“It’s difficult to give my thoughts on Port of Spain 2015 without first reflecting on Nice 2014. From the pinnacle of glamour last summer…to the epitome of blood, sweat, tears, teamwork, and digging up the hard earth this summer—it’s a breathtaking contrast. I am fortunate to be able to see windows into both lifestyles and then take inspiration to create an art series for you.
If you read the history of Port of Spain 2015, you’ll see that four types of activities were put forward to my First Class Club: volunteering service, partying, protesting, and performing a feat of strength. I actually see all of these activities in my 2015 international series. Yes, volunteering service is the most obvious. But, swinging a pickaxe in the sweltering Trinidad summer qualifies as a feat of strength. I think the yells, chants, and toasting our accomplishments (with Coke Zero) counts for partying. And, the element of protest is very much there…although a bit below the surface. Ryan and I, by being our authentic selves (two married openly gay men) through the entire adventure, made a statement. Although we were treated with so much kindness and the ultimate respect during the journey, homosexuality remains illegal in Trinidad & Tobago. Nevertheless, even when shaking the hand of the sitting head of state, we were there as husbands—not friends and not business partners. Although this “protest” did not involve a lock-in or tear gas—it was a little statement that could go a long way. Sometimes being your authentic self, with pride, can change the world.
I am known for my colors. I make them myself, and they cannot be replicated. With Port of Spain 2015, I want you to enjoy the very bright, one-of-a-kind colors. Even when the individuals featured in the paintings look beaten down and covered with dirt, pinks pop, and yellows explode. They are happy and smiling. They are satisfied with the joy of helping others and proud of themselves. The concept of pride is also evident in Port of Spain in 2015. The word “pride” is now so often associated with our LGBT community, and it’s appropriate to mention that here…as each and every day, Ryan was checking Facebook to see if the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case on marriage equality was released by United States Supreme Court. Pride, however, in this art series, is shown in these manners: personal pride, team pride, and patriotic pride. Starting the day with a blank slate of earth and ending it with a trench gives one massive personal pride. Our cohort of 13 American volunteers was amazing–all very different in ages, industry, fitness level, and Habitat experience. But, we each worked so hard, remained positive, laughed a lot, and smiled even more. These are now lifelong friends, and I am so proud of them. Finally, in Port of Spain 2015, you’ll see images of a few notable art presentations that I made to the sitting Prime Minister and her Minister of Foreign Affairs. As an art ambassador from the United States, again, I was bursting with pride for my country.
The numerous birds you’ll find in Port of Spain 2015 must be considered a throwback to São Paulo 2013 and my morphing into the street artist “Birdie” (my childhood nickname from my family.) Yes, birds are beautiful—but they represent freedom to me. Flight. Uncaged. Self-reliance. From Port of Spain 2015, I hope you’ll be inspired by pride and freedom.”
John Ross Palmer
This entire series has gone into private collections.