In Memoriam: Dr Donna McFarlane O.D.

Dr Donna McFarlane O.D.

The National Gallery of Jamaica was deeply saddened by news of the passing of our colleague, the scholar, curator and activist, Dr Donna McFarlane O.D. last week.

A true visionary, Dr McFarlane was the first Director/ Curator of our sister museum Liberty Hall: Legacy of Marcus Garvey. In Garvey’s time, the Liberty Hall was a meeting place for the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). The property hosted a range of cultural and intellectual programmes in its heyday. Eventually the property left UNIA hands and was owned by several individuals until it was purchased by the Government of Jamaica, through the Heritage Trust and declared a National Monument in 1987.  Always a passionate advocate for civil rights and African and Diasporic empowerment; Dr McFarlane had returned to Jamaica after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Masters in Developmental Economics. She worked for the Government of Jamaica and was also a consultant to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other development financing agencies. She was however never far from the activities of the Cultural sector.

The Liberty Hall reopened in 2003, as a living monument to the legacy of Marcus Garvey and it was Dr McFarlane who spearheaded the development of the ground-breaking Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum. The museum – which was the only one of its kind in the Caribbean – utilized interactive technology to teach about the life, ideals and still-relevant messages of Jamaica’s first National Hero. The introduction of this type of technology into the museum experience was meant to make Garvey’s treasure trove of wisdom attractive and accessible, especially to Jamaican youth. Under her directorship the Liberty Hall was transformed into a centre of learning.

She later completed her master’s and PhD in museum studies and applied her knowledge to the improvement of the facilities and services of the museum. Dr McFarlane aligned the activities and programming of the Liberty Hall with Garvey’s famous quote: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, no one but ourselves can free the mind…” In addition to its museum, she also established the Garvey Multimedia Computer Centre; the Garvey Research/Reference Library; and Community Outreach programmes that include Adult Computer Literacy class, Garvey After-School Programme, and Summer Art programming.

The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to the Family and friends of Dr Donna McFarlane.

Her spirit and legacy will live on.

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In Memoriam: Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose (1934-2018)

Barrington Watson – Portrait of Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose (1962) Collection: Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing renowned painter, sculptor and art educator Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose on Tuesday January 9, 2018. Born in Glasgow Scotland in 1934, she attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1953 to 1957 and later the Jordanhill Teacher Training College also in Glasgow.  In 1980, she received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from the American University. In 2012 she was conferred with a honourary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) Degree by the University of the West Indies.

She made Jamaica her home in 1959 and taught at several schools including Jamaica College, Wolmer’s Girls School and The Priory School. At Wolmer’s Girls School in particular, she is remembered as an inspiring teacher who motivated a generation of young women to pursue art as a career rather than a mere pastime.  Bloomfield-Ambrose also taught anatomy, life-drawing and painting at the Jamaica School of Art from 1970 – 1979 where she nurtured and honed the skills of many of Jamaica’s renowned artists, such as Hope Brooks, Carol Crichton and Philip Supersad, among others.  She also lectured at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and Baltimore’s Maryland Institute.

Mrs Bloomfield-Ambrose played an active role in the burgeoning Post-Independence performing arts movement in Jamaica. She was an actress, appearing in numerous productions in the 1960s and 1970s and had acted opposite well-known actors such as Lloyd Reckord and also served as a set designer for many stage productions. It was in the 1960s however, that she began focusing on her own artistic career.  She initially shared a studio with Ruth Cohn and Moira Small with whom she had her first Jamaican exhibition in 1964. She later shared a studio with painter Graham Davis in 1971 and went on to represent Jamaica in the International Women’s Year Exhibition in 1975.

Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose – Portrait  (1969-1971) Collection: NGJ

Though a classically trained painter and sculptor, her work was never considered to be traditional and she established herself with an unmistakable sense of realism and ability to capture likenesses. Her use of pastel tones to capture the unique light of the Caribbean was noted as having embodied the energy of the artistic milieu of the 1970s. Her talents made her one of Jamaica’s most popular portraitists.

Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose – Portrait of John Maxwell (1972) Collection: NGJ

Known for her quiet intimate portraits that captured the relatability of her subjects, some of her most endearing paintings were the portraits she did of friends Barrington Watson, Kofi Kayiga and John Maxwell.  Mrs Bloomfield –Ambrose also painted the portraits  of Prime Minister Michael Manley, University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Vice-chancellors A. Z. Preston, Sir Alister McIntyre, the Honorable Rex Nettleford and Professor E. Nigel Harris. She also created the iconic sculpture of UWI founder Sir Phillip Sherlock.

