Winosha Steele, a recent graduate from SUNY Plattsburgh, is already one of the area’s most recognizable and versatile creatives. Several of Winosha’s oil portraits are included in Reflections, a duo exhibition with Peter Russom at Saranac Lake’s BluSeed Studios. Some of the portraits are of family or friends, and some are of herself. Every face is different, and every expression is endearing.
What immediately caught my eye at the exhibition was, Evocation, a collage of self portraits, using pencil, paper and chalk pencils.
Pictured here: Winosha with Evocation at BluSeed Studios, Saranac Lake, New York March 5, 2022. Photo by Skip Murray.
“The literal meaning of Evocation is the act of recalling a feeling, memory or image to the conscious mind. This is precisely what I want this piece to do. To resonate with my constant development as an artist, throughout the years, throughout my existence.”
Winosha credits several art educators, first in Antigua and then in New York, for helping motivate and direct her. She also communicates her appreciation of family, friends and country, through her art. Before coming to SUNY Plattsburgh, Winosha had lived in Antigua for the majority of her life and then for a brief time in the Bronx. Relocating to Upstate New York, the cold was a challenge. Mastering painting was a challenge. But Winosha thrives on challenges and considers how they can empower her.
Among those challenges was being the only black female art major for most of her time at SUNY Plattsburgh. In early 2018 students rallied to express outrage at an incident that involved racial language on social media platform, Snapchat. This was something new for Winosha. She had not experienced racism in Antigua, and generally felt comfortable on campus. But with the death of George Floyd, she wanted to speak to those who knew her and her art about Black Lives Matter and what she had learned about American history. With the help of her friend Jade Nguyen, she created the digital photography exhibit, Educate Yourself, which can be found at here.
Winosha, while she is still a young woman, has experienced life in two very different environments. Antigua is an island nation with less than 100,000 people, independent only since 1981. The weather is always sunny and warm. While growing up in St Mary’s Parish of Antigua, her interest in art was encouraged by her mother, Gisela, who adorned the family home with whimsical creations. In high school, Winosha learned from teacher and artist Renee Phillip that art is a profession requiring dedication and structure. She then attended Antigua State College for two years, and was inspired by the work of instructor Mark Brown, a well known artist, who broadened her vision and passion for the arts.
After coming to the US, she applied to SUNY Plattsburgh. A little miffed to be placed in introduction classes, she quickly realized that it was the best thing that could have happened. Her first courses with SUNY Professor Richard Mikkelson exposed her to some fundamental concepts that she still applies, including an introduction to the Bargue drawing techniques.
Her art classes were not always easy. She had three studio classes each semester, in addition to her honors classes. She worried that she would disappoint her instructors, or be found inadequate. It’s stirred her into thinking more about what she communicates through her art. Winosha does not shy away from respecting who she is and where she came from, and tries to express her love of the people of Antigua whenever and wherever her art takes her.
A video of this exhibit can be found at: https://mountainlake.org/pop-for-the-people/
Artist, author and arts advocate Amy Guglielmo, who co-founded Outside Art Project in Plattsburgh, New York, invited Winosha to participate in the Migrations Mural project.
They have since become friends. “I love that Winosha came here as a college student to study art and that she has decided to stay and bring her art to our community. She invites the viewer in and tells her story.”
Winosha still struggles a bit with the cold, but she is now married and with a host of friends and fans. Her biggest hope is to gain further recognition for her art.
You can attend Winosha’s artist talk at BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake on 5 p.m. Sunday, April 24.
For more information about Winosha’s art go to: winosha.com
Click here for more information about the Outside Art Project. The project is now responsible for 20 murals in Plattsburgh and beyond.