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Marissa Yung Lee is a self-taught artist who’s work primarily consists of vivid portraits and figures. Building meaningful connections with her subjects have allowed her to build an extensive portfolio, using oil, watercolour, charcoal and pastel.

Having started out in watercolor, Marissa now focuses primarily on oil, with a strong concentration on impressionistic use of color and alla prima brush as well as knife work. We can clearly identify the evocative quality of her paintings, a nostalgia and mystery that gives the viewer an urge to dig more deeply into the subject matter of her work.

Marissa has exhibited internationally, including at the The Art Society of Trinidad & Tobago, The Rotunda Gallery, Horizons Art Gallery, Coco Vivo Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina to name a few.

Commissioned 16×20″ oil on raw linen
12×16″ oil on primed linen
Model: @instishara Tishara Menzies

This was one of the first paintings I did for my solo show at Horizons Art Gallery, I was doing a lot of research into mythology and religions from all over the world and finding common threads to tie into our already multi-faceted local culture. I had in mind that I wanted to recapture the sense of empowerment of a previous painting called “You have no power here” but with a completely different image. As it turns out, both paintings ended up going to the same buyer. It’s very nice knowing that they will be hung side by side as companion pieces by someone who truly loves them.
“Closer, my dear..”
16×20″ oil on primed linen

A year ago I did a painting called “You have no power here” from this series. That painting conveyed confidence and fearlessness to which I credit my model, Daviel, completely. It’s fascinating how an experienced model like her can project something else entirely with just a shift of the head or body. Her pose here feels a bit more inviting; luring you; daring you to come closer, but at your own risk. If someone gets a La Diablesse vibe from this, I won’t be mad. If someone feels safety in her invitation, I won’t mind either. I like mystery and open ended stories.
On the technical side, I did enjoy coming back to the cool light source and adding the warm accent light from the lantern. These little temperature relationships delight me. More and more, I also love painting white material and challenging myself to convey white without using pure white. And finally, I’m happy I was able to gesture in Daviel’s beautifully resting hand. Little things like that add so much to an image and it’s breathtaking when models do it so effortlessly.
The Rasta Girl” 11×14″ oil on canvas

Model @melaninnight_
MUA @whitney_trinimua
Photo: Richard Cook
Styling: Myself
“Jablé Boys”
18×36″ oil on stretched canvas
Models: @next_level_devils Kiddies Band from right – Nathaniel, Malachi, Wyatt, Dante

Jablé – a Blue Devil; native Mas character of #paramin . Not to be confused with a Jab Molassie (Molasses Devil) who is covered in molasses , oil or mud; the #bluedevil is covered in “blue,” a substance made from rendered lard and crushed cubes of laundry blue. I’ll delve more into the history of Devil Mas at a later date. For now, I’ll simply recall this event that the Next Level Devils hosted virtually this year when #carnival was cancelled. The event, aptly named ‘Jablé’ took place in lieu of the annual Blue Devil Competition (one of Trinidad’s best hidden treasures) and was streamed nationwide. Jablé took place up on Mount Socolo, one of the highest peaks of Paramin. My nephew Dante took part with the Kiddies Band in opening the show. The baby devils as I like to call them, channel the joy of Carnival so effortlessly, especially when they are finally told “Go, be on your worst behaviour; scream, shout, dance, be as bad as you like.” Absolute Glee. The things that stood out to me as I watched with my heart melting, was the dance – a one-footed sideways hop hop hop, that they all attempted to do except for the focal figure, Malachi. He was probably the youngest kid there, 3 or 4 yo. Instead of dancing he was staring furiously at the crowd clearly trying to channel an attitude that he had observed in his elders. I’d say he succeeded, and although he may have charmed more ppl than he scared, one day I’m sure he’ll be the scourge of the Paramin devils. Another thing I noted was the way the blue had started to melt off of their glistening little bodies as they danced in the sun. The sun itelf, while shining brightly, did little to warm me, as the air up there was quite chilly. When the kids finished performing, Dante and I sat on the grass, hugging each other tightly to watch the rest of the show, both of us happy as hell and extremely lucky.
“Dolly Ma”
12×16″ oil on primed linen
According to Amanda, the Babydoll carnival character originated around WW1 in Trinidad and Tobago and was originally played by men with the intention of making fun of single mothers, some of whom were perhaps left behind by American Soldiers. The character typically carries a doll to represent the illegitimate child and accosts random men during the masquerade for milk and diaper money in a charade aimed at humour. Amanda T. McIntyre, in her capacity as an activist, researcher, performance artist and historian has taken her Babydoll character in a different direction. Dolly Ma is a celebration of the strength of single mothers and she petitions on their behalf to destigmatize this type of family unit. I find it fascinating when artists reimagine, reinvent and pour their own creativity into established ideas and this is an ideal example. Here, Dolly Ma is pictured with her children, Sylvester, Stallone, Rambo and others. Given her beautiful trousseau costume with all the sumptuous lace and satin fabrics, I thought it would be nice to play with the idea of a tea party. Amanda saw it as Dolly Ma in her off time at home. I like different interpretations very much. Either way, it was an honour to paint this wonderful woman and it certainly won’t be the last time.
16×20″ oil on raw linen
Model: Russell “Rusty” Grant @russell.grant.7731 of @mokosomokow

The Baron of the Cemetery aka Baron/Bawon Cimitière, beautiful portrayed by Russell Grant and designed by Alan Vaughan @mramokosomokow of the moko jumbie Old Mas band, Moko Somokow.

