Tobago’s Museum of Modern Art

When Luise Kimme was a child, her father would take her to the local museum in Bremen, Germany almost every Sunday. Awestruck, she gazed at Rodin’s statue L’age d’airain (The Age of Brass) and Maillol’s voluptuous Venus and thought: ‘This is what I want to do.’

And this is what Kimme does. In Bethel, Tobago, where this German master of sculpture has made her home since 1979, she has created The Castle. It houses a collection of 100 life-size wooden sculptures ‘ from religious figures to dancing couples and Nijinsky ballet dancers, early folklore characters and mythological figures. Over three decades Kimme has carved out a niche that is unique in the art world. With her classical training at the prestigious St. Martin’s School of Art in London in 1966, under Sir Anthony Cato, her passion for ancient sculpture and her love for the people of Tobago, she has been inspired to create 14ft sculptures that leap and twirl. Couples in traditional costume dance the Tobago jig, the rhumba and the bolero.

‘I carve strictly in profiles,’ she explains, ‘first the head to set the mood, the body follows. Colour and form belong together like in all ancient sculpture. Michelangelo, Maillol, Lehmbruck, Kolbe, Barlach – all had their own one face. I love the beautiful Tobagonians,’ she says. ‘They look like Egyptian paintings: tiny waists, broad shoulders, long necks, stately walk’

In 1990 a big storm felled forests in Northern Europe and she bought 59 oak trees which she stored in a barn in Kronenburg. She has been chopping out dancers in May and June every year for the last 20 years. After one year of drying, she ships the wood to the Tobago studio. There it can take between three and five years – from start to finish – to hew out one of her life-size sculptures. She also makes bronze casts from the wooden originals.

In addition to the sculptures, which are done in oak, cedar, cypress and bronze, Kimme has also produced paintings, drawings and reliefs. Kimme was also an instructor in the Sculpture Department at the Rhode Island School of Design; and an associate professor at the University of California, where she painted Navaho carpets and cast big ceramic pots based on early Inca ceramics.

Her influen ces also come from her work with other sculptors, such as Cuban Duniesky Lora, who spent some time working with her at The Castle. Kimme visits Cuba three times a year to work on small sculpture in the Taller Cultural in Santiago de Cuba with a lot of other artists.

The Castle was designed by Luise Kimme and is built around the original workshop. Everything was sculpted by hand, in cement, by two very creative and patient masons from the village of Moriah in Tobago.

Visiting hours Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Entrance fee US$3.50 or TT$20 per person. Visits at other times can be arranged by telephone (868) 639-0257.

In addition to the sculptures, which are done in oak, cedar, cypress and bronze, Kimme has also produced paintings, drawings and reliefs. Kimme was also an instructor in the Sculpture Department at the Rhode Island School of Design; and an associate professor at the University of California, where she painted Navaho carpets and cast big ceramic pots based on early Inca ceramics.

Her influences also come from her work with other sculptors, such as Cuban Duniesky Lora, who spent some time working with her at The Castle. Kimme visits Cuba three times a year to work on small sculpture in the Taller Cultural in Santiago de Cuba with a lot of other artists.

The Castle was designed by Luise Kimme and is built around the original workshop.  Everything was sculpted by hand, in cement, by two very creative and patient masons from the village of Moriah in Tobago.

Visiting hours Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Entrance fee US$3.50 or TT$20 per person. Visits at other times can be arranged by telephone (868) 639-0257.

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