The work of painter and textile artist Heather Doram is interwoven with the culture of Antigua. Her vibrant mural of a village market welcomes visitors to the baggage area of V.C. Bird International Airport. She designed the national dress, its crisp white pinafore contrasting with the madras plaid beneath. Her prize-winning Carnival Queen costumes dazzled crowds and judges for years with their sculptural dimension and movement. “They were a performance in themselves,” she says.
A performer herself, Doram has appeared in Antiguan films and as one of the hosts of Keepin’ It Real, the island’s version of the American talk show The View. But the greatest pleasure for this seamstress’s daughter comes from her textile works, which have appeared at the La Biennale di Venezia in Italy and have been showcased in the US State Department’s Art in Embassies program.
“I have something to say, as have the women in my line who handed down these skills to me but perhaps did not have the canvas that I do,” she says. “My art speaks for them.”
For her numerous cultural contributions—including serving as the government’s culture director—Antigua awarded Doram its Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit.
What inspired the national dress? We had to design it based on the post-emancipation period of 1834. Women would have only had one dress, and they wore a pinafore to protect it, which they made by bleaching the bags that held flour. I chose the madras plaid of red, gold and green to reflect our connectivity to Africa.
Please describe your artwork. I like to make my surfaces three-dimensional. People wonder, “What is that?” and move in closer to see what’s happening. I like to include found objects—a piece of silk, coconut fibers—and paint over them to create texture and interesting surfaces.
Heather Doram’s Antigua A-List
Valley Church Beach (Jolly Harbor): It’s crystal-clear. The view of that side of the island is beautiful.
Garden Grill at the Tides (St. John’s): Everything is so fresh. I like their salads and sweet potato fries.
Le Bistro (Hodges Bay): The French chef has been there forever, so you know everything is just the way you want it. Their steaks are done to perfection.
Salt Plage (Dickenson Bay): It’s a delightful place to have lunch right on the sea.