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Crucian Artist Maria Henle Leaves Vast Visual Legacy

Feb. 13, 2007 — Internationally acclaimed Crucian artist Maria Henle, who died Feb. 4 after being diagnosed in late 2006 with cancer, was also an avid supporter of Caribbean art.
On Tuesday, family, friends and colleagues recounted her influence on the V.I. art world.
Henle, the daughter of world-renowned photographer Fritz Henle, was born Sept. 22, 1955 and grew up on St. Croix. She graduated from the Good Hope School in 1973.
Henle sold her first painting at the age of 14 and followed her passion to capture the world through art until her death.
Henle was a great supporter of the arts on St. Croix and an advocate for the environment, said her sister, Tina, in an interview Tuesday evening. She opened the art gallery that bears her name on Company Street in Christiansted in 1993. There she displayed her work and the work of many local artists.
Henle traveled extensively, creating one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Her unique style of layering multiple images created paintings that are at once a realistic depiction of landscape and abstract in their formal fragmentation.
"She painted nature scenes in Bolivia and Nepal, and wild beach scenes and rainforests in the Caribbean," Tina said.
Candia Atwater, founder of the Caribbean Museum Center of St. Croix, said she knew Henle for 20 years. "She was a class act," Atwater said. "I watched her amazing growth as an artist." Henle was twice featured in the Island Art and Soul calendar produced annually by the center.
"Her work provided a visual authentication of who we are," said Marvin Williams, a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands and editor of The Caribbean Writer, which collaborated on several projects and discussions with Henle. "Both she and her father were considered to be very perceptive quality artists. Her death is a great loss for the territory."
Henle's father was a prolific contributor to magazines (including Life, Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle and Town & Country) producing fashion, portraits and travel pictures. He published 19 books and had many exhibitions. Many of his prized photographs still grace the walls of several government and private businesses on St. Croix.
Williams gave the Source permission to reprint some of Henle's comments found in an undated roundtable discussion, "The Caribbean as a Muse," published online.
On culture and acceptance in your own community:
"I've found that sometimes it's hard to see what is so familiar. It's easier for some people to embrace something which seems exotic. My father [Fritz Henle] did not have this problem. He came to this island as a photographer and just found so much here, so much richness — but then, he wasn't born here. I've lived here all my life, and I find that I never take my camera out except on the beaches when I shoot photographs as reference for my paintings. I don't know what to photograph here. When I went to Nepal and Bolivia, I took 36 or 40 rolls of film. I don't know if it's a personal thing for me; I don't know if other artists go through this. It's so close — perhaps I feel I ought to know more how to deal with it, how to perfectly express it, but I don't, and so in a way I avoid it."
On one of her visits to New York:
In New York I had a very heightened perception of the things that interested me in my etching or painting — the environment and nature. I would go in the paint shop and work for eight to 10 hours a day on that image, and friends would ask how can you live here and still do these images of nature? And I'd answer that it's an escape to take me out of this intensely concrete and urban place.
On her inspiration:
I play music all the time when I am working. And if I am labor intensive, what I play is largely classical. For a long time I played opera when I was working on my etchings, and in retrospect, I think I chose opera because it is so complex and dramatic. The human voice is my favorite instrument. The voice can carry so much color and texture. I remember listening to Maria Callas and hoping to capture some of the quality of her voice in the medium of etching.
The memorial service for Henle is pending. Her art gallery will be open to the public Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The community is invited to come and view her work.
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Feb. 13, 2007 -- Internationally acclaimed Crucian artist Maria Henle, who died Feb. 4 after being diagnosed in late 2006 with cancer, was also an avid supporter of Caribbean art.
On Tuesday, family, friends and colleagues recounted her influence on the V.I. art world.
Henle, the daughter of world-renowned photographer Fritz Henle, was born Sept. 22, 1955 and grew up on St. Croix. She graduated from the Good Hope School in 1973.
Henle sold her first painting at the age of 14 and followed her passion to capture the world through art until her death.
Henle was a great supporter of the arts on St. Croix and an advocate for the environment, said her sister, Tina, in an interview Tuesday evening. She opened the art gallery that bears her name on Company Street in Christiansted in 1993. There she displayed her work and the work of many local artists.
Henle traveled extensively, creating one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Her unique style of layering multiple images created paintings that are at once a realistic depiction of landscape and abstract in their formal fragmentation.
"She painted nature scenes in Bolivia and Nepal, and wild beach scenes and rainforests in the Caribbean," Tina said.
Candia Atwater, founder of the Caribbean Museum Center of St. Croix, said she knew Henle for 20 years. "She was a class act," Atwater said. "I watched her amazing growth as an artist." Henle was twice featured in the Island Art and Soul calendar produced annually by the center.
"Her work provided a visual authentication of who we are," said Marvin Williams, a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands and editor of The Caribbean Writer, which collaborated on several projects and discussions with Henle. "Both she and her father were considered to be very perceptive quality artists. Her death is a great loss for the territory."
Henle's father was a prolific contributor to magazines (including Life, Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle and Town & Country) producing fashion, portraits and travel pictures. He published 19 books and had many exhibitions. Many of his prized photographs still grace the walls of several government and private businesses on St. Croix.
Williams gave the Source permission to reprint some of Henle's comments found in an undated roundtable discussion, "The Caribbean as a Muse," published online.
On culture and acceptance in your own community:
"I've found that sometimes it's hard to see what is so familiar. It's easier for some people to embrace something which seems exotic. My father [Fritz Henle] did not have this problem. He came to this island as a photographer and just found so much here, so much richness -- but then, he wasn't born here. I've lived here all my life, and I find that I never take my camera out except on the beaches when I shoot photographs as reference for my paintings. I don't know what to photograph here. When I went to Nepal and Bolivia, I took 36 or 40 rolls of film. I don't know if it's a personal thing for me; I don't know if other artists go through this. It's so close -- perhaps I feel I ought to know more how to deal with it, how to perfectly express it, but I don't, and so in a way I avoid it."
On one of her visits to New York:
In New York I had a very heightened perception of the things that interested me in my etching or painting -- the environment and nature. I would go in the paint shop and work for eight to 10 hours a day on that image, and friends would ask how can you live here and still do these images of nature? And I'd answer that it's an escape to take me out of this intensely concrete and urban place.
On her inspiration:
I play music all the time when I am working. And if I am labor intensive, what I play is largely classical. For a long time I played opera when I was working on my etchings, and in retrospect, I think I chose opera because it is so complex and dramatic. The human voice is my favorite instrument. The voice can carry so much color and texture. I remember listening to Maria Callas and hoping to capture some of the quality of her voice in the medium of etching.
The memorial service for Henle is pending. Her art gallery will be open to the public Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The community is invited to come and view her work.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.