|ABOUT THE ARTIST
Great-Grandma's Later Life Leap: An Artist's Dream
STUART, FL-June 19, 2007 - The day the third daughter of immigrant parents walked into a Massachusetts classroom, she spoke fluid Portuguese and not one word of English. "But, the bad news was trying to make my teacher understand I needed to use the bathroom," says artist Catherine Baptista Davis. "I've come a long way since that autumn of 1930, and I can laugh about it now, but it wasn't funny then."
Seventeen years earlier, her father Joao Baptista had set sail from Fogo, Cape Verde on the SS. Sch. Armaos Amigos and made landfall January 1, 1913 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A year later her mother Helena Da Rosa arrived. They typified the wave of Portuguese immigration from Portugal, Cape Verde Islands and Brazil into Southern New England that began in colonial times and continued for over two hundred years into the twenty-first century. Descended from a long line of sailors, whalers and fisherman, Davis has lived through the Great Depression, two world wars and seen fifteen presidents. As the years passed, her growing fluidity parlayed into a love for language and a passion for the arts.
Now specializing in watercolors with no formal art background, paid professional art experience or industry contacts, much like her vintage predecessor Grandma Moses, Davis made the leap later in life. She began painting portraits and landscapes in her seventies after retiring from a seamstress career. In 1998, she exhibited some of her work in Miami and sold her first painting at a juried art show at the age of 75. "If you're a decent artist and you believe you can go commercial, you will," says the 83-year-old mother of five. Davis called Massachusetts and New Jersey home for many years, and now lives in Stuart on Florida's Treasure Coast where she serves as a staff artist for a local newsletter.
"We always knew America was the land of opportunity. To think my daughter grew up to be a high school English Teacher," she says of Leona DeRosa Bodie, who is also a freelance writer and contributing editor. The pair recently collaborated resulting in their debut children's book, ONE IS FUN, which hit bookshelves May 2007. This sturdy board book with its colorful pictures and rhyming words, tells the story of family interaction. It takes place in 2005 Florida, but represents a sweet story of any town USA. Davis' daughter says, "Children learn through play, so parents and grandparents can use this book to support the concept that learning is fun. It helps the toddler build social skills and find magical moments in daily activities." The first-time-published illustrator says her great-grandson inspired her to turn this corner in her art career.
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