In Memoriam Gene Hendricks Pearson O.D. (1946-2018)

Gene Pearson – photograph courtesy of Taynia Nethersole

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of Master sculptor, ceramist and teacher Gene Hendricks Pearson O.D. on March 15.

Born in 1946 in Wood Hall St Catherine; Pearson was only 15 years old when he was was first introduced to the medium of clay at the Jamaica School of Art now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in 1960. He studied under Jamaica’s Master Potter Cecil Baugh with whom he developed a close relationship; Pearson recounted that “…[Baugh] was like a father to me and I was like the son he never have.” He was one of the first two students to graduate from the school with a Diploma in Ceramics in 1965 and subsequently went on to teach at his alma mater for almost eighteen years and also taught drawing and painting at Calabar and Vere Technical High Schools in the early 1970s.

After he stopped teaching at the School of Art he began dividing his time between Jamaica and Northern California working with the Potters Studio in Berkley. He used the facilities there to produce his larger sculptures and his bronze works and also conducted workshops at University of Berkley and participated in exhibitions in California. He was also known to be a keen cultural entrepreneur having opened an eponymous gallery in New Kingston where he sold his ceramic and sculptural works.

While he produced more conventional ceramics, such as vases and bowls, Pearson was best known for his sculptural work, especially his popular heads and masks which celebrated black beauty and dignity. Inspired by the arts of the ancient Nubia and Benin as well as Rastafari culture, the introverted monumentality of his sculptural works made them amongst the most distinctive and recognizable of the artists of his generation.

Gene Pearson – Mother (1992), bronze, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

“I have always thought that my work speaks for me. I am not a man who does speak much. My work is very spiritual. All my powers come from God and nature and I execute them through clay…”

Gene Pearson Raku Head nd

He worked extensively with local clays with varying properties and colours, sourced from locales such as Castleton, Trench Town and Clarendon. His ceramic work also showed the results of his constant experimentation with the ancient Japanese technique of Raku-style firing, of which he was an acknowledged master. The characteristic crackled surface of his Raku ware was used with great finesse in his sculptural forms and had become part of his signature style.

Pearson boycotted the National Gallery for several years while it was at its Devon House location when it didn’t recognize ceramics as fine art and was successful in his mission of gaining greater local recognition for ceramics and ceramic sculpture.

His work is represented in major Jamaican collections, such as the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Bank of Jamaica and the Hardingham Collection, as well as the private collections of international celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diahann Carroll, and Alice Walker. His ceramic works have also served as official Jamaican gifts to Heads of States and other public figures including Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Phan Van Dong of Vietnam, President Lopez Portillo of Mexico, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Roberta Flack, Maya Angelou and President Bill Clinton of the USA.

Gene Pearson – Sculptured Pot (1987), Collection: NGJ, Gift of Ken and Patricia Ramsay

In 2010 the Institute of Jamaica awarded Pearson the Silver Musgrave Medal for outstanding merit for his contribution to the field of art and in 2015, he was awarded the Order of Distinction — Commander Class, for his contribution to the development of the fine arts in Jamaica. This was an upgrade to the Officer Class designation he had received some years prior.

The Board of Directors and the staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Gene Pearson.

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In Memoriam Jacquelyne Hussey-Pearson (1962-2018)

Jacueline Hussey Pearson

Photo courtesy of Amitabh Sharma

The National Gallery of Jamaica received the sad news of the passing of Jacquelyne Hussey-Pearson on March 12. Known to her friends and others in creative circles as ‘Lady Jacquelyne,’ she pursued a career as a visual artist, fashion designer, short filmmaker and Didgeridoo player and approached life with an infectious positivity that left its mark on all who interacted with her.

A major proponent of abstraction, her paintings documented personal struggles, triumphs and also reflected the major influences in her life. She exhibited extensively both locally and abroad and was involved in several initiatives that promoted Jamaican visual arts one of which was the Wonderland Fine Art Gallery at RedBones which has had over 200 artists exhibiting since its inception.

She was a vibrant and energetic presence in the artistic community and she will be greatly missed.  The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

 

In Memoriam Dorothy Henriques-Wells (1926 – 2018)

Albert Huie – Portrait of Dotty Henriques (1952) (detail) Collection NGJ

On March 5, 2018, Jamaican painter and educator Dorothy Henriques-Wells passed away at the age of 92 in Miami. Henriques-Wells was born in St Andrew in 1926 to parents who were themselves actively engaged as creatives. Her father Llewelyn was a jeweler but it was her mother, Lilieth an oil painter who often painted the flora and landscapes that surrounded their home that would be her earliest inspiration.

Henriques-Wells showed promise as an artist quite early in her life and declared at age 12 that art was to be her calling. She was sent to take art classes with Armenian artist Koren der Harootian and would go on to win numerous prizes for art as a student at Wolmer’s High School. In 1947 she enrolled at the Ontario College of Art – now the OCAD University and it was while there that her interests expanded from the natural bounty of her native Jamaica, to portraiture and her thesis painting depicted a black model wearing a traditional headwrap. She became the College’s first black alumnus in 1950; and later returned to Jamaica, marrying veterinary surgeon Carl F. Wells in 1956, with whom she raised three children.

Dorothy Henriques-Wells – Mountain Scape (nd)

Henriques-Wells made a significant contribution to the artistic scene of Jamaica. She opened a commercial gallery called the Art Wheel in 1968 which represented other local artists and went on to help found the Jamaican Artists and Craftsmen Guild. She was also an art teacher for more than twenty years and exhibited numerous times in Kingston at the Institute of Jamaica’s All Island shows, the Victoria Craft Market Tercentenary as well as in the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Annual National and Biennial exhibitions.

A gifted painter who shared her mother’s affinity for the natural Jamaican landscape Henriques-Wells painted mostly in the realist watercolour style that she had developed during her studies at OCAD; Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts at OCAD Andrea Fatona on first seeing her work described her it as follows:

Her poetic, realist approach to her subjects – nature and humans –  is sparse, flowing and vibrant with sun-kissed colours.

Dorothy Henriques- Wells – Untited (nd)

In 1987, the Institute of Jamaica awarded Dorothy Henriques-Wells the Silver Musgrave Award for outstanding merit in the field of visual arts. Her legacy continues through the many children she taught and inspired – including her own –  with her vibrancy and passion for art.

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 Dorothy Henriques-Wells.

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.

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.