Inspired by veteran calypsonian David Rudder’s classic album The Power and the Glory, Trini-born New York artist Alicia Aberdeen is using the musician’s artwork to purchase laptops for St. Francis Boys’ College (former Belmont Boys RC Middle School) – Rudder’s alma mater.
The painting, a re-creation of Rudder’s portrait and album cover in oil and 24-karat gold, was the centerpiece of Aberdeen’s third fall art show, Painting in the Garden, held in Brooklyn, New York, last December.
The month-long exhibition showcases other works by Trinidadian artists and musicians, including a cover of Rudder’s song by Nickolai Salcedo (Gyazette) for a lonely soul.
In 2019, when she had her first exhibition, she donated the proceeds to a New York family living in a homeless shelter at the time. That winter, the family bills were also paid off.
In 2020, amid the pandemic, the exhibition has shrunk, but tickets are still sold out. Proceeds from the program will be used to develop a pan-scholarship, which is still ongoing.
In a phone interview with Newsday, Aberdeen said she decided to do something specific for her home country for last year’s exhibition, and contacted Rudder for permission to use his images and music.
“He graciously agreed and gave me the rights to cover his songs for the exhibition,” she said. Instead of donating to a cause of her choice, Aberdeen said she gave Rudder a choice over who to distribute the proceeds to.
“Despite his willingness to share with me, I decided to offer him the opportunity to support his philanthropy, his decision to give back to his alma mater, St Francis Boys’ College…I believe in immediate payment. I didn’t follow traditional academic channels, I saw it firsthand The art world, and decided to help others in the process.”
Aberdeen spoke highly of Rudder, saying that Rudder was very helpful in the creative process. “What really sets me apart is that we keep in touch. He in turn sends different pictures of himself from different angles so I can get a sense of his face. If he doesn’t, I don’t think I’ll get Eyes, everyone talks about eyes. He’s amazing. It’s everything an artist could hope for.”
She said that while he was involved in the creation of the piece, he did not interfere with the production. He is so kind. He let me make my show the way I wanted. The only thing he asked was to see my work and I said, ‘Yes’. “
Rudder was impressed with the final product, Aberdeen said. “He loved the piece. He gave me 100 percent blessings. He even owned a t-shirt (print with the drawing). When I finished the piece, he told me, ‘You did it. “
On May 4, Principal Lucia Reyes-Griffith received two laptops and a projector. The projector was donated by another former student, Kent Bernard, and $200, as well as $500 by retired Trinidadian athlete Edwin Roberts.
Aberdeen said 80 per cent of all proceeds from the exhibition will be used to buy more laptops and resources for the school.
The goal is to purchase at least five devices for the school’s computer lab. “Principal Reyes is excited to use this equipment in her new music lab to begin her improved music curriculum…teaching in a digital environment,” she said. To help fund the purchase of more equipment, before the painting sells, Aberdeen said T-shirts with the image of the painting will be available soon.
Aberdeen moved to New York in 2002 to pursue her passion for art. “In Trinidad, I ended up working in accounting. I had a well-paying job, but I wasn’t really happy.”
However, her financial responsibilities caught up with her, and she eventually returned to the corporate role, she said. “In 2009, I finally quit corporate America and became a full-time artist.
“I went back to school and everything and got a degree in Media, Art and Animation. With my background, I was able to pursue my passion and start Alicia Aberdeen Art LLC in 2016.”
Aberdeen said she was influenced by renowned local artist Leroy Clark early in secondary school. “Clark’s work really fascinates me…I don’t always understand it because his work is so deep, but just the mechanics of it really fascinates me.”
While she can’t reveal too much, she says this year’s exhibition will be a true tribute to TT. Aberdeen is again inviting TT artists to submit their work for the exhibition and is looking for works that fit a specific theme.
“We’re going to follow politicians, academics, TT sites that we rarely follow. It’s going to be a good callaloo.”