In 1975, art critic Ignacy Eker (aka Andrew Hope) described his experience of sitting with her, “She caught me to the life: it was a penetrating and realistic study, yet also a sympathetic and well-balanced one … The reason for her success is that she approaches her task very conscientiously and without preconceived ideas, each sitter is an individual and there are no ready-made formulas to turn the job into a boringly automatic procedure.”

She completed portraits of Governors General Sir Florizel Glasspole and Sir Kenneth Hall. In recounting his experience of having his portrait done by her Sir Kenneth Hall recalled “… I was at first reluctant. However, within a very short time after meeting with Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose, I was put at ease. It became evident that she is an artist of extraordinary competence.”

Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose – April  (1999) Collection: NGJ

Her work has been widely exhibited locally as well as internationally in Cuba, Mexico the United States and was the subject of a 2013 retrospective held by the Arts Council of Martin County in Florida. Several examples of her work are included in the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Even after her eventual migration to the United States, Bloomfield-Ambrose maintained her connection with her adopted home of Jamaica. Visiting, exhibiting her work and executing commissions.

The Board, Management and staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their condolences to the family and friends of Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose.

In Memoriam Dr. the Hon. David Boxer, O.J. (1946-2017)

David Boxer at his home with visiting Edna Manley College studens, c2015 (photo: Donnette Zacca)

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing of Dr the Hon. David Boxer, O.J., one of the Caribbean region’s most eminent and influential art scholars, artists and art collectors. Dr Boxer served the National Gallery for some thirty-seven years, first as Director/Curator and from 1991 to 2013 as Chief Curator.

David Wayne Boxer was born in St. Andrew in 1946. A classically trained art historian, he attended Cornell University and then the Johns Hopkins University, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the early work of Francis Bacon. He lectured at George Mason University before returning to Jamaica in 1975 to take up the position of Director/Curator of the recently established National Gallery of Jamaica.

David Boxer – The Annunciate (1987), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

It was David Boxer’s curatorial and scholarly mission to ensure that Jamaica had its own documented and art history, so that Jamaican art could assert its rightful place within the broader context of world art. He started this process in the mid-1970s with several exhibitions that challenged previous understandings about Jamaican art and articulated a new, comprehensive art-historical narrative that continues to be the standard in the field toDavid Boxer’s first exhibition for the National Gallery, Five Centuries of Art in Jamaica (1975) challenged the view that what could rightly be called Jamaican art started with the nationalist unrest of 1938 and argued that art in Jamaica had a much longer history, with which modern Jamaican art existed in dialogue. The second such exhibition The Formative Years: Art in Jamaica 1922-1940 (1978) examined the emergence of modern, nationalist art in Jamaica and identified Edna Manley’s Beadseller (1922) as its symbolic starting point. The third and perhaps most radical element of Boxer’s art history of Jamaica was articulated with The Intuitive Eye (1979) exhibition, in which he placed the self-taught, popular artists he designed as Intuitives at the centre of the national canon. This art-historical narrative was consolidated with the Jamaican Art 1922-1982 exhibition for the Smithsonian in 1983 and also became the basis for the National Gallery’s first permanent exhibition when the Gallery moved to the Roy West building that same year. Many other memorable exhibitions followed, with more than fifty curated by David Boxer himself. The major retrospectives he curated, such as Edna Manley: Sculptor in 1990 and Barrington Watson: A Retrospective in 2012, stand out as landmarks in the National Gallery’s exhibition history and deepened the scholarship of Jamaican art. Recurrent exhibitions such as the Annual National, which was inaugurated in 1977, and, its successor since 2002, the National Biennial provided an important avenue for the national exposure of many artists, new and established, and contributed actively to the development of art in Jamaica.

Cover of The Intuitive Eye catalogue, 1979

David Boxer’s vision of Jamaican art also guided the development of the National Gallery’s permanent collection, which has grown from some 230 works of art in 1974 to more than 2,000 works today, and provides an encyclopaedic overview of Jamaican art from the Taino to the present day, as well as a small international collection. He brokered several major donations to the collection that filled important gaps, such as the A.D. Scott Collection in 1989 and the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection in 1999, and he also developed specialized collections within the National Gallery’s collection dedicated to the work of Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds and Edna Manley.

