Dorothy Henriques-Wells, the first Black graduate of the Ontario College of Art, has passed away at the age of 92 in Miami. A gifted painter who brilliantly depicted the flora and landscapes of her native Jamaica, Henriques-Wells was also a teacher for 20 years. She passed on her passion to her three children who also pursued creative and educational careers.
Associate Professor Andrea Fatona, Director of the Graduate Program in Criticism and Curatorial Practice, spent some time with Henriques-Wells:
“I became aware of Dorothy and her work while conducting research for The State of Blackness: From Production to Presentation project. In 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting with an elegantly dressed, ninety-year old Dorothy and her two daughters in my hotel room in Biscayne Bay, Miami. We talked about her work, her early training in Jamaica with Armenian artist, Koren der Harootian, her experiences of being one of the few Black students at OCAD U in the 1940s, and the Jamaican art scene of the 1970s.
Although her health and memory were failing, her eyes lit up as we pored over images of her oeuvre including her graduating work from OCAD U. Dorothy spent a lifetime creating emotive, translucent portraits of landscapes and people within the places she lived. Her poetic, realist approach to her subjects – nature and humans – is sparse, flowing and vibrant with sun-kissed colours.
Thank you, Dorothy Henrique-Wells, watercolourist, OCAD U alumna, and gem in the trove of Jamaican artists. Your work lives on.”
To read more about Dorothy Henriques-Wells, visit OCAD U’s InStudio.