Whitehot Magazine

Chris Welch and William Cummins at the Gallery of Caribbean Art

Chris Welch, Duppies series 29, watercolor on paper, 14 x 11 inches 

By JOHN DRURY, January 2024

You may, or you very well may not, believe in the spirit world. There is in the yet unknown, the unknowable, a certain necessary leap of faith not dissimilar that invested by so many, in that whole “God” thing. Enter the Duppy; “a haunting spirit of the dead conceived in the folklore of West Indians as a usually malevolent shadow of immaterial body” (Merriam-Webster).

Originating in Central Africa before making its way to the islands aboard slave ships, the Duppy may come in either human or animal form. While there does exist the “good” Duppy, speaking generally, the Duppy is not to be fucked with. It’s best not to play with fire  most of us learn this as kids. Duppies don’t seem particularly a benign sort, even those that offer useful advice or information. Artist Chris Welchs seem instead, the sort best kept at bay…say by wearing one’s clothes inside out (one method); or buying time at least, by “cutting ten”…cutting the sign of the cross ten times in the dirt with a knife. It turns out, a Duppy can’t count past nine, nor do they care much for crosses. A confused Duppy, is a Duppy still controllable.

Just sayin.

Chris Welch, Duppies series 23, watercolor on paper, 14 x 11 inches.

An unusual offering at the Bajan (Barbadian) gallery in Speightstown – a small seaside town - finds amongst the usual sanguine fair, that popular with most of the sight-seeing tourists – colorful and simple scenes of locals seeking shelter from the blazing sun beneath palm trees, sea turtles and the ever-present sea – these several works dedicated to the depiction of the Duppy. Welch finds reaped of a spattered and pooled puddle of watercolor paint, an emerging entity misty and vaporous; mysterious. His seem the sort that bite.

William Cummins, untitled, C-print, 16 x 16 inches

William Cummins, Discernment, B&W photograph, 16 x 16 inches

In juxtaposition, as part of this small group side-offering, the photographs of William Cummins look for clarity in the upclose and minimal, for connection to that in common, both the unequaled and the underwhelming. That paramount, might be echoed in fine detail; the uncomfortably personal…the finite (minute), as can be found in the infinite. His is the search for what we who are observant might find out, about the outer-most, as facilitated by the near microscopic – that which lies beyond the screen of indefinite answers. His, at times, seems a simple point and shoot, in near scientific research – simply see what you “get”, and then go from there.


So, should you find yourself sunny-side-up before the end of the month, stop in. Come…in perhaps sequestered query, the maximum secrets of paranormality as revealed in minimum effort (shout out Archimedes!). And relax. It’s gonna’ be hot out there. Throw another dash of salt in the Duppy’s way, and then look for the Big Dipper as revealed in the fallen granules.

Believe It or Not (and the Concept of Leverage) is on view at the Gallery of Caribbean Art between January 6 and 31, 2024Barbados. WM 

John Drury

John Drury is a multi-media artist, published author, independent curator and instructor. Drury holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design (1983) and a Master of Fine Art Degree in sculpture (1985; including a minor in painting), from Ohio State University. John is the father of two teenagers, living in New York City since 1989 and has received the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award for his work in sculpture.

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