Spotlight on Johanna Durimel, Sand painter [fr]
The painter Johanna Durimel builds a bridge between Guadeloupe and Florida
e-Toile: Johanna Durimel, hello and thank you for taking part in this interview. Before discussing the two successive trips you made last fall, can you introduce yourself to our readers and describe them your artistic career?
- Johanna Durimel : I am a self-taught artist who makes natural sand paintings from different beaches in the Caribbean and other parts of the world.
I have a degree in Tourism and Foreign languages, as well as a Master in project management; my studies did not predispose me to work in the artistic world.
Nevertheless, caught up by my passion for art, it was natural for me to present my first sand paintings to an organization to allow them to raise funds for kids in 2007. At this event, I was noticed by renowned artist Alain Caprice, who decided to sponsor my first exhibition in 2009. After this event, I embarked on this artistic endeavor that gained me recognition from the general public.
Later, things accelerated. I exhibited my works during the Black Caucus at the French Embassy in Washington, in the presence of Minister Rama Yade and Reverend Jessie Jackson.
Exhibitions and contests have taken place both in my island and abroad. I won a contemporary art contest in Guadeloupe to exhibit my work at the Pool Art Fair in New York.
In 2011, it was very important to me to convey my passion for sand art and for important figures in Caribbean history to children through workshops set up by the French National Education in primary schools. I have also had the opportunity to participate in various TV shows.
In 2013, the film crew of the TV show Streetosphere, having taken notice of my work on Internet, came to film a story, which was released in France, Poland, Italy, and Canada.
In November 2014, I was selected by “Guadeloupe Expansion” for an economic mission in the US during the “French Weeks Miami”, which then gave me the opportunity to go to Art Basel in December 2014.
e-Toile: From November 10 – 13, 2014, you were part of the large delegation led by Marianne Therese Pepin, President of the Committee for Cooperation at the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, which came to South Florida during the 2014 “French Weeks Miami”.
How did you set yourself apart from other candidates to be selected as a participant in this economic mission to the US?
- Johanna Durimel : For this economic mission, the ability to meet the demands of the American market had to be demonstrated: works with a very high quality finish and a powerful media communication.
I first highlighted the originality of the sand painting technique, not very well-known in the US; and the special care that I give to details, the highlighting of the characters, the exclusive use and finish of natural sand.
A previous experience in Washington in 2009, made me realize that this art form aroused interest in Americans. My advanced studies in foreign languages have been a real advantage to the preparation for interviews with Miami gallery owners and to develop my English communication skills. Finally, it seems that my unusual background, my professionalism, and my determination have been noticed.
e-Toile: During this mission, you met established gallery owners in Wynwood, who offered to exhibit your work during Art Basel week. Can you tell us more about this meeting and of this second stay in Miami?
- Johanna Durimel : For me it was completely unreal!
I received a very positive reception from the gallery owners; but when Gallery 212 offered me the opportunity to exhibit my work during Art Basel 2014, I could not believe it!
It was a dream opportunity for the young Caribbean artist that I am, to reach an international audience by showcasing among other world-famous artists. That’s how I returned to Miami in December 2014. From the 4th to the 7th, Gallery 212 did a lot of work to be able to receive the thousands of people from around the world who came to discover new artists.
On this occasion I was able to share experiences with the various artists present (some from Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Miami, Chicago, France...). It was however, an unforgettable moment for discussion with the public, who wanted to know everything about sand art.
e-Toile: What do you take away from these two experiences and what projects are you currently working on in Guadeloupe, Florida, or elsewhere?
- Johanna Durimel : They were two very enriching experiences: the “French Weeks Miami” for allowing me to build a network of contacts in Miami and for leading me to Art Basel; and this world-renowned exhibition for giving me a spotlight in the international market.
It also opened me to exhibition opportunities in other cities in the United States, such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, as well as in Switzerland and Germany.
I am in the process of studying all these proposals with the help of consultants. I intend to build on these experiences and profit from the valuable advice from professionals to grow in my art. I am already working on new paintings.
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Interview: Dec. 29, 2014.