Ever so often a piece of art comes along and sears its place into my memory. The first time I saw one of Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné’s poly-chromatic portraits was in April of this year on Instagram. I was instantly transfixed. Her entire online portfolio—every piece as captivating as the next— is now the reason I make reference to the Trinidadian artist whenever talk of unique creative talent comes up. Three months ago the unsurprisingly spiritually aware Danielle welcomed my request for an interview and opened the doors to her world as a visual artist, poet, empath and mother.
PS: In such a visual world, your paintings are so eye catching, they stand out so effortlessly. What inspired your style?
Danielle: I’ve been developing my style since childhood, absorbing elements of things that spoke to me, figuring things out as I went along. I’m definitely inspired by the Trinidadian landscape, the colours, lines and flow of the natural world I grew up immersed in. At the moment I find myself being inspired by emotions. I want to make visual the shape, feel and weight of feelings like love and tenderness.
PS: Women show up often in your work, in different colors, shapes, with different features. Why is that?
Danielle: I grew up surrounded by a circle of strong, soft, magical women, particularly my grandmother. Now that I am an adult and a mother myself, I realize how hard life must have truly been for women like her, women who still managed to laugh and provide and read books and climb trees and just be beautiful and brilliant and so, so loving. I look around me and see so many women like this, women who made magic when life gave them very little to do it with. I am always trying to explore and celebrate that. I also think that women have been painted by men for so long, that it is a powerful and necessary thing now that we paint ourselves, especially so for women of colour.
PS: What do you want people to feel when they look at your paintings?
Danielle: I love when people see themselves in my art, or someone close to them. It moves me beyond words, especially since, as a child who always loved art, I saw very little of myself and my friends and family in the art that was featured at galleries or in magazines. That is changing now, and it is a glorious thing to witness and to be part of. I also want people to see that there are layers to everything. Beauty is not one-note, it is multidimensional and complex and difficult and joyful and so many different things all at once.
PS: When did you decide to pursue your art and writing full time?
Danielle: There was one very clear moment in 2011 when I just could not ignore the pull toward a creative life anymore. It felt like drowning very slowly, little by little each day. I had no idea how I would make it work financially, but I had to leap anyway and have faith. Before this I was an English teacher, and although I loved, and still love, working with children, my heart was pulling me toward something else. Not one day goes by where I am not thankful for the chance to live and work in my purpose.
PS: What is your perception of Trinidad’s creative industry?
Danielle: So full of potential, so full of fire and creative brilliance and sheer transformative energy, but not fully realized.
PS: Which artists inspire you most?
Danielle: Hard to say, as it keeps changing, but I do have my mainstays. I’m always in awe of the work of local artist and designer James Hackett. At the moment I’m in love with Michelle Robinson and Zahira Kelly.
PS: What’s in the pipelines for you? What can we expect next?
Danielle: My first full collection of poetry, Doe Songs, published by UK-based Peepal Tree Press, launches this month [May 2018. Danielle’s book is available for purchase here. I’m beyond excited about that! Really just hoping to keep painting and writing, and to let the universe do its work.
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