Interviews: Mary Hahn

Posted in Interviews by Adele Todd on August 16, 2009

Mary Hahn has been practicing for about sixty years. She works in representational landscape painting techniques. In her interview she mentions, Dame Wilkins, Dame Eva Wilkins was a portrait painter who also did pastoral work. She lived and worked in Nevis. Brother Griffith began the Artists’ club that she mentioned.

It lasted until he was recalled to England, after his time in Trinidad. The group was small and intimate, with about five artists meeting to talk about art and to sometimes work, including Dr. Isaaih Boodhoo and Willie Chen who was not a member, but did pop in from time to time.

my mother died, I was too late

My mother died, it was too late

Q. Mary Hahn, mother of Stuart Hahn and artist in her own right, Mary, can you tell me about Art in Trinidad and Tobago when you started practicing?

A. I was living in San Fernando at the time. We formed a small group of interested artists under the umbrella of Brother Fergus Griffith who was attached to the brothers’ Roman Catholic Church in San Fernando. He was English and very popular with the little group, and an artist himself.

Q. How did you know that you wanted to be an artist? What was one of the first things that you recall doing?

A: From early on, I liked to use coloured pencils and children s’ paint boxes. I was also lucky that Dame Eva Wilkin took an interest in me and encouraged me to draw.

path to Pigeon Peak, Tobago

Path to Pigeon Peak, Tobago

Q. You were not born in Trinidad, so what was your outlook on being in another island and working, like?

A: At first with a small baby and newly married, painting was not on the cards. Later, and also when the boys were at school and we were living in our house in Philipene where I made room for my working area. And I worked and destroyed!

Q. Your son has prodigious skill, when did you begin to notice his ability and what did you do to nurture him along?

A: Stuart was very lucky to have a good art teacher at his school in Barbados. It is that teacher who lit the spark that David and I have kept alight.

Q. Who were some of your influences both locally and abroad when you started working?

St Lucia bay front

St Lucia bay front

A: That is a very difficult one to answer. First of all, since those early days with Brother Fergus, I have worked alone. Leslie Melton and I got along well and he helped me. Leslie was an English artist working for Jack Kelshall. We
got along very well in spite of his insanely jealous wife!

Q. In what period of time did you make your best work in your opinion?

A: When both boys were away at school in Barbados, we were living in Philipene, I led a small studio, no phone, in blissful isolation.

Q. Being a female artist, did you find difficulty to express yourself?

A: None whatsoever!

Q. What do you think of art in Trinidad and Tobago today?

A: Excellent, quite horrible! good, bad and…

Q. You still work from time to time and still have ideas. You were just honored two years ago by the National Museum, tell me about that?

A: I did indeed feel very honored.

What Have We Done

What Have We Done

Q. You have lived to see many things happen in Art, what advice can you impart to the young female artist today?

A: Work hard, go for it and try not to let those who don’t know better, put you off.

Thank you Mary Hahn