City College of New York, where she studied political science, law, English and communications. She is untrained as a visual artist.
She performed for years in Off-Broadway theatre productions, her favorite role was Tituba in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Ms. Theodora is also a musician, having played quelbe percussion – the guiro or squash, the maracas and triangle or steel – alongside Mahlon Pickering.
Her journey as a visual artist began with what she describes as “doodling” in black pen to pass the time. After seeing the results, her friend Patricia D’Costa was impressed and encouraged her to invest in art materials and keep developing her work. This led to a particularly prolific period in the mid-1990s around the time that she returned full-time to St. John — after the passing of her father but before she took on the management of Mooie’s, her family’s Cruz Bay bar.
During this time, Ms. Theodora’s process evolved from partly representational but surreal drawing to more purely abstract work done “blind” with black pen and marker, which she said increased her feeling of artistic freedom and enjoyment. She often closes her eyes while making initial shapes on the page, “until the spirit tells [her] to stop.”
After the initial lines suggests the piece’s final shape and use of positive and negative space, she completes the work by adding patterns, shading and sometimes representational elements, including faces and masks, birds and other animals, as well as other assorted objects.
This exhibition includes over 100 drawings done from the 1990s to the present. It is the first time she has shown her work publicly. Current projects include a documentary on St. John and her father’s legacy (to be debuted at Bajo el Sol Gallery on April 20). Projects also include a plan to re-open Mooie’s in the near future and the continuing development of her drawings.
Located at Mongoose Junction, Bajo El Sol Gallery is a unique hybrid art gallery and espresso, wine and dessert bar. As a gallery and events space, Bajo El Sol is dedicated to offering the best in Virgin Islands fine art and cultural expression. At its new expanded space enjoy 100 percent Puerto Rican coffee and chocolates, craft cocktails by Eric Browne, and pastries and aperitifs made by Chef Giovanni with the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. Established in 1993, Bajo El Sol is a five-minute walk from the Cruz Bay Ferry Dock.