David Boxer – Standing Figure (1973), Collection: NGJ

David Boxer was one of the leading art scholars in the Caribbean region and arguably the most noted authority on Jamaican art, particularly the work of Edna Manley, Intuitive art and early Jamaican photography. His publications record is substantial and includes several books: a major Edna Manley monograph in 1990, Modern Jamaican Art in 1998, and Jamaica in Black and White in 2013, which was the first major book on early Jamaican photography and which he co-authored with Edward Lucie-Smith. Most recently, he contributed the main research essay to the catalogue of John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night, a major survey of the paintings and sculptures of the Intuitive master John Dunkley, which opened to the public on May 26, two days before his passing, at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. He also served as curatorial advisor to this important exhibition.

David Boxer, with Edna Manley (right) and Lynn Chadwick (left), c1983 (NGJ file photo)

David Boxer’s work as a curator and scholar existed in close dialogue with his work as an artist and a private collector. He was self-taught as an artist and his artistic work was infused with art-historical, literary and visual culture references, which he used to comment on issues such as the violence of colonization and slavery, and the existential anxieties of modern life. Boxer worked in a variety of media: painting, collage, print, and assemblage, and he was one of the pioneers in the field of installation and video art in Jamaica. As a private collector, David Boxer amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of Jamaican art, photography, and furniture, as well as a fine collection of rare art books.

David Boxer – Passage: Flotsam and Jetsam (Zong) (2014-2015) – on view in the Jamaica Biennial 2017

The Board and Staff of the National offer their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr. the Hon. David Boxer, O.J. His contribution to the visual arts of Jamaica and the broader Caribbean is beyond measure and leaves an important, foundational legacy for the National Gallery and the Jamaican artistic community to build on in the future.

A public condolence book will be available for signing at the National Gallery from Wednesday, May 30.

Tribute to David Marchand (1944-2017)

David Marchand (photo: Chloe Walters-Wallace)

On Tuesday, we received the sad news of the passing of David Marchand, just short of what would have been his seventy-third birthday. Marchand was one of the most unique Jamaican artists, legendary for his eccentricity (and at times bellicose personality) but even more so for his brilliant, quirky visionary paintings and assemblage boxes. The National Gallery of Jamaica’s pay tribute to him and his unique body of work.

David Marchand – Double Censored (2001)

David Marchand was born in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, in 1944. He studied art in New York City in the 1960s but he found that the city had too many distractions and returned to Jamaica. His first solo exhibition was at the Contemporary Artists Association Gallery on Oxford Road in 1970. He briefly worked for a local advertising industry but soon retreated from formal employment to focus on his art and, arguably, to live life on his own unconventional terms. In recent decades, his studio and home was in Runaway Bay, St Ann, where he shared space with a large number of cats in the burnt-out shell of what must once has been a glamorous beachfront residence, a family property.

David Marchand – The Necklace (n.d.)

Marchand’s “big break” as an artist may never have come, as he frequently lamented, but his artistic work was well respected in the local artistic community and he had the support of several loyal friends and collectors. The producer and art collector Maxine Walters was arguably his greatest champion and her daughter, the film-maker Chloe Walters-Wallace, has been working on a documentary on Marchand and his work, titled Tsunami Scarecrow. The title of the documentary refers to Marchand’s often-told vision of a major tsunami, approaching not from the sea in front of his home, as one would have expected, but from over the hills behind him—a cataclysmic event that would have destroyed the island of Jamaica and perhaps the rest of the world. The title also refers to his unusual appearance—a thin, scarecrow-like figure with wild, wiry hair.

David Marchand – Star and Star’s (n.d.)

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National Gallery Pays Tribute to Cecil Cooper

Cecil Cooper at his studio in November 2015 (photograph courtesy of Donnette Zacca)

Cecil Cooper at his studio in November 2015 (Donnette Ingrid Zacca photograph)

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing of the renowned Jamaican painter, singer, and art educator Cecil Harvey Cooper, CD, on the morning of September 15, 2016.

