Jamaica-born artist Bernard Hoyes’ solo exhibition at the M. Hanks Gallery might be his first solo show in Los Angeles in 15 years, but that fact is not a reflection on the quality of his work or his vision.

Raised by his great aunt, a priestess in a revival church which derided the Catholic Church-operated public schools in Jamaica, Hoyes didn’t begin organized schooling until about age eight or nine, he says. Hoyes became an apprentice cabinet-maker at 12 and he was later brought by his father to live with him in New York.

“I was floundering in Jamaica, and I didn’t meet my father until he sent for me at 15,” Hoyes says.

Though behind his grade-level academically, Hoyes displayed a natural talent for art that opened doors at the Art Students League and garnered a scholarship for a summer program at Vermont Academy, where he finished his secondary schooling. His skills had been fostered by his mother, who encouraged his artwork and sold his watercolors in Jamaica when he was younger.

His pursuit of art after Vermont led Hoyes to Oakland, where he sought to join the activists at Berkeley.

“I wanted to get into the new frontier of civil rights, I wanted to be at Berkeley and be a part of the whole front of democratic ideals during the ’60s,” he says.

Chance led him to Los Angeles, where he became the art director for the Museum of Science and Industry. Throughout, Hoyes continued to work on his art and he began his professional career as an artist about 25 years ago, he says. He gained acclaim as his artwork spread, leading to shows around the world, across the country, and in the Caribbean.

It took a reexamination and rediscovery of Jamaica for Hoyes to realize how much of his earlier years had influenced his art and the statements he wanted to make with his work.

“Philosophically, I’ve realized when it comes to social and political statements, it’s very divisive, and I wanted to use my art as a unifying force,” he says. “I was in search of subject matter that would make my art appeal to more people on a higher level, so after 12 years of being away from Jamaica I started going back to unite with my family and my past.”

His work has since appeared in the collections of such people as Oprah Winfrey, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Richard Pryor, and Hoyes was featured on the Bill Cosby Show. Though his primary medium is oil, the exhibit at the M. Hanks Gallery includes selections of watercolors.

“About two years ago my studio was destroyed by water, by a flood, and the mold damage was so bad they had to throw everything out and rebuild it from the inside,” Hoyes says. “So to keep my interest I used watercolors.

“The show covers a period of time from five to ten years ago. Though the watercolors are recent they show a joy of spirituality.”

The exhibit continues through Saturday, August 16th, at the M. Hanks Gallery, 3008 Main St., Santa Monica.

“I participated in the M. Hanks Gallery opening 20 years ago, and now I get to do my first solo show in 15 years with them, on their 20th anniversary,” Hoyes says.

Information, www.bernard hoyes.com/.

“I just want to continue with doing work that will elevate people’s awareness and people’s connections to the most high. Ö I want to do individual pieces where no matter what, people come away with a heightened spirituality regardless of medium and style.”