Artist / Founder / Director, Winsom Foundation, Sooke, BC/Pickering, ON/Belize. Born: Kingston, Jamaica.
Winsom is an artist activist of extraordinary scope, having been at her craft since 1968. She grew up in Jamaica, lived in Canada for many years and now spends five months of the year in Cristo Rey, Belize where she teaches many art forms to children. Her work is Afrocentric and described as filled with spiritual symbolism, and are often multi-media installations combining painting, textiles, sculptures and video. She infuses her work with African and Arawak spirituality, in particular with the Orishas, which she has studied extensively and of which she is a priestess.
Background: From an early age, Winsom wanted to be an artist. As a child, she made and sold “Jamaican” Christmas cards to family and friends; they were an alternative to cards imported from the UK, which did not reflect the local environment. Her early influences for painting came from European artists and Canadian painter Emily Carr. Upon her arrival in Canada, she studied traditional African textile design and dye technique from books. Subsequently, she made several trip to a number of West African countries (i.e. Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, etc.), where she studied with other local artists. These visits also reflected a spiritual journey, which are conveyed in her works. With these different influences, it is said that “her work also displays an interest in landscape, but from a symbolic angle, and incorporates African and Caribbean religions of the Yoruba and Arawak.” Winsom’s works have been exhibited across Canada, the U.S. and Caribbean, and she lectures widely on African spirituality.
Exhibits: Rousings: Progressive Jamaican Art, National Gallery Cayman Islands (2004); Iconography of Divination and Sign of Spirit, ASpace Gallery, Toronto (2003); Kindred Spirit (toured the U.S.); River of Life, Chatham (2000); A Spiritual Dialogue, Art Gallery of Ontario (1997). Her works are also featured in many private and public collections.
Community: Worked with young offenders; advisor and mentor for youth and emerging artists; volunteer artist/facilitator with Black female inmates in Kingston, Ontario facilities; founded the Winsom Foundation which helps children reach their full potential by providing scholarships to village children to attend high school.
Honours: Best Short Film, Oya, Belize International Film Festival (2005); Marilyn Lastman Award for promoting the arts and mentoring, City of Toronto (2002); inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada (1st & 2nd editions).
Reviewed in: Newspapers and magazines, along with museum and art gallery catalogues, including, Kindred Spirits (2000); Draw it Black (2002); radio and television interviews on CBC, TVO and CFMT.
Education: Jamaica School of Art.
Favourite book: Flora Tristan by Joyce Anne Schneider. If I had lived in the 1800s in Paris when Flora Tristan was around, we would have been friends. She was such a feminist, socialist and a free spirit, plus she was the grandmother of of one of my favourite painters, Gaugin.
Favourite quote? “I evoke the powers of ancient alchemy for love, from my hands and heart, my mind, my body, spirit, I transform these elements, into the power of love.” – Winsom Winsom
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Have enough money to send every child in the village, who so desire, on to high school .
Who/what inspires you? Love, God, myself, all children, Tina Turner and love, again.
Why do you do what you? Because I am the alchemist, I am love and I am very blessed and this is what I came back to do in this life. To be an artist, a protector of children and be just plain love.