Moises Suriel: Waterbury Greats

Waterbury Greats is a collection envisioned by Dr. James H. Gatling to honor Black Waterburians who have made significant contributions to the Black community. Dr. Gatling's vision is brought to life through forty-eight portraits drawn by Waterbury-based artist Moises Suriel.

More about this exhibition

Reception: Thursday, September 17, 5:00 – 7:00; Artist’s talk at 5:30 pm

Moises Suriel is a Dominican Republic-born artist, with an education from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and a career as an illustrator at Walt Disney World in Florida that launched his success. Suriel has also worked for big industry entertainment names, creating album covers and posters for Prince and other well-known artists. Suriel’s life-like creations easily encapsulate the spirit and character of each subject, making him the best fit to bring to life the vision spurring Gatling’s collection.

Dr. James H. Gatling commissioned this project to not only honor Waterbury’s history, but to showcase the many firsts for African Americans who hail from the city. Gatling’s inspiration for this project stems from a poster created by Kay Wyrick, a Waterbury activist, in the 1980s. This collage of cut-outs featuring local Black philanthropists came from an early 80s calendar created by at-the-time Funeral Director James Sanders.

Dr. Gatling’s process for selecting the subjects of the portraits was easy for him to do: he looked at the 12 people he initially selected from those highlighted in the 1980s calendar and poster, and what was fundamental to the reasoning of his collection. “Those that are chosen are people who have made major accomplishments for or have gotten positions that have never occurred before in the Black community,” explains Gatling.

Suriel and Gatling’s partnership is, as Gatling puts it, “a Godsend.” Gatling was looking for an artist to bring his concept to life when a former colleague contacted him regarding a certain artist’s Facebook page. Gatling was impressed with Suriel’s work, and upon hearing that Suriel lives locally, established a way for the two to join forces. After meeting and explaining his concept, Gatling gave Suriel the initial 12 portraits to work on, and Suriel came back a week later with his striking drawings. The creator and artist have been working together ever since.

In 2019, Gatling presented the collection of works by Suriel, which at that time was around 25 portraits, at Gatling’s church, Mount Olive AME Zion Church. Now with more than 40 portraits, Gatling and Suriel plan to continue this project, with the idea of forming a committee to select contemporary and historical figures to add to each year.