Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 19th 2015 Contents B40
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 19, 2015
Artist John Stollmeyer shared
insights into his art and philosophy
on July 7, when he led a discussion
at Granderson Lab, 24 Erthig Road,
The occasion was aT@ John
Stollmeyer, one of a series of artist
talks by the See You on Sunday
(SYoS) artist collective, with the sup-
port of Alice Yard and Granderson
Lab, a shared art space.
Stollmeyer spoke and showed a
slide presentation to an audience of
some 30 people, tracing his work
over several decades. The prolific
artist spoke for over two hours, illus-
trating how his interests, including
ecology, etymology, the Jewish Kab-
balah and esotericism, Native culture
and spirituality, have shaped his art
over time, creating a diverse yet
cohesive body of work.
The long-haired, grey-bearded
Stollmeyer, 63, started with a state-
ment, saying the artist's role in soci-
ety was that of "visionary and agent
of world change."
He said, "I see my mission as
being to facilitate the paradigm shift
[into the] post-Industrial, post-
Scarcity ecological age."
In his second year studying visual
arts at the University of Western
Ontario, his work was selected to be
shown for a graduate exhibition, he
said, adding that much of the sen-
timent at art school at the time was
that "it had all been done," there
was nothing to teach. Students, he
said, were largely left alone to dis-
cover their own practice---or not.
After leaving school he did various
odd jobs, not returning to art until
after the death of his son.
Back at home in T&T, he spent
time with the Rastafarian Bobo
Shanti community in the hills of
Tunapuna. He featured work influ-
enced by their lifestyle and religion
in a show called Counterfeit.
He also traced his own heritage
and became interested in Hindu and
Works in that show included Son
of Man and Pearly Gates, which
revealed an obscured image of Haile
Selassie. His imagery used red, white
and blue to represent the oppressive
"system" and the Rasta red, gold
and green for the people.
In the early 80s, Stollmeyer created
one of his most recognisible pieces,
Caribbean Basin, as a comment on
US president Ronald Reagan's
Caribbean Basin Initiative. The piece
is made from an enamel basin and
he set the price at $3 million.
For his next show, in Canada, he
decided to use more utilitarian, nat-
ural materials. He did a woodworking
apprenticeship under Michael For-
tune and spent ten years as a foreman
at his workshop, which specialised
in steam-bent wood designs.
His fascination with Native Amer-
ican culture led him to learn more
at the Turtle Island Children's Centre,
Returning to Trinidad, and over
the ensuing years of his career,
Stollmeyer has made a name for him-
self with his workmanship. From his
Santa Cruz base he worked exten-
sively with local materials such as
calabash, seedpods, driftwood and
coconut shell, creating jewelry and
other craft items. He described dif-
ferent experimental techniques, such
as a batik-like process involving
beeswax on calabash.
He said he was interested in "tak-
ing something that was not valued
and making it valuable."
He was also influenced by indige-
nous culture here in T&T, especially
as it relates to spirituality and har-
monious, sustainable living.
An ecologist, Stollmeyer is a pro-
ponent of permaculture: a system of
agricultural and social design prin-
ciples centered around simulating or
directly utilising the patterns and fea-
tures observed in natural ecosystems.
He is a research assistant at Fondes
Amandes Community Reforestation
Project, and director at Caribbean
It was fellow T&T artist Christo-
pher Pinheiro who invited him, he
said, to participate in Caribana in
the band Birds Are Us in the early
90s. Stollmeyer was inspired.
Using an old flight suit, and a gas
mask, he made a vulture costume.
He said he wanted to depict the mil-
itary industrial complex, not as a
hawk as in its own propaganda, but
as a corbeau.
Materials and inspiration flowed.
He used a red mesh vest for the neck,
and fashioned crinoline as a bustle
for the tail feathers.
He said, "It is my experience as
an artist that once I focus on what
I need, the universe throws things
Later, he would write his first Mid-
night Robber speech. His vulture
mas was making waves.
Stollmeyer has shown at many
other shows, including his second
solo, D' Rael T'ing, sending up the
famous cola slogan. Works in this
show, he said, were influenced by
Hindu/Dravidian spirituality, as well
as the Kabalistic Tree of Life.
He participated in CCA7's Big River
art workshop at Grande Riviere in
Across decades of work, Stollmeyer
has showed connections and com-
monalities between and across cul-
tures, linked by language, image and
After his presentation, audience
members continued the discussion,
asking questions about various
aspects of his work and ideology.
He said his current work includes
living, organic materials such as
The aT@ series is an ongoing ini-
tiative aimed at fostering art edu-
cation. According to a statement
from SYoS, the aT@ series aims "to
afford audiences the opportunity to
acknowledge and acquaint them-
selves with the vital works and prac-
tices that inform, influence, con-
struct and define our contemporary
retrospective at aT@Granderson Lab
John Stollmeyer shows a photo of his work Sovereign
Child Spirit, created and performed at Big River, Triangle
Arts Trust/CCA7 workshop in 1999. PHOTO: GILLIAN MOORE
Artist John Stollmeyer
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