HOLYOKE - Elton Braithwaite's inspiration comes from the creator.
"The Creator guides my hands and opens my heart when I work," said Braithwaite during an interview with Reminder Publications. "Mother Nature creates the spirit of the wood, and it is this spirit which my work reveals."
Holyoke Community College is currently hosting an exhibition of Braithwaite's works titled "Cool Runnings" through Feb. 22 in the Taber Art Gallery. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
"The artwork on view is drawn from a body of work created in nearly 40 years of faith, determination, discipline and patience, developing and honing the gift of the creator," said Braithwaite.
As Braithwaite describes his artwork, it is both unique and ancient.
"In content, it is diverse and multicultural," he said, adding, "in essence, it is spiritual, created first by Mother Nature, then revealed by myself, the artist, who is guided by the Lord."
Braithwaite, of Granby, is an art educator and master sculptor, and owner of the Species of Earth Gallery. He also serves on the town's cultural council.
Braithwaite explained that his passion for woodcarving started when he was 14 growing up in Jamaica, with makeshift tools which he sharpened himself. Braithwaite attended the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, and after graduating, traveled to Ghana, Africa, where he had an opportunity to meet and study with master woodcarvers.
His exhibition of 46 pieces range from abstract sculptures and walking sticks to masks, and is one of the college's special events during Black History Month.
"My exhibition is a time to acknowledge certain aspects of our country's past, to reflect on the present, and to look forward to the future," he said.
Braithwaite encourages area residents to view the exhibition and bring their families.
"It is an example of the ancient art of woodcarving, created completely with hand tools, and as such, it is unique," said Braithwaite, adding, "It is a multicultural exhibit with sculptures and designs drawn from many cultures."
One example that Braithwaite describes is the Duho, or small decorated stool. The stool is unique to the Taino culture. Other pieces, including the tribal masks, are found in many African cultures.
Braithwaite also notes his exhibition represents the possibility of achievement, open to anyone who has the faith, determination, discipline and patience, to cultivate a talent over time.
"Parents should take their children to the exhibition," he said. "I hope that children visiting my exhibition will develop an interest in this form of artistic expression, along with an openness towards other cultures."
Later this year, Braithwaite will host a Student Art Show at his gallery and studio on June 17-18. Also, he has planned a 10th annual Garden Party and Art Show for Aug. 11-12. Both events are open to the public.
For more information on Braithwaite, visit www.eltonwoodart.com or call (413) 467-2867.