Bermudian Peter Lapsley admits he was a latecomer to art. He still remembers the moment during a college class when he got a sensation while painting that he hadn’t experienced before: “I felt very creative and alive and connected.”
After graduation and a stint at an ad agency, he landed a job at the Bermuda Society of Arts, through which he met local talents, who he says inspired and pushed him into the creative arena. Lapsley moved to Brooklyn to pursue a master’s at Parsons School of Design and lived there for nine years.
Lapsley is back in Bermuda, as of early 2016, and recently spoke with us about the creative scene, how the island inspires him, and the best place to catch the sunrise.
What prompted your homecoming to Bermuda?
My wife, Andrea Sundt, and I decided we needed a change, and Bermuda has always been home. It’s a tremendous, fascinating, beautiful place. Returning to the island has given me a chance to collect myself and refocus on my work, which is really exciting. Plus, it’s only 90 minutes from New York City, where we still have a great community and friends and I continue to exhibit at Victori+Mo gallery.
As part of the move, we decided to open & Partners, a design and home wares boutique stocked with a curated idea of what we think is cool—including locally produced items and ones from Scandinavia. My wife is Norwegian and a costume designer for film and theater; we’re both creative types, so we enjoy the process of curating the shop's goods, plus it gives us the income stream and flexibility to devote time to our respective crafts.
It’s an interesting place to be creative; people like Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keefe, Jennifer Bartlett, and David Bowie have come to Bermuda to remove themselves from the everyday, experience the restorative nature of the island, and allow it to help them creatively. You have the mental space to really consider your ideas. It’s also a small community of artists, so you get to know and support each other.
Being on an island, unique situations occur like being a painter and not being able to get a certain color because a ship hasn’t come in. You have to be more resourceful as an island artist. Inherently, being from Bermuda shapes how you make things regardless of your medium.
Where can visitors experience art in Bermuda?
I recommend Gallery 117 on Front Street; the Bermuda National Gallery, which has done a great job promoting local artists and bringing in international ones to create dialogue; the Bermuda Society of Arts; and Masterworks.
The Hamilton Princess also has a tremendous collection that includes Jeff Koons and Robert Rauschenberg. On Saturdays, you can get a tour and see it in full.
Where do you go for inspiration?
What I love—and one of the things that make Bermuda special—is that you live with nature in a way you don’t typically in a city. You are less than five minutes from the ocean wherever you are, and the subtropical landscape is lush and dense. Tom Moore’s Jungle is one really remarkable, stunning habitat to explore. I recently went for the first time to Hog Bay Park—it was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve done in Bermuda. You end up on the ocean, and its shallow area, so the colors are absurdly intense, a really vivid turquoise. Perhaps the most unique place to watch the sunrise is Portuguese Rock, where an early castaway carved initials, on a tall bluff that overlooks the south shore.
How does Bermuda influence your work specifically?
My artwork has a thread that runs through it tied to mapping and ideas of place. I’m always struck by—and what I missed keenly in New York is—the horizon and that moment where the sky meets the sea. My wife grew up between Oslo and the coast of Norway, so we have a similar perspective. The outward-looking horizon from an island inspires hope and the unknown in a positive way. And there are horizon lines that pop up in a lot of my work a well as nautical symbolism.
I don’t always think about it, but when I slow down enough, it still hits me—I’m here in Bermuda, and this is happening. The moment when the sun shines through the cloud and casts a beam of light, that circle of light on the ocean. If you see that from the land, it’s pretty breathtaking. There’s a quiet monumental character to nature in Bermuda.