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Painting Bonaire

Above: Sail to Klein by Janice Huckaby

By Alexander Britell

BONAIRE — For more than two decades, Janice Huckaby has been chronicling Bonaire, brush stroke by brush stroke.

Across more than 700 paintings, Huckaby, who first came to the island in 1991, has created an artistic narrative of Bonaire, from the underwater seascapes for which the island is famous to its historic buildings.

It was not the first choice for Huckaby, who came to the Dutch Caribbean island from Grand Cayman in 1991.

“In the early 80s, I had come diving to Bonaire,” she says, “but would not have considered it as a place to live.”

But for Huckaby, who came to the island to work in underwater photography, a initial one-year contract begat another, and soon, after four years, she decided to stay indefinitely.

“I taught underwater photography, collected a lot of images of the island, and started to paint a little bit more,” she says. “Eventually, it led to a full-time painting career.”

Above: Janice Huckaby Baillie (CJ Photo)

Today, the result is the JanArt Gallery on Kaya Grandi in downtown Kralendijk, where Huckaby greets visitors to offer them a glimpse of Bonaire on canvas.

In 1996, she first established an art gallery and studio, first opening in Antriol. She now uses that studio for lessons and art classes.

“I try to diversify,” she says. “For a long time, I painted only underwater — then I realized that the land was pretty special, too. So I started creating the landscapes, and one day I decided I didn’t want to choose between land and underwater — I wanted to paint above and below water. So I paint both.”

According to Huckaby, the art culture in Bonaire has changed dramatically over the years.

“It’s changed quite a bit,” she says. “There are a lot of artists that have moved here from other places.”

When she first arrived on the island, few artists pained landscapes in Bonaire, she says. Much of the art was of a more religious nature.

“I decided that my goal was to paint what you see, to give the person who’s visiting a nice representation of what they saw,” she says. “I wanted to give them a good memory, a feeling that Bonaire is a special place — so they could have a visual tangent to see when they get home.”

“I started creating paintings to make sure that everybody left Bonaire with a happy feeling, something they could enjoy for the rest of their life.”

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