Spiritual Yards – Gallery 3: Leonard Daley, William “Woody” Joseph

Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection, opens on December 11. Here is a post on two more of the artists in the exhibition, along with video footage, courtesy of Wayne Cox.

Leonard Daley (c1930-2006) was born in St Catherine. He moved Kingston where he became a part of the urban Rastafari movement. Later in life, he moved back to the hills of St Catherine residing in Wakefield. He worked at a number of jobs including as a cook and a taxi-driver. The paintings of Daley have been dated to as early as the late 1970s, although it is speculated that he may have been producing paintings from much earlier. Daley’s imagery involved a high degree of surrealism that featured densely packed and multi-layered compositions of ghoulish figures and faces, animals and text. He worked on a variety of discarded materials including plywood, hardboard, metal drum lids, pieces of tarpaulin and even shredded canvas. Daley described his artistic process as an automatic response to his own meditations and thoughts, “I close my eyes and I pray a lot. Sometimes tears fall down…Sometimes I sit down and look at the plain wall, and I can’t penetrate it. And so I will use some water in my mouth, and spew it on the wall, and whatever way it dries it comes out as a picture.” Daley participated in many local and international exhibitions, including Fifteen Intuitives (1987) at the National Gallery of Jamaica and New World Imagery: Contemporary Jamaican Art (1995) at the Hayward Gallery, London. He is well represented in a number of private and public collections internationally and locally, including the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica. In 2002, he was awarded a Bronze Musgrave Medal for Art by the Institute of Jamaica.

William “Woody” Joseph (1919-1998) was born in Castleton, St Mary. At some point in his life, he moved to Stony Hill, St Andrew, where he lived for a while until he built his house in Castleton. He began carving around 1963. One narrative states that he was inspired to carve when he went to a river to heal an injured leg and saw a stick floating in it. He took it as a sign that if he carved the stick, it would assist the healing. From then on, Woody viewed carving as a spiritual service or in his words “capture the heart of justice.” His anthropomorphic and zoomorphic wooden forms were reminiscent of similar forms in African and Taino traditions and demonstrate an imagination that was deeply tied to nature and the spiritual realm. Woody began exhibiting his sculptures sometime around the late 1970s. Notable local and international exhibitions include the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Intuitives series and Redemption Songs: The Self-Taught Artists of Jamaica (1997) organized by the Diggs Gallery, USA. He was awarded a Bronze Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in 1988.

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SOUND AND VISION: MUSIC AND SOUND IN THE WORK OF KAPO, EVERALD BROWN AND WOODY JOSEPH – Part II

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We now present the second of a three-part blog post series based on a lecture presented by NGJ Executive Director, Dr Veerle Poupeye, at the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation programme of February 16, 2014.

But let me now turn to the more specific instance of music and art in Jamaica. Music plays a pivotal role in Jamaican culture and this is predictably and prominently reflected in the country’s visual art. Much of this has to do with the performative character of popular, African-derived religions in Jamaica, which make very active ritual use of music and dance. The three artists who are the focus of this presentation – Kapo, Everald Brown, and Woody – all came from such context. Pioneering research was done by Olive Lewin, Janet Grant-Woodham and others on the music produced by the church communities of Kapo and Everald Brown. Not being a music specialist myself, I have little to add to the research on their music and my focus is instead on the represented and implied music in their work. Everald Brown was also an instrument-maker and his instruments qualify as works of art in their own right, so I am also discussing these in this presentation.

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds was born in 1911 in Byndloss, St Catherine and died in 1989. He received his first vision at age 16 and started preaching in the country side. Like many young rural men and women of his generation, Kapo soon moved to Kingston in search of opportunity and settled in Trench Town, where he established his Zion Revival Church, the St Michael Tabernacle. Kapo started painting and sculpting in the 1940s and 50s and rose to local and international prominence as a major artist and cultural icon in the 1960s, aided by the support he received from Edward Seaga and also from others, such as the first Tourism Director John Pringle and the American art impresario Selden Rodman.

