‘A photography project that began more than 25 years ago, Picayoʼs “Caribbean Carnival Portraits” takes viewers on a wide-ranging tour of the Greater and Lesser Antillesʼ carnivals, which vary greatly in scale, attire and atmosphere.
Though Picayo has strong ties to the Virgin Islands, the exhibit is something of a
homecoming for his work, since he hasnʼt exhibited in the territory in 20 years.
He still frequented the Virgin Islands during that time, but other ventures including a public access TV show he produced in New York for 13 years and a non-profit he founded, Latino Artists Round Table, took his work elsewhere.
“I consider myself a cultural ambassador of the Virgin Islands, and so much of my work is based on my experiences here. I am glad to bring this exhibit back home. It is definitely about time,” Picayo said.
Picayo was born in Cuba and spent much of his youth in Puerto Rico, but he considers St. Thomas home. When Picayo was 17 years old his father moved the family to St. Thomas for a business opportunity and today Picayo splits his time between St. Thomas and New York City.
After shooting his first carnival in St. Thomas in 1987, Picayo was hooked. What began as an experiment became a passion after he got his first roll of film back.
“I was looking for the photogenic aspects of carnival – I was going for the color. But then I got the slides back and something revealed itself. Beyond the vibrant colors I saw an intensity and a seriousness in peopleʼs faces,” Picayo said.
From there, Picayo sought to learn as much as he could about Carnival – its history, traditions and cultural influences, which span the Caribbean islands,
Europe and Africa. He wanted to know why people put so much importance, so much time, energy and money on an event that lasts only one day.
“Every carnival is a new experience and makes me ask more questions. That curiosity sends me searching for the next festivity,” Picayo said.’
Everything above is excerpted from an article, published with the St. Thomas Source, announcing the opening of Picayo’s Island Expressions: ‘Caribbean Carnival Portraits’ Exhibition. Read the entire article here. Just in case the link doesn’t work, here’s a PDF sent to me by the artiste: Island Expressions_ ‘Caribbean Carnival Portraits’ Exhibit Opens Friday
The exhibition runs throughout the month of June, in St. Thomas in the V.I. It feels like longer but I first met Mario, who is also a writer and publisher, when he stopped in Antigua during a literary tour in 2012 (?). His book, A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z), was a hit that night and has been since with the Cushion Club kids. Currently, his imprint, Little Bell Caribbean, is readying my picture book, my first faerie tale (!), for publication. Keep a look out for that and if you’re in St. Thomas be sure to check out his exhibition and, hey, come back and share your impressions here in the comments section.
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