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Island Expressions: Aimee Trayser

May 10, 2009 — Except for a very short stint at art school, St. John artist Aimee Trayser is self-taught. However, that hasn't stood in the way of her success as a painter.
Her works are on sale at Bajo El Sol on St. John and Gallery St. Thomas. She describes her art as "dreamy expressionism."
"Nature is my big inspiration," she says. "I like to think my work is imbued with a certain mystery."
Historically her works have featured her signature suns and moons.
"The orb is the circular image that allows completion," she says, adding that some people focus on her suns and moons when meditating.
Like many people who moved to St. John, Trayser arrived on a route as circuitous as her suns and moons.
Born in St. Louis, Trayser, 60, was an inveterate sketcher and "doodler" as a child. Indeed, she came from a long line of artists that included aunts who were commercial china painters and a mother with an artistic bent. However, she went off to college to be an elementary school teacher. She was nearly done when she realized she didn't believe in the public-school system and dropped out.
This being the 1960s, she headed off to California. While living in Berkeley, she had her first taste of commercial artistic success. Given the gift of a small, acrylic paint set, she painted a simple landscape with a "smiling moon."
"I sold it to the-next door neighbor for several hundred dollars," she says.
From California, she moved to the Hawaiian island of Maui, where she began working in oils and started an herbal cosmetic company.
Art was still secondary in her life, and she soon took jobs crewing on boats. This led her back to California, where she dabbled briefly at the Laguna College of Art.
"It stifled me," she says. "My brain was filled with all of these rules. It was thwarting me."
A boat delivery to the French West Indies gave her a taste of the Caribbean life when she lingered on St. Maarten and St. Barts for several years, selling sarongs she painted aboard the boat.
Trayser returned to Newport, R.I., where she met a woman who owned a house on St. John. She moved south again, serving as the villa's caretaker for five years.
Meanwhile, she met her husband to be, St. John builder Fred Trayser, and had her son, Matty, now 19 and about to graduate from the Gifft Hill School.
She and two other artists renovated what had been a storage room at Mongoose Junction shopping center into Bajo El Sol Gallery. In addition to working at the gallery, she painted clothing that was sold at Caneel Bay Resort.
Her commercial success continued to grow.
"But I was always striving to get more texture," she says.
That led her to create collages using texture acrylic and mixed media that includes materials such as gel glosses, marble dust, glass beads, and more, but she continues to paint in oils. She works from her studio in Coral Bay.
As for the future, she'd like to keep a base on St. John, but she and her husband plan to travel.
"I'm eager to explore the world," she says. "I'd like to take off with a sketch book and paints."
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