A fine example of a local art collection featuring a Cayman Islands artist is the work of Charles Long held by retired architect Arek Joseph.
Arek and his wife Sandra began acquiring Long’s paintings in 1972 and now have more than 20 in the collection.
The first picture they bought has Cayman thatch rope around it instead of a frame and is oval in shape, depicting a boy standing next to his boat in crystal clear water with tiny fish nibbling at his legs, under the shade of a coconut tree.
“I liked the simple and honest representation of what he (Long) saw through his special eye, in colors and composition, which was immediately appealing,” says Arek.
Over the years, Long’s paintings have captured on canvas the changes in Cayman’s society, providing a social commentary about the islands.
“The paintings record the changing face of Cayman; they chronicle physical and social changes – the many bicycles give way to paintings of cars, people line the foreshore of Hog Sty Bay which in previous paintings showed just a boat at the old dock,” says Arek. “Lush vegetation is replaced by buildings.”
Arek admires Long’s work so much that the family had two paintings commissioned as gifts for a Christmas and birthday present, each featuring the grinning face of the artist.
A book Arek wrote about his life story from being brought up as a child in Iran to arriving and settling in Cayman, was also illustrated by a picture of he and Sandra that was painted by Long
Arek’s favorite piece of Long artwork, which has recently been on loan to the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, is of a shoe repair man.
“It speaks volumes about the Cayman we came to; about the repair man who could only find one of your shoes, his friend always there hidden behind the door opening and also as a place where Jamaican dollars could be exchanged for U.S. currency,” says Arek.
The Josephs’ three grown-up children also love Long’s work, with all of them owning several of his pictures.
“Paintings generally are admired as works of art, things of beauty and color and, in many cases, as investments,” says Arek.
“Works by Charles Long can, indeed, fit those categories, but in this special place and at this time, they come together to tell a story of a people and their island.”