Cecil Cooper was born in the parish of Hanover, Jamaica, in 1946 and was one of the first graduates, in 1966, of the full-time diploma that had been introduced at the Jamaica School of Art under the directorship of Barrington Watson. He also lived in the USA, where he studied and obtained a BFA and, later, an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Cecil Cooper in 1981 became the head of the painting department of his alma mater, the Jamaica School of Art, which is now part of the Edna Manley College. He continued in that position until his retirement in 2009 and has taught and mentored many noted younger artists, such as Omari Ra, Oneika Russell, Phillip Thomas and Ebony G. Patterson.

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Cecil Cooper – Night Horse (1993, Collection: NGJ)

Cecil Cooper worked mainly in paint media, using gestural painting and drawing techniques, and his thematic preoccupation with the joys and anxieties of the human condition, and particularly the central roles of women in society, reflected a romantic temperament that was also evident in his musical work as a classical tenor. He exhibited regularly at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Harmony Hall, the Mutual Gallery and, most recently, Round Hill and the Olympia Art Gallery, and at overseas galleries such as the Savacou Gallery in New York City. His work is represented in many private, corporate and public collections, including the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Senator the Hon. Tom Tavares-Finson, the Chairman of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Board of Management, paid tribute to Cecil Cooper “as one of the artists who had charted the direction of Jamaican art in recent decades, through his outstanding artistic work and his distinguished service to institutions such as the National Gallery and the Edna Manley College.” Dr Veerle Poupeye, the National Gallery’s Executive Director, hailed Cecil Cooper as “an artist who was completely immersed in his art as a way of life, and a passionate art educator who challenged his students to be and do their best at all times.”

Cecil Cooper and Prime Minister Holness at the opening of his Milestone exhibition, Olympia Art Gallery, June 17, 2016 (Donnette Ingrid Zacca photograph)

Cecil Cooper and Prime Minister Holness at the opening of his Milestone exhibition, Olympia Art Gallery, June 17, 2016 (Donnette Ingrid Zacca photograph)

Cecil Cooper had celebrated his 70th birthday in June 2016, with a major exhibition of work from 1978 to 2016, titled Milestone: Cecil Cooper at 70, which was held at the Olympia Art Gallery. He had on September 6, 2016, received the Jamaican National Honour, the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, for his invaluable contribution to the arts. Earlier on, in 1993, he had also been awarded the Institute of Jamaica’s Bronze Musgrave Medal for his contribution to painting and art education. Cecil Cooper was a member of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s current Board of Management and had also previously served in this capacity.

The Board, Management and Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica extend their sincere condolences to Cecil Cooper’s wife Rose, his children, other members of his family, and his many friends.

Cecil Cooper - untitled (2016)

Cecil Cooper – untitled (2016)

In Memoriam Kay Anderson

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We are deeply saddened by the news that our colleague, the artist, writer and art educator Kay Anderson, passed away earlier this week.

Kay Anderson received a BA in History followed by a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of the West Indies. She also received an MA in Education from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The highlights in her career as an educator were her tenures as the acting Dean of the Cultural Training Centre (CTC) from 1987-1990 (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts), Vice Principal of academic affairs and student matters of the Mico University College from 2001-2008 and then as the Charter Principal of the Hydel University in 2009. She more recently taught part-time at the Edna Manley College. She was also the President of the Jamaica Council for Adult Education (JACAE) and was elected Vice President of the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) in Kenya in 2007.

Kay Anderson was the author of several articles on Jamaican art with a focus on Jamaican intuitive artists and she also lectured on the presence of African retentions in Jamaican intuitive art in the United States of America and Cuba. Her research on this topic culminated in the 2011 publishing of Ancestral Whisperings: African Retentions in Jamaican Art, a book which, quoting the late Dr Nadine Scott, “covers the historical, spiritual, anthropological, cultural, and aesthetic contexts of our ancestral heritage.” As an artist, Kay Anderson exhibited work in several of the the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Annual National exhibitions and her work showed an innovative approach to using non-traditional materials.

Her involvement in the arts was not limited to teaching as she was instrumental in securing the meeting venue in the CTC complex for the Poetry Society of Jamaica, during her tenure at the CTC, from its inception in 1989. She was also instrumental in securing the land on which the Edna Manley College’s halls of residence stand, and contributed to the design of the student housing. Her commitment to the arts, students and culture were officially recognised when she was awarded the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government for outstanding Community Service and contribution in the field of Education in 2014.

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s team extends its condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and many former students of Kay Anderson.