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SOUND AND VISION: MUSIC AND SOUND IN THE WORK OF KAPO, EVERALD BROWN AND WOODY JOSEPH – Part I

Everald Brown - Bush Have Ears (1976), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Bush Have Ears (1976), Collection: NGJ

This is the first of a three-part blog post series based on a lecture presented by NGJ Executive Director, Dr Veerle Poupeye, at the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation programme of February 16, 2014. The lecture’s topic is relevant to the current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality Exhibition, which continues until April 27, 2014.

The theme of this year’s Grounation series is “seeing sounds and hearing images” and my presentation invites you to do just that. I will not use sound in my presentation, but I will appeal to your imagination, to “see the sounds” and “hear the images” in the work of three major Jamaican artists: the painter and sculptor Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, who was a Revival leader; the painter, sculptor and musical instrument-maker Everald Brown, who was a religious Rastafari leader and a pioneer of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; and the sculptor William “Woody” Joseph, who had no specific religious affiliation but was part of the cultural sphere of Revival. Everald Brown is an artist I have focused on in my original research, writing, and curatorial work since the mid-1980s and I curated his retrospective for the National Gallery in 2004, so he will be my main case study in this presentation.

Everald Brown - Everlasting King (1987), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Everlasting King (198), Collection: NGJ

At first sight – and the pun is intentional – visual art may seem to speak an exclusively visual language. Yet we all know that to be untrue. Art arguably appeals to all the senses, most obviously also to touch but potentially also to taste, smell and, for that matter, hearing. Those who work in art museums and galleries know how difficult it is prevent visitors from touching the art on view, because it powerfully appeals to the sense of touch, and anybody who has spent some time in an artist’s studio must be familiar with the distinctive smells of various art materials. Most works of art are as such mute but there is a powerful connection between sound and vision which has played a major role in the development of art and music alike and from time immemorial. A 2008 Science Daily article asserted that music played an important role in the ritual production and use of ancient cave art and that early musical instruments, such as bone flutes, are therefore often found in close proximity to ancient cave paintings. The relationship between art and music and the capacity of one to support the other has also been a major preoccupation in modern art, for instance in the work of the Swiss artist Paul Klee, whose abstract paintings were often based on musical interpretation. Music and the visual are also closely intertwined in the popular music industry, in the production of record covers, posters, concert backdrops, fashions and other visual materials, and the association between reggae and graphic design has played an important role in the development of Jamaican visual culture, with several major local designers such as Neville Garrick emerging. More recently, with the development of video and digital art, actual sound has become part of many works of art and sound and music have thereby entered the conventionally hushed environment of the art museum and gallery. It is now a trend for galleries and museums to have a resident deejay to create soundscapes for the museum environment, as was recently done at the Tate Modern and, even, the venerable Metropolitan Museum. Continue reading

Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: William “Woody” Joseph (1919-1998)

Woody in Stony Hill, early 1980s (NGJ files, photograph: Maria LaYacona)

Born May 1, 1919, in Castleton, St Mary, Jamaica, and died September 18, 1998, William “Woody” Joseph was one of modern Jamaica’s most original artists, although his work was firmly rooted in African-Jamaican religious and cultural traditions.

Life and Work

Woody was self-taught and started carving around 1965 or, as he put it, “two years after [hurricane] Flora”. He recounted:

I was farming … yam, banana, cocoa, thyme, cane, dasheen, potato … farming to get the food from the bushes … didn’t have no dependents to work the field wid me … and one day, I tek sick, the two legs cripple. Couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand up, couldn’t lay down … I go to the river-side and was praying. When mi was praying, I see a piece of wood coming down in de water … I see the piece of wood swimming in the water to mi. I tek it up….and form a bird.

(Homage to Woody, Mutual Life Galley, July 26, 1998) Continue reading