Indo-Caribbean Artist Discusses Expression of Race, Gender in Her Artwork

Indo-Caribbean Artist Lucilda Dassardo-Cooper presented "Hybrid Identities, Multiple Subjectivities: Indo-Caribbean Art" on April 15 in the Red Pit.
Dassardo-Cooper, who presented a biographical slide show, explained how, even at a young age, before she was officially exposed to art, she knew that she was going to be an artist. The first piece she presented, titled "I am," conveyed her life as multifaceted and multilayered. She explained that although she loves her work and her craft, being an artist consumes most of her time and energy; therefore, some other important aspects of her identity are sometimes hard to maintain.
She explained the events of childhood in the Caribbean; a self-described "happy child," Dassardo-Cooper was forced to mature fast because of racial and ethnic adversity. She claimed to ignore the size and strength of her competition, and learned to stand up for herself at a young age.
One theme of Dassardo-Cooper's works is the idea of transcendence, going beyond geography, color and gender. Through the use of bright color and textures, she aspires to convey the "true beauty of the world."
Dassardo-Cooper was inspired by the hardships faced during childhood to create only beautiful art. "When you grow up listening to ugliness, it does affect you," she explained, offering her negative life experiences as one reason that she tries to rid her art of ugliness and "make it beautiful."
Dassardo-Cooper displayed many slides of her most famous work, "Veiled Presence," a series of oil paintings that were inspired by the elegance of the brilliantly colored dresses worn by women in India. When she visited India for the first time, Dassardo-Cooper understood how ethnicity could be limiting; she explained how shocked she was to learn that gender could limit someone as well. The juxtaposition of elegance, privacy and independence of these women inspired her. The paintings only show Indian women from the middle of the head down to the thigh, and do not convey any faces. The goal of the paintings, according to Dassardo-Cooper, was to show their strong presence.

Born in Jamaica of African and Indian ancestry, Dassardo-Cooper earned a bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. She has taught art at Massachusetts Bay Community College, Roxbury Community College, Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Art in Boston and at the Fillmore Art Center in Washington, D.C. Her work has been exhibited at National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, Superior Court in Washington, D.C., Hood College, Northeastern University, Salem State College, Worcester State College and Massachusetts College of Art.
The lecture was sponsored by The Jane Watson Irwin Endowment.
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