Also featuring: Buju Banton, Kizz Daniel, Sting, Shaggi, Ayra Starr, and more.
The Caribbean Island of St. Lucia, every May for over 25 years has been a haven of music, art and tourist attraction for the multitude of culture lovers that troop in to experience the breath of fresh air on the beautiful island.
Starting out as just a Jazz music festival organized by a small group of passionate people in 1991 in a bid to attract tourists to the island in the month of May, it has evolved into an internationally recognized festival rooted in its Acoustic, Jazz and R&B elements.
The massive evolution, growth and acceptance of the St. Lucia Jazz festival has led it to infuse diverse cultural values such as Southern Jazz, Afro-Caribbean and Afrobeats music. Ranked as the #1 festival by E! Entertainment, #2 in Caribbean festivals after the Trinidad & Tobago festival and named Top five best festivals in the world by festival mogul George Wein, St. Lucia Jazz & Arts festival has her name ingrained in the sands of time.
Infusing art into the festival came into play in 2013 making this year’s edition the 10th year since the art rebranding experience. At the forefront of 2023 St. Lucia Jazz & Arts festival, exhibiting contemporary art is Afro-Caribbean American portrait artist, Kandy G. Lopez.
Born in Bayonne, New Jersey before moving with family to Miami, Kandy G. Lopez is a phenomenal woman and artist whose journey through life and the world of art is a source of inspiration.
It all began from a Dance Magnet Program in Opa-Locka, Florida before pivoting to Art in middle school as a last resort as she did not fancy playing the instruments. Sixth and seventh grade of middle school built the core of Kandy’s artistic prowess as she was introduced to the technical skills in dark room photography, painting and drawing in multiple mediums and ceramics. In her exact words “My middle school teachers changed the trajectory of my life” she said.
By eighth grade, Kandy was focused and motivated to follow her passion in art. She got admitted into four prestigious art high schools in Florida and then decided to attend New World School of the Arts. NWSA exposed Kandy to a different world in all ramifications; the calibre of people, competition and opportunities propelled her to snag the first position at the ACT-SO NAACP National Art Prize in 2005 and also first position at the National Latino Art Beat Award in 2006 before going on to Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007 where she intended to major in Graphic Design.
Her fear of being financially handicapped stopped her from majoring in studio arts as that was the popular belief at the time, meanwhile, she disliked Graphic Design, but ended up opting out and going back to Florida due to a crash in the housing market that led her mom to lose her job.
On getting to Florida, Kandy attended the University of South Florida majoring in Business with a double concentration in Marketing & Management which slowly pulled her to the hell-hole of depression. She started painting as a form of escape on campus when someone advised her to apply for USF’s art program. Luckily for her, she was admitted with scholarship opportunities and she then decided to double major and receive her Bachelors of Fine Art in Painting and a Bachelors of Science in Business.
According to Kandy, her art serves as a vessel to identify, celebrate and tell the stories of marginalized individuals and people of color portraying them as strong, powerful and confident personalities through every piece of art she creates. The Afro-Caribbean artist explores and promotes her cultural heritage by using her God-given gift in arts to tell nostalgic tales of her people; and creates art telling stories of immigration, vulnerability and self-confidence and showcases them in major galleries and museums.
She described her artistic process as one that is constantly inspired by a person or image before the whole picture is brought to life. While she might derive inspiration from other themes and concepts, Kandy maintains that there is always a person or image in her head that leads to the final piece of work.
Kandy’s recent creations have been laudable and distinct as she has been creating portraits using yarn and thread. She explained that her experimentations with textile could subconsciously have stemmed from her grandmother, who was a seamstress for the Dominican Carnival in Santo Domingo during her time. When asked how she perceives her art is contributing to the wider art world, Kandy said “My work should be included in the history of art. We are taught the canonical view in art history which erases the contributions and creative qualities of other cultures. My work is meant to engage, provoke, test, and educate”.
Kandy also lets us in on how she has been able to balance her life as a teacher, mother and visual artist. She explained that the flexibility of her teaching job coupled with a supportive partner, family and dedication to her art has helped her navigate the overwhelming nature of her job as a role player in three full-time jobs. She asserted that although it’s not an easy feat, it is achievable for every woman that has a passion. In a cheesy manner, she added “Therapy has been very helpful.. lol.”
“Orlando” and “As I See Me” displayed above are her most-prized pieces of art in her own perspective. She narrated how ‘As I See Me’ was one of her first realistic self-portraits given as an assignment during her university days, the idea behind the art was to paint an image portraying how she viewed herself and as seen above, she painted an image of herself in a worm’s eye view. The concept was to elevate women of color as they were often looked down upon and perceived as less, not from a place of arrogance or pride but positioning them as powerful and prestigious.
‘Orlando’, which was a portrait of her brother, radiates how she saw her brother from a bird’s eye view. The concept was to show the vulnerability in men of color – the softness and fragility of the Afro Caribbean American male.
Kandy G. Lopez is not only an amazing artist, teacher, mother and role-model but to me as the writer — a super-woman. She obtained a Master’s degree in Fine Art (Painting) from the Florida Atlantic University in 2014 and loves teaching and grooming the next generation of artists. She has taught at Daytona State College, Florida Atlantic University and is the current Program Director for Art + Design as well as an Associate Professor at the NOVA Southeastern University.
Kandy’s works have been exhibited in prominent museums and galleries locally and internationally. Her recent exhibitions include two solo exhibitions funded by the Broward Arts Cultural Division at the Girls’ Club Collection Warehouse and the Frank C. Ortis Gallery in Florida. She has been awarded four residencies within the last two years and has recently participated in Project Row Houses in Houston, TX.
Her story, grit and passion is one of a kind and should be a source of inspiration to every individual from marginalized groups or communities with a dream to succeed, Kandy is a beam of light and a success story in her own regard, if not for any other thing, you should be attending the St. Lucia Jazz & Art Festival 2023 to experience this phenomenal gift to mankind – Kandy G. Lopez.