T. Earl Witter and the members of the Rastafarian Community Development Movement
T. Earl Witter is one of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Here is a short feature on his work:
T. Earl Witter is the lead artist in a group called the Rastafarian Community Development Movement based in Parade Gardens. He has stopped painting memorial murals due to police pressure and a desire to present more positive role models and show his Rastafarian faith. He has done numerous commissions including for companies such as Digicel and the Catholic Church. For the exhibition he has painted portraits of Miss Lou and Bob Marley, a Rasta on a Donkey and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, a work depicting Selassie and three Rastafarian elders.
Witter and his collaborator Cebert told us:
“We have been painting all our life. We teamed up through the Rastafari Movement you know – we came together and start doing Rasta work – mainly Rasta mural and things. Always been fond of art, but in our time we never had much access to art school… We just paint on our own. We get good support from the community – most of the time the little ladies sponsor it, sponsor us… Sometime we do work for practically for nothing you know, ‘cause those people don’t really have any money but they still want the work so we just do it. They see the work and they love it. Our community is an impoverished community, nothing nah really gwaan. But people say they want something so we do it for them. It’s important to them. Why? It uplift their spirit in the ghetto parts to see the good work that can be done by us as Rasta.… Sometime you do some work and it’s like it’s only you or certain people in higher terms of spirituality that will understand what’s really going on.”
Danny Coxon – Sugar Minott (c2013, Lyndhurst Road) – Photo: LeRhone Webb)
Donovan “Danny Coxon” McLeod is another of the artists featured in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Originally from Matthews Lane, McLeod now lives and works at Sugar Minott’s studio. He paints memorial murals as well as commissions for the music industry and has done a large set of murals at Minott’s studios. Almost all of his memorial murals have been painted over by the police. His work varies from flat stylized paintings to carefully rendered realistic work. For the exhibition he has painted a number of reggae musicians, Sugar Minott, Denis Brown and Luciano.
Danny Coxon – Musicians (Lyndhurst Road) – Photo: LeRhone Webb
Danny Coxon told us:
“Been an artist for almost 35 years now. It’s not been easy. I have to really work hard to really get to a standard, and I’m not really sure of how I really get to this stage because I haven’t done a lot of work…but I feel God’s inspiration allowed me to reach a standard acceptable to people.”
“I hope something can come out of this – I’ve been doing this thing here for how long? When I come and see some of the things in the Gallery it come in like me nah try – but the good man says not to compare yourself with others because you will become vain and bitter and have less interest in your own career.”
“My community is so poor I wouldn’t say I get commission to do work – when you say commissioned to do work it sounds like something substantial you know what I mean. Sometimes they want a wall to pretty up and I will do it for them. You can’t dictate the paint; paint is a thing that makes you learn patience. It doesn’t pay a lot of money and its hard work but I keep doing it because one of the reasons I am sure of is that nobody else in the area can do it as well as I can… That little pride in knowing that I’m the best. You know when you look around Denham Town you can find only two or three other men who can really put it together and to know that I’m one of them makes me feel good.”
Sand at his cook shop
Dion Palmer “Sand” is another of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. Here is a short feature on his work:
Palmer works out of a small cook shop near Parade and was one of the key artists to have emerged from Roktowa before its close. Often associated with the Intuitives, he does highly imaginative paintings and is the only artist in the exhibition to have previously shown his work at the National Gallery. For the exhibition he has produced five paintings whose subject matter varies from imaginary birds to a human head to a crocodile.
Sand said this about his work:
“Give thanks and praise. I and I man name Sand, that’s my artist name but my real name is Dion DaCosta Palmer you know. How did I get the name Sand – I used to carry sand from a nearby river. Artwork comes in like it grows in me because my step father used to do carving, chopping wood and things like to build sculptures, some great powerful lion. What inspires my work – pain and anger, war and judgement and fight – all of those things – my paintings show pure love and joy that come out of the Psalms. I just live art – it is dream I’m dreaming – art work comes from so far, so deep.”
Cleaver Cunningham – Donavan M. (c2010, Pembroke Hall) – photo: LeRhone Webb
Here is a feature on Cleaver Cunningham, one of the artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition:
Based in Pembroke Hall, off Washington Boulevard, Cunningham paints memorial murals largely using airbrush. The portraits often include images of status objects owned or desired by the subjects of the murals. For the exhibition he is painting a number of car bonnets, with images including Miss Lou, Ananda Dean and an elderly woman.
