WESTFIELD – During these past few weeks of dreary weather, some Westfield residents may have daydreamed of taking a trip to the Caribbean or visiting a museum of fine art.
Last night, visitors to The Westfield Athenaeum experienced both the Caribbean and fine art, as patrons of the Jasper Rand Art Museum were treated to an exhibit celebrating Caribbean Heritage month by showcasing the work of Puerto Rican painter Gaddier Rosario titled “The Path, The Harmony and The Icon.”
Born in 1969 in San Juan, Rosario is viewed by many as the seminal Caribbean painter in New England, with his work being seen in galleries across the country, from New York City to San Francisco.
While receiving his formal education on his native island at Liga de arte de San Juan, Sagrado Corazon University and Escuela de Artes Plasticas, Puerto Rico’s foremost fine arts school, Rosario became part of the Galeria Latinoamericana in 1988, which elevated his work’s exposure to the prestigious heights enjoyed today.
While the works being shown at the Athenaeum were among his most recent, they drew rave reviews from the small crowd, which marveled at the oil and acrylic canvas pieces.
One in particular, 2007’s “Presencia”, was a hit among patrons.
A 60 by 48 inch oil painting of a man draped in muscle and color holding a Puerto Rican flag has served as the signature piece of the exhibit, one that greatly moved those in attendance.
“It’s one thing to see it on paper, but another to see it in person,” said Luis A. Rodriguez, a Technical Support Specialist at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield by day who is also a photographer whose work has been shown in galleries as a member of the Pioneer Valley Photography group out of Belchertown.
A high school friend of Rosario’s, Rodriguez lost touch with his art colleague following his move to the states, but a chance encounter five years ago in Holyoke reignited their friendship, which was what brought Rodriguez to Westfield yesterday evening.
“There is lots of diversity in this region, lots of talented people,” said Rodriguez, “Gaddier is certainly one of them.”
Many influential Puerto Rican art luminaries were in attendance, including Lydia Perez of Warwick, Rhode Island, Director of Yoruba2 and founder of the Puerto Rican Institute for the Arts, of which Rosario serves as a board member, and Manuel Frau-Ramos, Editor of El Sol Latino, a Spanish language newspaper in Amherst.
“He is an amazing painter who captures everything, ‘el sazon'”, said Perez, referring to “the seasoning” of the Puerto Rican-American experience.
Perez’ favorite painting in the gallery is 2011’s “Flight for Oshun”, a piece meant to symbolize the Afro-Puerto Rican roots which Perez holds near and dear to her heart as the Director of Yoruba2, a family performance group focusing on “Bomba”, the music which developed from African cultural influences on the island.
“She represents the ‘Madama” or the African spirit,” Perez said of the woman painted with blue, brown and teal oils on the 30 by 40 inch canvas.
“The growth of Caribbean art culture and Latino arts in Springfield and Holyoke has been amazing,” said Frau-Ramos, as he gazed at his favorite piece, 2009’s “Phat to Harmony”. “Gaddier has opened space for more Puerto Rican artists.”
Rosario couldn’t be bothered by such accolades, for he was far too busy explaining the depth and feeling of each piece, as if they were his own children.
“I want people to feel something. These paintings are over 20 years of my experience,” he said as he looked upon the oldest piece in the exhibit, “Trasmutacion Boricua”, a massive piece from 1987. “It (Puerto Rico) is unlike anywhere else in the world. The color, it’s everywhere, it’s in the water, it’s in the air.”
When asked of his influences, Rosario is humble in his estimation, and quick to say that he has not reinvented the wheel with his canvas works.
“Two or three centuries ago, perhaps I could’ve said that I wasn’t influenced by anything, but today, with the Internet and the world we live in, I’m influenced by the world,” he said, holding his arms as wide as possible for dramatic effect.
Mentioning Caribbean artists such as Domingo Garcia and Zelia Sanchez, Rosario also has an affection for the work of such American painters as Jackson Pollack, whose unique canvas works can be seen as spiritual cousins with Rosario’s “Walk of Fire”, a diptych oil over pane painted in 2009.
“Puerto Rico is full of light,” Rosario said while adjusting his beret, “Here (in New England) the weather can change like that,” he said with a snap of his fingers. “But there, it stays beautiful. I wish for people to see that in my work.”
Rosario’s works can be seen in several local galleries in Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke and Northampton, as well as other New England galleries in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.
For all things Gaddier Rosario, visit his website, www.gaddier.com.