“When what the eye sees makes you smile, that’s what matters”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Some artists live to paint. Dyah Neilson lives among his paintings. To get to a drawer for a t-shirt, she has to mix up the art supplies before juggling the canvases leaning against the dresser. To get to bed, she crawls over the work in progress.
Neilson’s bedroom-aka-studio is her hideaway, but the industrious artist, who also has a nearly full-time day job at the Oasis furniture and home decor store, is overflowing with work that she doesn’t have to. space to contain and more desire to paint than she has hours in the day.
“I usually start in the late afternoon and work late at night, sometimes until one or two in the morning,” said the petite 25-year-old who seems to be equally at home on a couch with a puppy that she would be. be on the beach. She exudes the same almost ethereal quality that fills the canvases of her work, a juxtaposition between the real and the surreal.
In a large piece, a young man with long dreadlocks and closed eyes seems only slightly aware that he is holding a giant grouper while another is on top of his head. The theme of intriguing animals, competing for attention, and even dominating humans, is a hallmark of many of his portraits.
Says Neilson: “My work consists of creative portraits that combine animals and people, compositions where the person is the center but the animal is used to symbolize different things throughout history, or culturally and spiritually.
In a commissioned piece titled “Kingfisher,” the prominent beaked birds of the same name adorn a dark-skinned woman. Little is known about her from the painting despite the intense detail showing thick, styled hair, a strand of cowry shells around the neck, a strong breastbone structure. We feel an inner strength, but what we do know is the birds that chose to land on his shoulders and above his head. The artist chose the kingfishers because they symbolize prosperity, abundance, wealth and peace.
Although portraiture is her favorite, the young Bahamian artist who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from York University in Canada is equally at home with wildlife and historic marine life. Its depiction of swimming sea turtles is so realistic that you want to glide into the blue-green sea and swim with them. Its grouper so real you’re torn between wanting boiled fish and saving the species for another day. What looks different from the rest of her work, as if she had lived a life prior to another era, is the body of her work that she calls marine. In this she paints two-masted ketches, wooden hulls, a bow and stern rounded like a double-ender, full but struggling sails, always a hint of trouble ahead.
Neilson began painting as a child.
“I had never thought of that. There was never a time when it was not in my life,” she said. “I have proof of when I was at the kindergarten. “
It was then that she wrote about a bear the teacher gave her to color in: “I want to grow up to be an artist and to be happy.
Her parents saw her interest and encouraged her, her father created a gallery wall to hang his photos. Her mother showed artistic promise, which she returns to just after a decades-long hiatus, and her father and sister both have a passion for photography.
Neilson studied with Sonya Isaacs and Kim Smith when she was young, interned at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) before leaving for college, had a successful solo exhibition at Doongalik Studios and her work done part of private collections from California to Canada.
In the twist she portrayed with her acrylics, she reflected on the fact that she originally intended to study interior design.
“I love design and worked at Restoration Hardware in Canada for a while,” she explained.
Today, she is the Store Manager at Oasis, with unique and contemporary interior furniture in Sandyport and an exterior style location on East Shirley Street.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” said Neilson. “I’m around beautiful things all day. Owner Brooke Pyfrom encourages and supports me to show my work, refusing to take any commission, and I can continue to work more each night at home.
According to Pyfrom, mixing a furniture, home decor and gift shop with art is natural.
“When what the eye sees makes you smile, that’s what matters. It can come in the form of a beautiful handcrafted table, the scent of a candle, or a canvas created by Dyah. It’s about touching this happy place in your heart, ”said the owner.
The only problem for the artist herself is squeezing so much artistic energy into a day that only takes 24 hours and so many supplies into a narrow room built for sleeping.