Thursday, May 15, 2008

Doing the Caye Caulker Shuffle

I know you all have been waiting for me to post an update. Where are you and what are you doing emails come daily. Long silence from me. Sorry. I've been composing this blog entry for nearly months, but wanted to wait to see all that would unfold.

When I arrived back in Belize at the end of October, Bignesss announced some BIG news. He wanted to sell the beachfront property on Caye Caulker. I kept the news to myself mostly, only sharing it with close friends who weren’t limelighter’s prone to gossip. I stopped announcing my upcoming plans a while ago because it keeps me one step ahead of the bitches and ho’s. It gives them less time to plot and plan against me.

So, I entered high season, not with trepidation, but with the beginning of a plan. No matter how long it takes, this property will sell. It is one of only a few pieces of prime commercial beachfront property available on Caye Caulker. He’s tired of maintaining this gigantic house, which when you add the upstairs to the downstairs is more than 6,000 s.f. The oldtimers are leaving Caye Caulker and leasing out their property or selling up and moving to the mainland away from hurricane threats and the high cost of living on an island.

Here is the shuffle that started last year:
Rasta Pasta’s lease was up, and they moved down the street. The property right across the street from us, which belonged to one of Bigness’s sisters and housed Barrier Reef Sports Bar sold last year and became Agave Restaurant, and the Sports Bar, having lost their place moved into where RP was, totally renovating the space. Smooth moves for everyone.

Supergirl took UNbaby back to the U.S. to start school in September 2007 and got a good job which was only to tide her over until high season started. She decided to stay and go back to college. What can I say, given a choice between serving coffee or becoming a secondary education teacher with a minor in history, I think she made the right choice.

So there I was, property coming up for sale soon and my #1 girl back in the U.S. living her own life. I coped, gave it my all, and the store did great. I hired Shirls with her big smile, to take over some of Supergirl’s duties, and everyone worked a little bit extra. I also did some soul searching and questioned where I was at and what I was doing. Do I want to do this for the rest of my life? Is my life, being a shop keeper on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere? Or is it as a world traveler, traveling around with the love of my life by my side, enjoying seeing new things and meeting new people, showing and selling my art.

In August 2007 we hunkered down for hurricane Dean, and then hurricane Felix slid by in September. I reflected on the fact that I had spent a year turning down shows, because I didn’t have enough time. I knew I had to clear the slate to get more studio time. It’s a daunting task to change direction, to take a risk on doing something new. No guarantees.

So I came back to the U.S. with a purpose, to get a show, and I got 2 shows. The first is at River’s Edge Gallery, voted metro Detroit’s #1 gallery by The Detroit News which opens the 3rd Friday in July, 2008 and runs through August. My work will be featured in July and August and in the front window of the gallery during the Wyandotte Street Art fair. My work isn't on their website yet, but it wll be soon

The second show is in New York City at the Agora Gallery, in the Chelsea district. I was accepted into the Latin American Artists exhibition which opens September 9, with a reception September 11, and it runs through to the end of September.

They reviewed my work and I’m in their upcoming art publication “Artist Spectrum” magazine which has a publication of 50,000 and distribution in NYC.
“The Detroit born artist, Lee Vanderwalker, now lives and breathes the vibrant culture of Belize, calling upon its history and aesthetic as a foundation for her art. The difficult medium of hand-painted silk, combined with her use of rich, smoldering colors, makes the work vibrate. Each culturally driven scene and image tells a story that is at once derived from the region and universal. Her depictions of village and island life, still-lifes of flowers and window-framed seas, and dream-like figures, masks, and Mayan symbols, come to life with each fold of silk and each vivid texture. Her work is exotic yet comforting, enticing in the way that traveling is or getting lost in a familiar book. These deceptively simple works spring from the complexity of tradition and weave together the deep roots of artistic history. In this world of velvety jungles begging to be explored and Caribbean legends hungry to be told, Vanderwalker's paintings allow the viewer to indulge in the distant adventure we all desire.”
I thought the review was quite sexy and they didn't just rehash the same old things that have been written about me for 10 years.

The one thing I’ve learned in life is that if opportunity knocks, you better answer the door. On Caye Caulker, most prime retail spaces are never publicly available or advertised, but are known word of mouth and by recommendation. My Belizean friend Eva, the massage therapist made a proposal. She wanted to have a giftshop gallery and sell healing jewelry and art. It fit the bill because I didn’t want to have to manage the day-to-day operations of a store, yet I didn’t want to give up the income. The building she is in, is located next to Madeline’s hardware, and Jan’s Place. So I went for it. Eva expanded her business and became a day spa, moving to the upstairs suite in her building and I helped her open Healing Touch Day Spa and Caribbean Art gallery. The gallery is on the ground floor and does the booking for the day spa. Miss Barbara came with me to the new store, Shirls opened her own coffee shop/cafe next to the Atlantic Bank, so all you coffee addicts (me included) now know where to get the same great brew, at Java House on Middle Streeet. She's open at 6:30 a.m.

As soon as the deal was done, Bigness approached Lloyd from the Sports Bar about taking over my space, and he considered it for about 2 seconds before saying yes. He’s opened a Mexican take away and has my art and prints for sale also. The best part is that I just go one day a week to take care of business. I plan on shooting more weddings in this upcoming year. It looks like I have a knack for it.

Whisper, whisper, whisper, goes the rumour on the street. At first it was funny to hear the rumours, then it just became annoying, so I had to tell my friends: "Stop telling me the crap people are saying." So, to dispell all the rumors, no I didn't shut my store down, no Bigness did not take me out of his building because we are getting a divorce. How could he? I'm Mrs. Bigness and to all the bitches and the hos - don't ever forget that.

Photos: black and white sunsets shot from the roof of the split at Hope and Ken's wedding reception on Caye Caulker