Cleaver Cunningham – Miss Lou (2014, in exhibition) – photo: LeRhone Webb
He had the following to say:
“…been doing murals from I understand myself – ‘bout 14 – meaning I understand wrong from right. I had an uncle who was an artist that I followed up and down – I wash out the paint brush but I never really get to touch nothing. So him fly out and gone ah foreign so I decide to try it out and it work out myself. He was a paint brush artist. I ended up follow my girlfriend one day to go to a hair salon and I see an airbrush magazine, so from there I fall in love with it. I had an aunt in America and I begged her two airbrushes but when I got the airbrushes I didn’t know it worked with a compressor. So I was youth that loved to do the little stunts on the bicycle so I asked my mother for a compressor but it was too dear so I ended up having to sell the stunt bicycle and buy the compressor…”
National Gallery West is the new, Montego Bay based extension of the National Gallery of Jamaica. It is part of the newly refurbished and rebranded Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which is housed in the historic Montego Bay Court House on Sam Sharpe Square and was previously known as the Montego Bay Civic Centre. In addition to National Gallery West, the Montego Bay Cultural Centre houses National Museum West (a branch of National Museum Jamaica, which is like the National Gallery a division of the Institute of Jamaica), a gift shop and a café, a large multi-purpose town hall, and outdoor performance space.
National Gallery West, which is located in the beautiful domed building at the back of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre complex, will offer four exhibitions per year. At least one of these will be curated specifically curated for National Gallery West, while most of the others will be related to exhibitions shown at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence has curatorial oversight over the exhibition programme. The inaugural exhibition, which will be on view from July 11 to August 331, 2014, is Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican Art, an abridged version of the Religion and Spirituality exhibition previously shown in Kingston, which features work by major Jamaican artists such as Carl Abrahams, Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Albert Artwell, Everald and Clinton Brown, Eugene Hyde, Ralph Campbell, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, and Ebony G. Patterson.
The Montego Bay Cultural Centre, and National Gallery West, are scheduled to open officially on July 11, 2014 and will be open to the public thereafter. Opening hours are: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Monday) and admission is free until September 30. For more information contact the National Gallery of Jamaica at 922-1561 or -63 (Lime), 618-0654 or -55 (Digicel). You can follow National Gallery West on Facebook and at the National Gallery West blog.
Vermon “Howie” Grant – Sleepy (Dela Vega City), photo: Charles Campbell
Below is a short video interview with Howie, one of the ten artists in the Anything with Nothing exhibition. The video was produced with the kind assistance of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank.
A young artist from Lauriston near Spanish Town, Howie paints memorial murals and paintings advertising bars, hair salons, restaurants and the like. He has also done an extensive set of murals for a music studio based in De La Vega City. Although the majority of Howie’s memorial murals have been painted out Howie continues to do memorial commissions on cloth banners. He produces very accomplished drawings and airbrush paintings. For the exhibition he has produced three large portraits of people who have died in his community and a fourth painting of dancehall musicians Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel.
Howie – Shenice (2014, in exhibition)
Howie told us: “I was born an artist but develop my skills after High School – mostly self-taught … My first commission was from the first school that I attended. Starting there it created a big market for all schools in the surrounding area. I did a lot of illustration art on schools, churches and business places. Conditions apply based on the nature of the job, so if it’s someone deceased I’ll do a dead mural and if it’s a school I’ll do some heroes and something to enhance the mind of the younger generation. I get a lot of commissions for murals of the deceased because every day a man die a baby born, so in the field of dead murals in Spanish Town…it has become a great market. That market never dies… Instead of making it out in public now I do it more on a personal level – I do it on banners that are portable, so it will last long…”
“I’ve been loved by all based on my work and the person that I am behind my talent. I did not know that art was that wide – it is so surprising, so amazing, how many kids out there, how many youths out there born with the talent and there is a space for everybody in the field of art and it’s so sad they choose different ways, some die before they truly achieve what God had send them here for. So you’ve got to search yourself to know who you are and what you stand for.”