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 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.
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.