Take the tiny storefront at 1106 Hollins St., where the sign reads a rare find, and where the wares consist of original art. It's in Sowebo, the beleaguered "art" neighborhood with far too many rowhouses that wear plywood and graffiti. Yes, there are still a number of talented artists living in the area, and yes, there are some good things happening around Hollins Market (such as the Black Cherry Puppet Theater, set to open early next year). But my Sowebo reporting duties of late have been of a more nefarious nature: investigating a collapsed building, attending the auction of a restaurant that had gone belly-up, and other crime/ grime matters. A Rare Find is, well, just that.
Here I meet A'Damás EuGaymón, a lanky 57-year-old artist in a blue T-shirt, jeans, and Birkenstocks. His voice bears the soft, West Indian lilt of his native St. Thomas. His strong and graceful hands sport long, sinewy fingers. They're artist's hands.
A Rare Find is both studio and gallery, a diminutive space that becomes crowded if more than three people enter at once. A lighted work desk is tucked down a narrow rear hallway. The sky-blue walls are hung with EuGaymón's watercolor images of rustic Africans: a woman in ornate jewelry bearing a basket of fruit, a tall Masai warrior, a woodsman harvesting boughs for a new dwelling. The highly detailed renderings are accented by the sheen of tiny gold-leaf flecks (applied using a "secret process," the artist says). The figures all have one thing in common: They have no eyes.
Leaning back in his chair, EuGaymón explains that these works are part of his "Souls Without Faces" series.
"We lose sight of the creator," he says of his pupil-less paintings. "There is supposed to be a unity of people of all races. But without the knowledge that God is alive, we can't see the beauty that He has performed for us. We're blind, and that's why we have much crime and mischief in our youth."
EuGaymón's creative bent is paired with a deep spirituality. But it's an amorphous faith--the result, he says, of "studying all religions." His is an inner peace and divine purpose unencumbered by rigid dogma or an urgent need to proselytize.
"I do not belong to a denomination. I belong to the universe, and the earth, and all the things God created. That's all I can say to you."
And so his medium is the message. EuGaymón has loved art since boyhood. Michelangelo was an early hero. After spending time in California (where he took some college art classes), he came to Baltimore a few years back to visit his father, a hotel chef who'd relocated here. EuGaymón decided to stay and went to work as a pastry chef. "My father taught me," he says of his kitchen creativity. "There's nothing I can't cook." (He hands me a color photograph of his dessert work--sumptuous cakes and pies, as detailed as his paintings. "That's Kahlúa mousse," he says, pointing out one cake's creamy layers.)
About a year and a half ago, EuGaymón decided to take up his paintbrushes full time. He started scouting Sowebo for studio space last summer--lured by the low rents, not the neighborhood's artistic reputation. Indeed, only after he began renovating 1106 Hollins (which debuted as A Rare Find last fall) did he meet his many creative neighbors. Now EuGaymón is eager to contribute to the area's re-renewal. "It's coming up here," he says with infectious optimism. "It is going to be wonderful."
Business has been good, he says. Prints of EuGaymón's works, which each receive a customized (and top-secret) dusting of gold, sell from $20 to about $200. He also creates greeting cards and envelopes. He loves the neighborhood schoolchildren who stop to admire the works in his window. He talks of someday opening an art school--"a place to teach children and show them their inner beauty and talent." But all in good time.
"This is where I want to be right now," he says, glancing around his humble nook. "It's a blessing for me."
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201