Virginia Pacifique-Marshall, retired as a primary school teacher and principal during the last quarter of 2004. After spending such a long time in the education system, Virginia found that readjusting to being a housewife was a bit challenging. Three months after retirement, the retired principal enrolled in “The Fundamentals of Fine Art” course, offered by the Art Academy of El Dorado, by Mr. Gerard Gittens. This seemed to be a natural progression for Virginia because of her love for art.
“I was always interested in art and did some artwork with my students after the SEA exam. So naturally I jumped at the offer and began classes in January 2005,” says Virginia. Although the course was a lot of work, it was something Virginia had always wanted to do so it was more of a stress reliever. She studied works in watercolor, pencil, and acrylic.
At the end of the course, in July 2005, Virginia’s husband passed suddenly and during the most difficult period of her life, she turned ‘inwards’ to Art and Dance. Both had a therapeutic effect on Virginia as she plunged deeper and got lost in the creative world of art and dance. “When I'm engaged in either dance or art, past and future-time cease to exist. There is only NOW,” Virginia reminisces.
In 2006, Virginia’s art tutor invited her to participate in a short Art Course that introduced her to the abstract. She was introduced to Pablo Picasso and George Braque's cubism where the subject matter was splintered, analyzed and reassembled in a sensual and beautiful abstract work, characterized by lines, angles and geometric shapes. Because of her interest in abstract expressions, she took a liking to this style immediately and began to experiment. Her first painting titled "The Ghost of Tourist Annie" was well received, and this encouraged her to dive deeper into cubism.
Lady at the Hairdresser - 2008 (from 1st exhibition)
Drawing inspiration from ideas and principles garnered from readings, Virginia had completed four pieces of artwork by November 2007. She took photos of them and contacted Mr. LeRoy Clarke whose work intrigued her. She wanted to find out from a Master Artist if her work was any good, so she met with Mr. Clarke for the first time at the Central Library in Port of Spain. Mr. Clarke expressed his approval and appreciation for her works and encouraged her to continue. He gave her information to contact Mrs. Fraulein Rudder, the president and founder of the Women in Art Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (WIAOTT). Virginia showed her paintings to Mrs. Rudder, became a member of WIAOTT and exhibited with the organisation for the first time in 2008. The result was encouraging indeed as five out of six pieces on display were sold.
Virginia has exhibited with WIAOTT every year from 2008. She later joined the Art Association of Trinidad and Tobago and exhibited in shows with other Arima community artists.
Seven years after that first art class, Virginia was afforded her first solo exhibition in 2012 at the Normandy Hotel. The exhibition featured Traditional Carnival Characters. This was followed shortly after by a small group exhibition, (3 members) titled "Threads of Culture", at the Gallery at Fine Art.
In an effort to keep Traditional Carnival alive, Virginia decided to do some further research and produced a book titled "The Carnival Suite" which was launched in 2014. This book contains pictures of her Carnival paintings, and a bit of History and description of each of the characters. Copies of this book were placed in our public libraries, The National Museum and Art Gallery and in the libraries of Secondary schools.
I Am Light - 2012
In 2016, Virginia fulfilled a lifelong dream and opened her Home Studio with an exhibition and sale of her works. On display were abstract paintings, Carnival paintings, festivals, folklore and realism pieces; rock paintings, Carnival prints on T-shirts, prints and cards of her paintings and copies of her book "The Carnival Suite". Secondary school students visit the studio from time to time and interview her as a local artist for their SBAs.
In 2017 Virginia received the Award of Merit Trophy from the Women in Art Organization of Trinidad and Tobago for two of her paintings portraying 'The Smoke Ceremony' and 'The Water Ritual' of our First Peoples. In 2018 she participated in another small group exhibition (5 members) at the ASTT titled "Memoirs of Our Culture".