by Josée Thissen-Rojer
The current COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up everyone’s daily lives to some extent, and things are no different in the visual arts sector. In this series, we visit local visual artists and ask what changes they’ve experienced and how they’re dealing with the situation. This time, we’re talking to Ashley Mauricia. Because strict measures related to the pandemic are currently in place, we have our conversation online.
Ashley Mauricia (Aruba, 1961) is 26 years old when he receives a grant from the Curaçao government, which allows him to attend an art academy in Venezuela. The first two years, he takes classes in Caracas at the Escuela de Artes Visuales Cristobal Rojas. His exceptional talent and sense of discipline do not go unnoticed. At the recommendation of his school, he completes his education at the prestigious Universidad de Los Andes in Mérida (Venezuela).
In 1991, he returns to Curaçao and establishes himself as an artist. Over the years, he undertakes many projects. He exhibits, teaches at the (then) Akademia di Arte, has an art gallery for many years, and creates programs about visual art ‘Arte pa Tur’ for radio and television. In 2013, Ashley is the driving force in the organization of the national ‘The Longest Painting’ project, which takes place on July 1st of that year. The three-day event is part of the 150-year commemoration of the abolition of slavery in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A canvas is stretched on the surface of Helmin Wiels Boulevard, from the roundabout at Piscadera to the Aqualectra building at Mundo Nobo. The painting themed ‘Nature and I in Liberty’ is 2 kilometers long, and is completed with the help of many sponsors and volunteers, as well as local and international artists. Ashley’s successful event will go down as a Caribbean record, because of the length of the painting.
When the pandemic reaches Curaçao in March 2020 and the lockdown is announced, Ashley has just lost his job as a drawing teacher. He’s at home and the lockdown is keeping him there. His unemployment and the tensions brought about by the pandemic throw him off balance. When his sister and brother also die during this period, Ashley’s grief becomes overwhelming. 2020 is really a disastrous year for him.
Over time, as Curaçao gets a better grasp on the pandemic situation, he manages to regain his composure. After the lockdown, going to his studio is not an option, because there’s no electricity there. More importantly, during the lockdown, vandals broke into his studio and caused a lot of destruction there. So, he is forced to work from home. He makes several new statues of coral stone for his series ‘Members of the Stone Tribe’. In hindsight, he realizes that working on those coral stone statues actually helped him get through that difficult period.