Diplomatic Pouch / January 21, 2016
By Larry Luxner
With only 180,000 people, St. Lucia — barely half the size of Montgomery County, Md. — ranks one of the smallest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
But the Caribbean country certainly isn’t lacking in talent.
Joseph Edsel Edmunds, St. Lucia’s former ambassador to the United States, is also a poet and painter. On Jan. 9, the retired diplomat unveiled some of his works at Art Impact USA’s first annual International 2016 Art Exhibition.
Edmunds was among a group of 15 artists whose works will be on view through Jan. 28 at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington’s Penn Quarter. The other artists hail from Brazil, China, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States.
Edmunds, 84, has been an artist for 30 years, but “I discovered myself in the States,” he told the Diplomatic Pouch during an opening reception, as hundreds of guests munched on appetizers and admired the 87 works on display.
“I’ve always dabbled in the arts, and when I was made ambassador, I was given a beautiful home with four floors, but they didn’t provide any art,” said Edmunds, who represented St. Lucia from 1984 to 1997, ending his tenure here as vice-dean of the D.C. diplomatic corps. “I’m not a trained artist by any means, but I filled up the whole house with my own works, and exhibited here and there.”
After leaving office, Edmunds bought a house in Rockville, “but it was too small to accommodate all my art, so I converted my garage into a studio.”
The four pieces now on display are acrylic paintings “Ethereal” and “Dante’s Inferno,” as well as “Royal White,” done in cotton cloth on drywall, and “Foiled Inspiration,” a work made of aluminum foil.
None of them could be mistaken for the kind of art typically purchased by cruise-ship tourists while in port.
“I often say I am an artist from the Caribbean, and not necessarily a Caribbean artist,” he said. “When you talk about Caribbean art, you think of canoes, mountains, beaches and coconut trees. But most of my work is a conceptualization. I also dabble in poetry and I have written a book of poems. And as a former ambassador, I delve into world affairs.”
Edmunds said he was “discovered” by fellow Caribbean artist and curator Carolyn Goodridge, a Trinidadian by birth who also happens to be executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit group Art Impact USA.
“When you’re an artist, you just care about creativity,” she said. “But I know the ugly side of the art business. Artists are taken advantage of. So our organization is basically to help artists promote themselves on the business end.”
Goodridge has a bachelor of fine arts in painting from the University of Florida and a master of fine arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s been curating art exhibitions for years, but this month’s event at Pepco marked her first time since the organization became a nonprofit last year.
Besides Edmunds, other artists attending the reception included Mexican painter Gloria Valdes Tarasca; Italy’s Pasquale Monaco; Hubert Jackson, whose works decorate U.S. embassies in Burundi and Gabon, and Maryland native Vicki Marckel.
“I remember when Carolyn first began the organization. She was so excited,” Marckel told the Pouch. “Art Impact is a collaboration that provides a format for artists to converge. It’s a great synergy which allows lots of people with very distinctive visions to display their art in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be available.”
Marckel has six oil-on-canvas pieces on display at the Pepco Gallery including “Big Ben,” “Walking in New Orleans” and “Dupont Circle.” One of her paintings, “Saints of God, Come to Our Aid,” was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and presented to Pope Frances during his visit to Washington last year.
In addition to Art Impact, contributors include Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, Drum Foundation Inc, Law Firm Vendors Association and Community Printing DC.
“The mission of Pepco’s Edison Place Gallery is to work with nonprofit arts organizations to sponsor a series of diverse, high-quality art exhibits on behalf of the community we serve,” said Debbi Jarvis, vice-president of corporate citizenship and social responsibility at Pepco Holdings Inc. “Pepco also works with local governments to support school enrichment programs, aid to the less fortunate, and many other community needs.”
The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 29, can be viewed from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It is located at 702 Eighth St. NW, Washington, DC 20068. For more information, please call (877) 772-6045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.