The oeuvre of painter Jean Girigori (1948) is an extension of her being. She is warmhearted, has an ebullient personality and is deeply involved with her fellowman. Her conversations are about social justice, women’s rights, injustice done to children and the unification of the Caribbean people. Jean’s remarkable talent is evident not only in her mastery of color and brushwork, but also in her ability to penetrate to the core of the matter she wishes to portray. Working always in accordance with the mood that triggered off her inspiration, Jean is ready to express her innermost feelings. For a very good reason they call her the ‘Painter of the Magic Arc of the Caribbean’.
Her topics are close by or worldwide, but never unimportant. She paints about the hardships of Caribbean country life using images of cockfights, fishes, crying children and numerous people in the streets of big cities. Everything is moving, coming or going, telling us to change the world, to look for changes, to come with alternatives. Girls portrayed as brides, child’s eyes that often look accusing into the world. They have thick lips, formerly open round with a dark hole, nowadays almost always shut. Sometimes the children have an enormous flower bouquet on the head. These paintings are called ‘Speransa’, meaning hope. Jean expresses the pleasures and suffering of the Caribbean also in her bronze sculptures and unique glasswork.
Her nomadic upbringing shaped her. Jean was born on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. The first land the boat encountered was Haiti, where she was registered. Her mother came from the Dominican Republic, her father from Curacao. Very soon they moved to Santo Domingo, but the family traveled a lot with her father’s folkloristic theatre. In 1967 Jean went back to Haiti to stay with an aunt. There she met the well known Haitian painter, Paul George Hector. He became her first husband. At first she helped him with cleaning his brushes and tidying his atelier, but in a short time she also started to paint and got her first exhibitions in Haiti, Santo Domingo and also in Jamaica.
After her divorce Jean took the decision to go back to Curacao. Her first exhibition on the island took place in 1977. The following year she showed her work in the Cultural Center. The local papers were positive and that helped her find her way from that moment on.
Jean then left Curacao with a scholarship for New York where she studied at the Art Students League. She took lessons as well in painting as in sculpting. She received a prize for best student under supervision of Professor Knox Martin. That made her a member of the Students Art League and an exhibition of her work was organized in the Woman Art Gallery. She briefly opened a gallery in the Rif Fort in Curacao, but had to close it because of her illness.
Since 2007 she has to miss a leg because of diabetes. She also lost a finger on her right hand. But her condition doesn’t stop her to keep on painting full of passion and exuberance. Even though she calls the Dominican Republic her home now, her atelier at Kwartje 75 is still open for public.
Her work is also available at Gallery Alma Blou.
2014: Text by Nelly Rosa.