With Fielding Babb’s paintbrush put away forever, family members, friends and fellow artists Monday made it clear his magnificent designs and beautiful spirit would be held up for eternity.
They gathered in their numbers at the Chapel at Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens to celebrate the life of the renowned artist, whose real name was John Fielding Carter, and to share the deep admiration they had for a man they saw as a generous icon and a genius with a brush and canvas.
The visual artist, who was a driving force on the local arts scene for over six decades, died on February 11 at the age of 82.
Among those who knew Babb well was Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, who, as a young man, met the artist and maintained a lasting relationship with him.
Babb also lived in Silver Hill, Christ Church, the area represented in Parliament by Lashley, who Monday recalled their first encounter.
“My first impression of Fielding Babb was that he was very nice . . . .When I entered his house for the first time he was very welcoming and he said to me that he had a lot of time for young people. I was honoured that he referred to me as a young man,” the minister said in a tribute to the deceased artist.
“I will miss him because of the significant contribution he has made in helping me become the Member of Parliament that I am today. I had a tremendous experience each time I visited his studio in Silver Hill. I believe that Barbados would be poorer for the loss of this great artist,” he added.
There was no doubt that Lashley was captivated by Babb’s work as he recalled the painter’s fascination with the Barbadian landscape, which he brought to life with a brush and some paint.
“He felt that he had a responsibility to etch on canvas those landscapes he believed were fast being abandoned or would never be known by future generations. He has made such a contribution to the national collection of Barbados, I’m sure when the national art gallery of Barbados is completed many of the exhibits will be the work of Fielding Babb.”
One of the minister’s regrets was that Babb did not live to be part of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA), scheduled to be held here in August.
The artist was looking forward to playing his part in the event, Lashley said, adding that the Ministry of Culture would “find some way even though he has moved on spiritually, somehow the artistry and . . . his contribution can still be felt when we host CARIFESTA”.
In addition to being an excellent artist, Babb was also described as a willing and generous giver.
President of the Kiwanis Barbados South Zelma Daisley who was often at the receiving end of his generosity said Babb gave cheerfully.
“Fielding was a cheerful giver and many of us who were fortunate, do hold a piece of his paintings in our homes.
“Whenever I visited his home, he would always offer me a drink, try to find something to give me to take home. That was the giver in Fielding. Your friends became his friends and most of us can attest to this,” she said.
Daisley recalled that their last conversation took place just three days before Babb died, when he rang to tell her ‘I am going to District Convention with you ‘cause Ernie told me that he is going and I want to support you and him’.
“I said, ‘thank you and I would get the flight and hotel information and drop it off to you on Wednesday’. He responded, ‘don’t waste ya gas, bring it next Tuesday night,’” she recalled.
During her message officiating minister Reverend Arlette Waterman sought to comfort Babb’s family and friends by reminding them to seek God during the difficult times ahead.
“As we give God thanks for the life of Fielding, I remind you of the Psalms. As he did for the people of Israel, he can do the same for us today. He can provide comfort for the bereaved family. It can calm the spirit of terminally ill, offer confidence for those hurting and bring consolation to all of us. Regardless of what you are experiencing today you can be assured of God’s desire to be with you and then can you live the words of the gospel and do not let your heart be troubled,” she said.
Babb was laid to rest in Coral Ridge Cemetery.