Elrode Reid spends his days at his job, then goes home to his wife and two young sons in Hartford. Late at night, when the family is asleep, he paints.
"When I am not with my wife, I am with my paintings," Reid said. "It helps me keep away the stress, to relax. I get carried away. I call art my 'second girlfriend'."
An exhibit of Reid's warm, bright landscapes and seascapes, with colors and scenes reminiscent of his native Jamaica, opens Saturday, March 16, with a reception from 1 to 4 p.m. at Passages Gallery. The gallery, at 21 Whitney St. in Hartford, between Mo's Midtown and Japanalia Eiko on Whitney Street, is a jam-packed, but nonetheless cozy, gallery focusing on art by Hartford residents, or from the collection of Hartford art collectors.
Reid, 64, works as a home-improvement contractor, and that's all right with him. "I don't like to depend on my painting for a living. That would give me less interest, turn it into a business."
But the Bloomfield resident has been doing art since he was a child. "Even when I was a boy in the classroom, I would draw pictures for my classmates. Sometimes the pictures I would make for them would be better than the pictures I would make for myself."
Reid paints landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, portraits, florals, in a variety of styles — impressionist, cubist, primitive, both in oil and watercolor, but his scenes heavily favor depictions of women, "maybe because I just love women," he says. His favorite subject are the Jamaican village women who go to the marketplaces every morning, baskets full of goods perched on their heads, and return home, baskets empty, in the afternoons. They are called "higglers."
Reid said as young as age 14, he sold paintings near the resort hotels, and the images of higglers are a by-product of that. "That is what people want to see when they think of Jamaica," he said. He went to Jamaica School of Art at age 16. He later emigrated to Canada, then back to Jamaica, then to Connecticut, so his kids could get a good education. He has six other sons by a previous marraige.
"I paint what I remember of Jamaica," he said. "I use bright colors because they make me think of Jamaica."
Rosita Forte-Dobson, the owner of Passages, reopened the gallery in fall 2011. It used to be in Bloomfield, and then closed for 12 years. The gallery is building a reputation. "We want to help artists in the city. We've been around long enough, artists are starting to come to us now," Forte-Dobson said. "I've received a lot of love from this community."
Among the other artists on exhibit now at Passages now are Robert Rogalski — a Hartford-born artist with dyslexia whose work focuses on his inability to read until he was 16 — Annie Lee and the Makonde sculpture collection of Stewart L. Wolff of Hartford.