By Allison Plitt
Using numerous artistic mediums, Jamaica resident Maxine Townsend-Broderick has learned to immerse herself in art as a way of reliving her past. Most notably, she has done a series of paintings, sculptures and prints of her cousin, Maurice Bishop, a former prime minister of Grenada who was assassinated in 1983, during the Cold War era, when his government was accused of being Communist.
In homage to her cousin, Townsend-Broderick created “The Dream Lives,” in which she painted a portrait of Bishop bending on one knee in front of an outlined shape of Grenada. Surrounding the country are billboards posted by Bishop’s political party, the People’s Revolutionary Government, which came to power in 1979 after staging a coup and ousting the reigning Labor Party.
As Townsend-Broderick explained the painting, she recounted, “When I was traveling around Grenada, I saw road signs the people put up about the revolution, so in the picture I painted the different areas of the country I saw. I find that creating that painting has helped me heal through a lot of pain that I’ve gone through in my life.”
In another iconographic picture titled “The Revo,” Townsend-Broderick painted people on the island during the PRG’s rule. “My concept was that here are three people going about their daily chores, being themselves. My whole reason for painting this picture was to show three completely different people in the fact that the revolution was the people and the people were the revolution.”
Playing a part in history herself, Townsend-Broderick painted Bishop’s portrait in 1988 for “The Pathfinder Mural,” formerly located on the side of the Socialist Workers Party’s building in the West Village of Manhattan. Around 80 artists from 20 different countries collaborated on the mural, which included portraits of well-known political figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fidel Castro and Harriet Tubman.
When reflecting on her accomplishments, it is easy to say that Townsend-Broderick has led a life ahead of her time. Born to a Grenadian father and a Jamaican mother, she lives in the home where she grew up in Queens. Describing her upbringing, she said, “My parents, being immigrants, brought me and my sisters up to get an education so we would get our own professions, take care of ourselves and not get married because we wanted a man to take care of us.”
Attending New York City Technical College in 1961, where she was the only African-American woman in her class, Townsend-Broderick graduated with a degree in advertising design and photography. Upon graduation, she quickly found work in a photo studio and later at an advertising agency.
While married and raising a family on Long Island, Townsend-Broderick developed her own business as a portrait photographer. During this period, she began experimenting with various media to portray her life experiences and travels. Nowadays, Townsend-Broderick not only creates oil paintings, watercolors, sculpture and mixed media artwork, but she has also learned quilting, etching and clothing and jewelry design.
A past president of the Long Island Black Artists Association, Townsend-Broderick has been involved with the organization since the 1970s to help artists exhibit their work in museums, galleries, colleges, libraries, churches, universities and corporations throughout the country.
During February, which is Black History Month, she is presenting her work with other LIBAA artists at Nassau Community College, the Unitarian Church of Freeport, Molloy College and the Southampton Cultural Center. Furthermore, she plans to exhibit her quilts in March at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Urban Inspirations Quilt Show.
When asked about her prolific collection of artwork, Townsend-Broderick admitted that creating art is an effortless task for her. ”I don’t just sit down and say ‘I have to paint,’” she observed. “When it comes to art, it’s something that I just have to do.”
For more information about Maxine Townsend-Broderick, you can visit her website at www.liblackartists.com/maxine_townsend.htm. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 526-6056.