Did you know that the zombie originated in Haiti during the 17th century? The lore was born out of slavery, as many of our traditions and mythologies are. Haitian slaves believed that in death, their spirits would return to Africa to be free. The worse fate imaginable would be to remain trapped for eternity in their bodies. Enter the Barons, who, although intimidating death deities, are also responsible for preventing such fates. Baron Cimitière in particular, is the guardian of the cemetery and he ensures the dead remain dead and not reanimated to suffer while terrifying the living. (If you find folklore and mythology interesting, I highly recommend some research into the Haitian Loa and the Barons in particular) Trinidadian Carnival was also born out of slavery, or rather, the end of it. When people who were enslaved their whole lives were finally free to express themselves in celebration, they did so in a way that was rich in artistry, depth, remembrance and internalization of trauma that was then transformed into the most meaningful celebration I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. I think it’s wonderful the way Old Mas characters serve as bastions of remembrance and respect for origins of the culture. Hats off to Alan for finding these common threads between Haiti and Trinidad and unifying them in this profoundly beautiful way.
12×16″ oil on gessoboard

I’m really proud of this painting, I’m just going to say it. I’ve quietly been practicing with bristle brushes ever since the amazing art retreat in Udaipur where I made so many friends and have many happy memories. So much so that even though I struggled with the brushes at the workshop and my painting sucked, I left feeling very encouraged and motivated (Suchitra and Pramod have a wonderful way of helping you leave your ego behind and really focus on the joy of learning). Today I finally feel like I’m beginning to grasp the potential of these brushes and the delicious textured brush strokes they deliver if you stop being mad at them and expecting them to do fine precision. It’s like pulling furiously at a door handle only to discover you should have been pushing.

This painting was done entirely with bristle brushes, which is why I’m so happy. Every stroke was a discovery and awakened so much more curiosity. I haven’t mastered it by any means but I’m excited by the possibilities.

“The Easter Bonnet Squad” SOLD 12×16″ oil on stretched canvas
“En Masque”
12×12″ Oil on Primed Linen featuring @saltilingo Tekel “Salti” Sylvan of @mokosomokow (currently on display at @horizons_art_gallery
for solo show ‘Magical Realism’

The Moko Jumbie is a stiltwaker that originated in West Africa and has become a staple of Trinbagonian Carnival. The stilts, better known as sticks among performers are generally around 6-10 ft which makes them stride around like majestic exotic creatures. Our Trini mokos in particular, not only stride around gracefully, but dance in incredible, gravity defying movements. Salti is one of our best, both as a dancer on sticks and as a performance artist in general. This painting is a memory of the first time I laid eyes on him, backstage at Adam Smith Square for the Individual Traditional Mas Competition. I was awestruck by his creativity and couldn’t stop staring at his makeup (which he did himself!) I loved the concept of a mask being unzipped to reveal another one beneath, that the mask itself is his true face. Many of our performers feel that Carnival is the time when they can be who they really are.

Magic is their reality and it could be ours too..the culture belongs to all of us, we just need to reach out and claim it.

16×20″ oil on primed linen
Model: @whitney_trinimua Whitney Prescott

Magic in simple pleasures. My elixir is often a hot cup of tea, what’s yours?
“Perfumed Garden”
14×18″ oil on primed linen
Model: Tishara Menzies @instishara
MUA: @whitney_trinimua

This is one of my fairytail themed paintings displayed at Horizons Art Gallery for my recent show ‘Magical Realism.’
We had originally intended to do an Indian wear photoshoot with an ohrni (some of those paintings you will see later on). My model, Tishara, showed up with her hair down and her elven features stood out so much we started playing around with Princess Jasmine makeup and story ideas. As the day unfolded, an image, rather than a full story started to come together in my mind. This image was of a princess, in a night garden, bathed in moonlight as she gathers flowers for a sacred ritual. That was the easy part. The dressing up, the photoshoot, pitching ideas around is always the part where I feel inspiration and excitement bursting at the seams. The actual painting turned out to be quite a challenge. It is one of the most detailed pieces I have done and I tried my best to show restraint in those details – to support my centre of interest and not distract from her. I learned so much from this painting process and it set the standard for the rest of the show for me. Painting that this also made me realize how much I love metallic and reflective surfaces – a chance to let loose and be playful. I hope this image gives you a small escape and that you can add to her story with me.

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