Barbadian Sculptor Offers Workshops to Children and Adults on STX’s West End

Ras Ilix Heartman (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Barbadian sculptor Ras Ilix Heartman, the artist-in-residence at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts during August and September, brings a reputation as an organic sculptor with international exposure in Havana and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and in many public and private collections.

Heartman attracted a full roster of local participants in his first workshop on St. Croix, “Intro to Wood Carving,” which took place Aug. 18 and 19.

Coming up are:
– “Youth Clay Class,” 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, in the CMCarts Courtyard with masks and social distancing required for all workshop participants.
– “Masters Wood Carving,” Aug. 25, for adults.

The “Intro to Wood Carving” class that kicked off the series took place not at the museum, but at the Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism location.

“Our mission is to promote cultural heritage tourism – that means the people, the place, the history. One of our main goals is to be able to collaborate with other organizations, so we’ve made the investment in the resources and created the woodworking shop,” CHANT Executive Director Frandelle Gerard said. “When we found out that Ras Ilix Heartman would be coming to St. Croix, museum Manager Jay Weiss and Board Chair Orville James at the museum reached out to us. It was natural for Heartman to do the workshops here at our location.”

The participants were busily working on their wood sculptures and shared their feelings about their art pieces and their participation in the workshop.

The Eye of Ra is a wood carving worked on by Abena George. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Abena George’s friend told her about the workshop, and she decided to sign up.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’m learning to chisel out the wood to create the design I want,” she said. “I’m really enjoying this and I hope to complete it to my satisfaction. My sculpture is the eye of Ra, which you can see when you look at it closely.”

While George was talking, Heartman came over with a different chisel and showed her how to develop more of an indented line with the “v” shaped tool.

Joseph Nicoll worked on a gecko and Jahsendi Simmonds worked on a turtle.

Wednesday’s workshop was the second for Tabu Simmonds. He worked on wood at a CHANT workshop a few years ago and decided he would try it again.

Asked if the wood carving was a relaxing medium, he replied, “Sometimes, and sometimes it can be stressful trying to get the creation just the way you want it.”

The “Medicine Man” by sculptor Ras Ilix Heartman. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)
The “Medicine Man” by sculptor Ras Ilix Heartman. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Heartman sat on the floor working on a mahogany trunk he picked up in the CHANT yard. He brought mahogany from Barbados for the workshops, but the “Medicine Man” he is creating is “from the one straight piece of wood.”

Heartman pointed to an area he said were mushrooms, which represents the dreamers or the Shaman. He referred to the darker strips of wood as coming from the age of the wood. The hollow inside is from the rain as the tree was growing. Art is a medium that speaks, he said. “This piece will speak for itself.”

“Art is a revolutionary medium, which reflects the spirit of the people, a confrontation with the experiences of the ready mind,” he said.

Heartman’s 2012 solo show received critical acclaim at the Queen’s Park Gallery in Barbados. His sculptures are included in the Barbados National Collection.

Heartman’s sculptures are featured in the current Barbadian exhibit in the upstairs gallery at CMCarts. “Reflections on Emancipation and Post Colonial Society” will be exhibited through Sept. 16.

Further information is online at the museum website.

During the workshop, Jahsendi Simmonds worked on this turtle relief woodcarving. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)