In an attempt to highlight some of Guyana’s emerging talent, particularly from our premier art institution the E.R. Burrowes School of Art, I decided to extend my platform so that the public could be better acquainted with future Guyanese art practitioners. This week’s feature highlights Fiona Alert, a young artist whose works are predominantly paintings and leather works.
Dominique Hunter: Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started.
Lynette Fiona Alert: I started the E.R. Burrowes School of Art in 2014 as a part-time student in the one-year painting course. After I completed that I realized that I wasn’t getting enough and I wanted more. So I decided to join the school full-time soon after that. After doing the introductory courses, the following year I majored in painting and leather.
DH: What inspired this body of work?
LFA: In preparation for graduation we were told that it’s better if we have a theme. So I thought about what my theme would be. I started thinking about the things I liked and what I wanted to say. There were many answers because I wanted to say so much. I have so many different sides of me. So I looked a bit deeper within myself. I’m a lover of nature and I enjoy observing nature and from that I learned so much. I saw serenity, beauty and diversity within nature. Observing all of those things in nature taught me so much. It put a fear, a love and a greater appreciation for creation and for God. It helped me to love myself, love others and to respect persons of different ethnicities. Some say we shouldn’t see colour but yet when we look in nature we see colour, beauty, different shapes, sizes and so much diversity. You can’t be blind to colour in the human race. Everyone is distinct and beautiful in [his or her] own way. They all add beauty and diversity to the human race. Just from observing nature that’s what I’ve learnt. So I decided to let nature be my theme. I narrowed it down to local sceneries and that’s when I decided to paint the Rupununi area. I’ve never been to that area but I’ve seen it in videos and magazines. It’s really beautiful and I hope to go there one day to see it with my own eyes. I hope to feel the beauty and the energy that it has to offer.
DH: Describe your major task for this exhibition.
LFA: My major task is of a smiling young Amerindian girl in the kitchen. She’s preparing a traditional dish, which is the cassava bread. She’s smiling because she’s happy. She woke up, saw the mountains and the beautiful scenery around her and she’s appreciative of that. She’s content. I haven’t painted any persons in my other works, mostly landscapes, houses and still life. I chose to paint her because I wanted to challenge myself by getting out of my comfort zone. I also challenged myself by working bigger [than I usually do]. It was a challenge but I think I handled it well. For my leather pieces I tried to [incorporate] a little bit of nature and wildlife. I did fine art wall pieces and I also did everyday items like belts and shoes. I tried to cater to different persons. For my major task in leather I made a briefcase from scratch. There were no heavy materials used only lightweight materials. I also made a waistcoat and hat to go with the briefcase. In my mind I created a man who would be using this briefcase. He has style, class and he’s not afraid to be noticed. He also has a love and appreciation for nature as well as art. I also made a leather picture frame, a leather mirror and leather art pieces to hang on the wall. At first I never saw myself doing leather. Years ago I sold leather and whenever I noticed the hands of the leather men I would see how rough and hard looking their hands were. Even though I always appreciated the leather slippers and so on I never saw myself doing leather until I went to the E.R. Burrowes School of Art. That is where I discovered that leather could actually be fun. There are lots of creative things you can do with leather outside of the belts, bags and shoes that we see in the market.
DH: How was your journey in the art school?
LFA: My experience in Burrowes was very hard and challenging. But they say nothing good comes easy. I was determined that nothing would distract me from finishing. I feel like I should’ve started this [journey] way back. When I was given the opportunity I knew that I shouldn’t waste it and that I should make the most of it. I went there to succeed, not to let anyone stand in my way. There were a lot of obstacles from the beginning of the first semester right down to the last few days but I was focused and I completed it. I’m happy that I finished.
DH: What are your plans now that you’re done?
LFA: I plan to keep producing leather pieces and I hope that I get support. I hope that people would see my work, have an appreciation for it and purchase it. I have no intention of going to work with someone. I’ve worked with persons before and I’ve always felt like I wasn’t living or like I was just passing through traffic without stopping. I don’t know yet all of the avenues available to me but I’m hoping to find them and see how best they would suit me.
Lynette Fiona Alert along with eight other students (all female) exhibited their art works at the recently concluded examination exhibition at the Umana Yana, as part of the requirements for graduation from the E.R. Burrowes School of Art. The graduation ceremony for the budding artists will be held later in the year.
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on September 25, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: