Spiritual Yards – Gallery 4, part 1: Sylvester Stephens

Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection, continues until January 29, 2017, and explores the spiritual yard tradition in Jamaica, through ten Intuitive artists whose work is steeped in that tradition. The works of art and documentary material in this exhibition were selected from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection, a specialized collection of Intuitive Art. Here is another post on one of the artists in the exhibition, along with video footage, courtesy of Wayne Cox.

Sylvester Stephens (b1956) was born in Brompton, St Elizabeth. He is known primarily for working with clay, from which he creates a number of forms that can be categorized as either vessels or figurative sculptures. Both these forms are often embellished with writings, such as Biblical quotations or other forms of decorative relief. Stephens, like a number of other self-taught artists of his calibre, actively engages with philosophies of spirituality. According to writers and commentators of his work, this was evident not only in the individual pieces but also in the way that he arranged his studio spaces. Randall Morris, in one account, describes entering Stephens’ roadside studio under a sign that said “Riding into Jerusalem” and further describes walking into a yard organized and decorated with coloured bamboo posts and pedestals upon which Stephens displayed his creations. The work of Sylvester Stephens has been exhibited in a number of group exhibitions, including Redemption Songs: The Self-Taught Artists of Jamaica (1997) at the Diggs Gallery in North Carolina in the USA and Prophets and Messengers (2000) at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston Jamaica, as well as Clay and Fire (2005) and Intuitives III (2006) both held at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

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